Ask Amy

Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I have been married for 20 years.

Six months ago my husband announced that while he loves me he isn't "in love" with me anymore. He says there is no "spark" and he isn't sure he wants to be married.

This news was devastating.

I love my husband and love our life with our three kids.

We went to marriage counseling a couple of times, but my husband did not want to keep going because he didn't want me to have "false hope" and he couldn't commit to working to save the marriage when he wasn't sure he wanted to be in it.

I went by myself to our counselor, who advised me to be patient and to wait until my husband could commit to our relationship. She said I should assure him that I would be there for him no matter how long he needed.

The stress and constant uncertainty about our future is taking a huge toll, both physically and emotionally.

I am starting to crack around the edges. Keeping the facade of a happy home life with our children, family and friends is exhausting.

I worry that if I push my husband or try too hard, he will leave. I worry that if I don't keep trying so hard, he will leave.

What should I do?

— Sad Wife

DEAR SAD: I hate to second-guess your counselor, but in my view your counseling should focus more on your feelings, stress and sadness — and less on how to maintain the limbo state in your home.

If you manage to keep your husband in your home at this superficial level but crack under the pressure, your children will be denied an emotionally healthy mother.

Your goal should be to live an authentic and balanced life while not being the embarrassing object of your husband's indecision.

You might have to do the most difficult thing here and tell your husband that if he has no commitment to be in the marriage, then it's time to try a separation.

Your family's geometry may change, but your children can do well if you are calm, constant and consistently there for them.

DEAR AMY: We have family members who are the houseguests from hell. They walk into our home and it's total chaos, from dirty laundry to kids' toys everywhere. They stay for several days and it has become an almost monthly routine. They do nothing to help. The father is consumed with killing the next squirrel, rabbit or bird, while the children are left to their own devices.

With the holidays just around the corner, we are dreading what's in store.

We've indicated that we wouldn't be home for the holidays and their response was, "We'll take care of your home while you're gone."

What should we do?

— Upset Family

DEAR FAMILY: Evidently, you're so passive that you would rather leave town than make a simple statement. Your family knows this and they are — hello — using you.

So try saying this: "We're sorry, but these visits are too hard on us and we can't have you stay at our house anymore. We'd like to invite you for the holiday dinner, but you're going to have to stay somewhere else."

They may be indignant. That's how people react when they lose their free hunting lodge. But you'll have to be clear and consistent, and they'll have to hunt for housing elsewhere.

DEAR AMY: You advised "Wondering" to chase off a potential boyfriend for killing a raccoon that invaded her yard.

Raccoons are transmitters of rabies, distemper and roundworm, which, for example, blinded a teenager in New York City. You can look it up on the Internet!

Your naive advice suggesting your writer should chase this person away for his alleged heartlessness is just silly.

— D in Denver

DEAR D: The real issue isn't how dangerous raccoons are, but how no one has the right to kill something — even vermin — on someone else's property without permission. You can look it up!

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