The handwriting is on the wall

Dear Margo: I have been married for 23 years. We have two teenage children. My wife refuses any kind of intimacy with me, and we have not had sex for the past 10 years of our marriage.

Dear Margo: I have been married for 23 years. We have two teenage children. My wife refuses any kind of intimacy with me, and we have not had sex for the past 10 years of our marriage.

I used to be able to count on having sex on Valentine’s Day, my birthday and our anniversary, but now it doesn’t even happen on those days.

We have gone to counselling, and my wife says she feels bad about our not having sex and she knows how much pain this issue has caused me. But she has stated that she will never have sex again.

(She gave the therapist no reason, but she told me she thinks sex is disgusting and takes too much energy. The sexual issues began after our first child was born.)

The counsellor says I need to be supportive of this and just be patient, that maybe she will change her mind. The lack of sex is causing me to really hate her.

Should I wait for her to turn around? Should I leave her now or wait until the kids are gone? I just don’t understand this.

I have told her that I will have an affair, and she responded that I never would because I am loyal like a dog. — Boiling

Dear Boil: Before we get to your wife, I suggest replacing the therapist because the one you have is nuts.

After a decade of “being patient,” you should hang on because she might change? This is ridiculous advice. And the counsellor never wanted to find out why?

Given what you say, I have a strong hunch that there is an emotional block coming from who knows where.

What is telling is that your wife has no interest in either exploring or fixing what she acknowledges is an issue that causes you pain. If a new therapist cannot motivate her (if there is a new therapist), then I would consider replacing your wife. Not only is she unilaterally depriving you of spousal privileges (for no reason that you know of, except an “energy shortage”), but she made quite a dig with the remark about a dog.

Instead of hating her, if there is no effort on her part, then I would tell her you are tired of being in the doghouse and want your freedom. — Margo, disgustedly

Dear Margo: I have no idea what to do. My mother was a single parent who raised me pretty much all by herself.

She got married a few months after I did to a person we’ll just say neither my husband nor I really have much in common with.

When we’re all together, he really tries hard to find something to talk about. It gets quite tiring to have to work at conversation so hard.

My mother is still focused on being a mother and has a tendency to be a little domineering. — Trying To Work it Out

Dear Try: I know the feeling of trying to make chitchat, let alone have a real conversation, with people who are a lot of work. You might try these approaches.

Talk around him, just the three of you, and if he has something to say, he will join in. Get together in a larger group, so that others can act as buffers. Make movie dates, or such, where there’s not supposed to be talking. See your mom in a just-us-girls outing.

Try to minimize the time spent socializing as a foursome and encourage your mom and the new man in her life to be with their contemporaries. One of these approaches will surely bail you out. — Margo, empathically

Dear Margo: I recently moved to a new city to be closer to my parents and to start a new job as an attorney.

The job didn’t work out, and I ended up opening my own firm. My father, also an attorney, has expressed interest in joining me “one day,” and my parents have provided some minimal financial support to get me started (office supplies, business cards, etc.).

However, I ended up taking a loan from a friend for most of my initial expenses because I was constantly being questioned by my mother about the business decisions I was making. Meanwhile, my dad seems unwilling to take any sort of risk in starting this new firm, and now I’m not getting financial support at all.

My dilemma is this: I am already starting to feel resentful that I am doing all the work and taking all the risk in setting up this firm, and it looks like my dad only intends to join me once I am established. I also have very specific ideas about how to run my business, most of which I got from talking to other successful business people my own age.

My parents’ ideas on how I should run things just don’t mesh with that and are outdated. How do I get out of this and keep my family relationship intact? I figure it is best to do it now while I am just starting. — Dilemma, Esq.

Dear Dil: Don’t make any announcements now, because you don’t have to.

Because your parents are no longer contributing, even minimally, just finesse talking about your nascent law firm.

Simply tell them you’re finding your way, that it was probably a good idea for them to bow out, and that for the time being it’s probably best to keep family and business issues separate. (You will probably want to keep things separate forever.) More deponent sayeth not. — Margo, individually

Dear Margo: A young lady of my acquaintance was born with several medical conditions, including Cerebral Palsy, hearing impairment and a degree of learning disability, yet she’s surprisingly intelligent and computer literate. Though an adult, she still lives at home.

She does most of the household chores (for a large family).

She’s been raised as a “normal” child with very little concession for her disabilities.

Now she’s at an age where marriage and children are foremost on her mind, but her mother refuses to allow her to grow up, beyond a few harmless (chaperoned) dates.

She graduated from school, so she has no “outside” contact and little opportunity for a romance to blossom.

I think the monthly check the mother receives accounts for a large part of her reluctance to allow her to have an independent life. After all, her medical problems do not interfere with her life, and if she is capable of keeping house for her mother, then she is capable of keeping house for herself. Talking to her mother is not an option. It’s been tried in the past with no success. — Entitled to Independence

Dear Ent: Since the mother is not a natural ally, I would take up the matter with the young woman you write about. If she would like to live independently, either in a group home or perhaps with a roommate, first establish with her physician that this is possible.

Then enlist the appropriate social service agency to advocate for the young woman’s rights.

There’s a chance she may not wish to leave her mother’s home, in which case chances for a social life remain limited. You might encourage her to lobby her mother to socialize with a group of peers in exchange for staying at home. I suspect the mother has a fear that someone will take advantage of her sexually — which of course would do the young woman no good. In addition to the check she receives, it seems a little like her mother is getting maid service. Sounds complicated. Good luck. — Margo, pragmatically

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.