Wife overreacting to husband meeting a friend

“Bill” and I have been married for 42 years. I recently learned that he has been in touch with a former co-worker.

Dear Annie: “Bill” and I have been married for 42 years.

I recently learned that he has been in touch with a former co-worker. Friends saw him having lunch with “Mary.” I also saw a short email from her, saying, “Hi! Same time, same place. Looking forward to it.” She signed it: “Love, Mary.” Needless to say, I brought this to Bill’s attention. He admitted they’d had lunch a few times, but said signing “love” meant nothing.

Bill explained that they are good friends and he finds out stuff from her, like the latest gossip.

Well, Annie, to me this is obviously more than just a co-worker relationship. I told him I wanted these “dates” stopped immediately, as this relationship could only lead to trouble. He agreed to stop.

Last week, Bill told me he was going to meet “Harry” for lunch. I checked his email and learned that he met up with Mary. I am hurt by this betrayal. Bill now says I’m being ridiculous and he has no intention of ending the lunch dates.

I am devastated. I told Bill it would be best if we separated to give both of us time to think. He says separating is absurd. How do I get rid of a husband who refuses to leave? We have a married daughter in another state, so getting away for a while could be the best thing for me to do right now. — Thrown for a Loop

Dear Thrown: Bill should not have met with Mary without your knowledge and approval, but we don’t believe it is an affair. It sounds like he misses his job, wants to keep up with the gossip and enjoys her company.

Unfortunately, your extreme reaction has turned it into a power struggle and a major marital crisis. Unless you want a divorce, we urge you to find a neutral third party — a counsellor, clergyperson or family friend — who can mediate your disagreement and help you find a way back to each other before it’s too late.

Dear Annie: I am a heavy smoker. I am aware of the health risks (and the expense) and know I should quit, but I feel healthy now and have no desire to stop.

A couple of family members extracted a promise from me that I would quit smoking as my Christmas present to them. I know these family members are only thinking of my health, and it seemed like a fair “gift.” But without my daily nicotine fix, I am feeling very grumpy, as well as angry with the relatives for getting me to make such a promise.

Is it really possible to quit smoking for someone else? If so, do you have some suggestions for easing the process? — Grumpy Quitter

Dear Grumpy: It is possible to quit for someone else if the motivation is strong enough, but you still must be willing.

The fact that you agreed to this promise with the intention of keeping it means you do have some motivation to quit. Also, until the nicotine is out of your system, you will continue to have cravings and feel “grumpy.”

First talk to your doctor about assistance. Also, if you type “quit smoking” into any search engine, you will find a long list of sites offering a variety of help. We recommend the National Cancer Institute at smokefree.gov or 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Dear Annie: You printed a letter from “Upset Wife,” who had years of illnesses and surgeries and whose husband is no longer interested in intimacy. Over the past 10 years, my wife has had many surgeries. She is doing better now, but it’s hard to think romantically about someone when you have been her nurse, cook and maid, rather than a mate.

“Upset Wife” should take a look at what she is contributing to the partnership. She should be acting like a wife, not a patient. Otherwise, it just takes time. — Sad but True

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail 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.