DEAR AMY: I am a 44-year-old with a live-in boyfriend. We get along really well, and our families have blended quite nicely. But there is one ongoing issue in our three-year relationship.
I am not comfortable with how many nights my partner spends sitting at a bar. He says he is just going for an hour or two to visit with the boys. These "boys" are all men over 50. Most of them are alcoholics. They all drink and drive on a regular basis.
I have expressed my concerns several times, and when I do he seems to go out less often but always slips back into the same pattern. He says he "only" goes three, four or five times a week. Most lunch hours he can be found at a bar, and he drinks at home daily.
I am ready to run for the hills. He thinks he and his buds are popular because every bartender/waitress knows them intimately. It makes me cringe, and I am embarrassed beyond belief. I cannot think of marrying this man (he has proposed) because of these "red flags." Am I being a "nag" (his words) or a doormat?
DEAR SAD: "Nags" nag because they feel they aren't being heard. Nagging is repetition, sometimes amplified for emphasis. I'm not sure what about this scenario makes you a doormat, unless you are comparing yourself to the mat your guy steps over on his way to and from the bar.
I venture a guess that he has been a habitual heavy drinker and barfly the entire time you've known him. If he has changed recently, then by all means ask him to change back.
However, the rest is on you. You are the person you can count on. Do you want to live like this? Do you want to live with this? If not one thing changes — or if your partner starts drinking more than he currently does — what will your choice be? He sounds like someone who might best be loved from a distance.
DEAR AMY: I screwed up badly. My wife and I have been seeing a therapist since June.
In July, I got friendly online with a married lady living overseas. What started out as innocent flirting became naughty. I was enjoying the thrill of chatting without thinking of the consequences.
My wife stumbled across something suspicious and started snooping in my email account. She got hold of my chat history and confronted me for cheating on her emotionally.
My second biggest mistake was to lie to my wife and our therapist. I promised that I would mend my ways. My wife bought the argument, but I was dumb enough to offer to communicate with my overseas friend through a different email address.
Two weeks later my wife confronted me with all the evidence, and now I'm ashamed of my behavior beyond words. I begged my wife for forgiveness and deleted everything related to my online activities.
My wife is deciding what to do next. She's not ready to forgive me. She says she's not ready to give me another chance just yet. What should I do to win back her trust?
— Jerk of a Husband
DEAR JERK: Stop being a jerk. Stop lying. Offer your wife complete and total transparency, online and otherwise. Explore this from every angle in therapy. After that, you can only hope that your wife chooses to trust (because trust is a choice). In her case, trust will be the ultimate triumph of faith over experience.
DEAR AMY: "Concerned Husband" wrote about his wife letting her hair go gray. She is having a hard time with other people's remarks. It can be hard to find a cheering squad for this process.
Going gray is like home remodeling. You have to ignore the mess, try to have fun and keep your eye on the finished product. When I finished going gray, women stopped me on the street to tell me how beautiful my hair looks. Silver is the new blond, Amy!
— Happily Gray in Chicago
DEAR HAPPILY: I've heard from many silver foxes offering support for this process.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.