Ask Amy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 9:05pm

DEAR AMY: I'm an older man and have been married for a long time.

It is not a "terrific" marriage, but I've lived with it for so long that I'm just used to it.

A few years ago I met a single woman.

One thing led to another, and we spent the night together.

I've carried on a sort-of relationship with this woman, and she's now demanding I drop my wife to be with her.

Based on things she has said, I know she's only after my money.

I also know she's sleeping with other men.

I want to get her out of my life, but she has threatened to tell my wife everything if I don't "get my act" together.

I've tried everything I can think of without making her mad enough to do it (I honestly don't know if she would or not).

I can't come clean; it would kill my wife (her health is poor).

I know I'm a stupid jerk for getting into this, but I've never done this before and feel so guilty about it.

I need help.

— Stupid in Texas

DEAR STUPID: I'm going to trust your assessment that this revelation would actually harm your wife. All the same, you need to steel yourself for the worst-case scenario and strategize ways to protect your wife from the worst consequences of your stupidity.

Tell your "sort-of" girlfriend that you have gotten your act together and that you plan to recommit to your marriage and you won't be seeing her anymore.

The only power she has is through your fear; remove this power by being certain about your decision and cutting off contact.

This is the plot for an old-school film noir. Don't play the stooge.

If she threatens you or wants money in exchange for her silence (Barbara Stanwyck-style), that's a matter for the police.

If you belong to a religion, this would be an ideal matter to bring before clergy. You need to discuss your guilt.

DEAR AMY: I've been happily married for more than 20 years to my husband, who is also my best friend.

We do everything together. We raised great kids, have good careers and have common goals and interests.

My spouse is the jealous type and always has been. This is flattering after all these years but also very annoying.

I've never done anything to indicate interest in anyone else, and I genuinely have no interest in anyone else. I love him and only him.

The problem is that he is convinced I cheated on him and is mean to me every time he hears of another couple divorcing, which is becoming more frequent.

I have never cheated and I never would.

How do I convince him that this is all in his head?

— Tired of Mistrust

DEAR TIRED: If you two are best friends and do everything together, then the next activity you should undertake together is marriage counseling.

You seem to be excusing your husband's behavior and its effect on you (to some extent); surely there are many other ways to flatter you rather than being jealous and calling you a cheater.

Jealousy is an indication of insecurity and the desire to manage the insecurity and anxiety through controlling someone else. Your husband may have witnessed a similar dynamic between his own parents, but jealousy and anger are not respectful or flattering ways to show love.

Sometimes, groundless accusations of cheating can also be a sign of disease; this is one sign of possible dementia. So, yes, it might be all in his head.

I'm not saying your husband has dementia, but if his behavior changes radically, he should be checked.

DEAR AMY: "Once Bitten" complained that his girlfriend left him because he had Lyme disease, and you attacked her character.

They weren't engaged. They weren't married. Surely she has the right to end a relationship. Did it occur to you that perhaps she was right?

I'm disappointed in you.

— Disgusted

DEAR DISGUSTED: I can't always accurately judge a person's temperament based on his own account of a situation. I sympathized with this writer who was blindsided by a breakup.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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