Cancer has taken the life out of my wife

Dear Annie: I am a 56-year-old male and have been married to the love of my life for 33 years.

Dear Annie: I am a 56-year-old male and have been married to the love of my life for 33 years. The last 16 have been hard on her. She underwent chemo twice, had both breasts removed and, five years ago, had a hysterectomy. She can no longer take hormone replacement therapy.

She is now 56, and her libido is zilch. She says she is willing to start taking hormones again so our love life will return, but she fears the cancer may come back. Annie, I would rather have her than not, but no sex apparently also means no contact.

I would never cheat on her, but I need to feel her next to me. I need to hold her. We can have other forms of sex, but we rarely do. I sometimes go half a year without intimacy of any kind. If I bring it up, it starts a fight.

I have tried romancing her and being extra nice and helpful, but still nothing. We’ve seen a therapist, who suggested other things she can do, but she refuses. When I want to cuddle, she pushes me away. She tells me she feels lonely at times, but I do, too.

I hate to say it, but there are times when I look at other women. I feel like I’m dying of thirst in the desert, but when offered a nice glass of water, I’m not allowed to drink. What am I supposed to do? — Lonesome

Dear Lonesome: Try to cut your wife some slack. She’s had a rough time, and sex is not high on her list of priorities. She also may suffer from a poor body image. She cannot work up any interest in intimacy and doesn’t want to risk arousing you by cuddling. Still, there are things she can do to improve your sex life, and she should be willing to make the effort for the sake of your marriage. Gently suggest that she contact the American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program (cancer.org) at 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345) and discuss this with someone who understands.

Dear Annie: My son is 26 years old and lives with his father, rent free. He sleeps all day and stays up all night drinking beer and watching TV. My ex-husband buys him whatever he wants or needs.

“Joey” has had a couple of jobs, and we always think he is doing well, but then he quits. I have called the doctor’s office, but they say Joey needs to call. When I ask him to do so, he tells me nothing is wrong.

Annie, I’m not sure my ex-husband can “tough love” the situation because he fears Joey will do something drastic. Can you suggest anything we can do so my son won’t simply lay in bed and not enjoy life? — B.J.

Dear B.J.: We assume you believe Joey is depressed, although he may simply be a freeloader who has never been asked to shoulder any responsibility. Either way, he needs help and so do his parents, especially Dad, who is tacitly encouraging Joey’s behavior. Suggest that Dad look into Because I Love You (bily.org), P.O. Box 2062 Winnetka, CA 91396, and The National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264).

Dear Annie: The letter from “Son of a Portly Pop” prompted me to write to an advice columnist for the first time in my 50 years. Please tell him to look into Overeaters Anonymous (oa.org).

If “Son” can get “Pop” to an OA meeting, he will find support, acceptance and compassion. — John

Dear John: Congratulations. We hope “Pop” sees your letter and takes the first step in getting his health back.

Dear Annie: My wife sleeps with our nine-year-old daughter, “Alexis.” This started shortly after Alexis’ birth and continues to this day. At the same time, my wife complains bitterly about our lack of emotional and physical closeness. My response is that I’m always available upstairs — alone.

I have tried over the years to coax her back into our bedroom using a combination of the carrot and the stick, but nothing seems to work. I often tell her that sleeping with our child is a symbol of our apartness. Nonetheless, she has made it clear that she enjoys sleeping with our daughter and prefers it to sleeping with me. She has chosen her child over her husband.

Please publish my letter so my wife will see it and hopefully change her priorities. I’ve tried everything else and don’t know what more I can do. — Indy

Dear Indy: Some women use their children as an excuse to avoid the marital bed. The repercussions not only damage the marriage, but also the child. And at this point, Alexis will make it extremely difficult to change the sleeping arrangements, which will only make your wife more likely to maintain the status quo. She needs to stop, and it will help if she understands and faces her reasons. Please get into counselling, preferably together, and work on this.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.