DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for more than 20 years, and I'm afraid he's cheating. Our love life has never been great, but several years ago it sunk to new lows.
At first I thought he was just tired from his long work hours, but then I started to wonder.
When I call his office after hours, he rarely answers. He'll call back — sometimes on his cell phone, and he is always "getting coffee" or "in the vault" when I call.
One time I even confronted him and asked if he was seeing another woman. He looked as if he was about to burst out laughing, and said, "I would never want another woman."
He is usually honest, so I believed him, but I've started to wonder if I just asked him wrong, or missed something in his answer.
I recently took a trip with the kids, and when I came back I found out from friends that he hadn't gone to our church while I was gone. I found a flier in his Bible from a different church, and because he has always been a devout Baptist, I can't imagine him visiting a church from another denomination.
I started thinking it must be "her" church!
Would it be appropriate to call the pastor of this other church and ask if my husband came to church with anyone?
What do you think?
— Lonely After 20 Years
DEAR LONELY: Rather than ask clergy to do your detective work for you, you should head straight to the source.
Your husband's answer when you confronted him before wasn't really an answer. Unfaithful spouses (and politicians) often respond to queries by laughing — and now you should try to dig beneath your husband's hilarity by asking him to answer your questions directly.
"I was in the vault" or "I would never want another woman" is something of a hedge.
Most important, your marriage hit the skids some time ago, and rather than suffer in your own loneliness, you should do everything possible to engage him in working on this problem with you — because it is a problem he shares.
Tell your husband you want your marriage back. Tell him you'll do whatever's necessary to push your relationship into a good place, and ask what he can do to help you get there together.
A professional counselor could help you both to explore what went wrong and help to guide you as you attempt to recover the trust you've lost.
DEAR AMY: I'm in middle school. I've been having some troubles with a teacher. I told this teacher something recently, and she has insulted me and made me feel dumb.
She acts as if I am dumb in front of the entire class! I try to not let it get to me, but it's starting to really hurt me! Help!
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Your teacher sounds like a bully, and you should deal with this the way you should deal with any bully. If you are able, you could start by telling her that the way she treats you is unfair and embarrassing. She may explain herself or apologize to you.
You should also go to your parents or another trusted adult and ask for help in handling this. Your folks will want you to tell them what happened, and they will make a decision about what to do next.
Your school counselor should help you navigate this to get a fresh start with this very "fresh" teacher.
DEAR AMY: I read the letter from "Sam" who solved the problem of neighbors who don't clean up after their pets by sprinkling chili pepper on the edges of the yard. A homeowner in my neighborhood had an even better — and less confrontational — way of solving the problem.
He put out a sign: "Please clean up after your dog," and attached one of those plastic bag dispensers that pet supply stores have.
This way the dog owner has no excuse for not picking up, because a bag is right there, kindly provided by the person who doesn't want poop in his yard. I think this is a far better solution.
— Jill in New Jersey
DEAR JILL: Spreading chili pepper on your own property as a dog repellent is hardly confrontational. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Having a sign and bag dispenser is thoughtful, but puts homeowners in the position of providing a service they shouldn't have to provide.
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