Ask Amy

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 24 years. He does a great deal of business development for a large firm. He is becoming increasingly involved in numerous community groups, explaining that this is how he builds relationships and, ultimately, clients.

He is home Sundays and two or three evenings each week. When he is home, he sits in front of our computer for hours responding to hundreds of e-mails and reading many Facebook pages.

I feel incredibly lonely when I see the great relationships he maintains with people, whereas all I get is a tired, stressed and distant husband. We haven't had a sexual relationship for several years, and I wonder why I stay with him.

I've told him how I feel — and we've done counseling twice — but he says I should leave if I don't like it.

We live in a modest home, don't travel and have kids in college.

— Lonely

DEAR LONELY: Your husband's response to your concern about your relationship is disrespectful and doesn't offer you any room for discussion.

"If you don't like it, then leave" is not the answer offered by someone interested in growing in a partnership with you. If your husband approached your relationship with the same energy he spends cultivating his business clients, you would have a much healthier marriage.

Managing your loneliness is your responsibility, however. You would feel less lonely if you became more engaged in friendships and community events instead of hoping for attention your husband has no intention of offering.

Counseling would help you develop strategies to deal with this painful reality. Pursue it on your own.

You may conclude that leaving this union is the answer for you, but leaving won't ease your loneliness. You need to develop the tools to live an active and fulfilled life — with or without him.

DEAR AMY: My husband is nearly 70 years old. He is handsome and fit and can pass for 55. He has smoked most of his life. He does not smoke in the presence of others, but if we are out with friends for several hours, he might excuse himself and go outside for a cigarette.

I am a nonsmoker and so are nearly all of our friends. I get tired of friends lecturing me on my husband's smoking. We all know smoking can be harmful, but he's an adult, knows the facts and makes his own choices.

One of my friends, "Shirley," who should know better, will say things like, "Your house smells like cigarettes — how can you stand it?" when she comes to dinner. I'm often at her home. She has two dogs and her house smells like dogs. The dogs jump on me, and when I am invited for dinner I have to compete with the dogs for the food on my plate.

I can't stand that smell, but I've never commented on it to her privately or in a group.

I keep our house very clean and aired, but in cold weather the odor does exist.

How can I tell her without ruining our friendship that I don't want to hear this every time we're together?

— Smoked Out

DEAR OUT: Toxins from cigarettes don't only leave an odor, but also present noxious health hazards to others. Your husband should only smoke in a space ventilated directly to the outside — or he should smoke only out of doors.

Thus endeth my lecture.

Your friend's dogs present their own odors and hazards to guests.

The next time your friend brings this up, you should say, "Shirley, really. I don't comment on odors I may notice in your home and I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't comment on mine. Can we call a total moratorium on this subject, please?"

DEAR AMY: You responded to a letter complaining about people charging their cell phones from electrical outlets at a restaurant — and you completely missed the point: These people are stealing electricity! You shouldn't sanction it.

— Furious

DEAR FURIOUS: I'm surprised by the number of responses I've received regarding this alleged theft. If the restaurant wanted to prevent people from plugging in during dinner, it could cover the outlets.

Otherwise, it seems the wise thing for a business to do to cover this extra cost would be to "put it on the tab."

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