Dear Annie: Five months ago, my girlfriend went to a job conference in Texas. When she came back, she used my computer and accidentally left her e-mail open. I found numerous pictures of her business trip, and several are of her sitting on the lap of another man. She looks happy, and he has his hands wrapped around her. The last picture, the most worrisome, is of her standing up and hugging this man, looking at him as if they were about to kiss. I snooped a little more and found an e-mail from him telling her how special she was and that he "never went that far with a woman before at these conferences."
I haven't mentioned anything about what I saw on the computer because I want to give my girlfriend the opportunity to tell me herself. I get the impression this secret is eating her up, and the result is, we are having serious problems. So, how do I tell her I've read her e-mail?
- Confused in Tulsa
Dear Tulsa: Honestly and soon. Tell your girlfriend she left her e-mail open after her trip and you saw the photographs of her with the other man. If she admits everything and you trust that she is telling the whole truth, you have a chance to put your relationship back on track. Otherwise, sorry to say, it's headed south.
Dear Annie: I am a 50-something woman who has been single for nearly 20 years. I hadn't even had a date in the current century and filled my time with work, grown children, friends, volunteer activities and hobbies. I was lonely, but figured no relationship is better than a bad one. Recently, I became involved with a man who is 20 years younger. It's been fantastic, and honestly, we're just two people. I don't notice the age difference when I'm with him.
I'm not writing for advice, because things are great right now. I have no expectations for a long-term future and am concentrating on living in the moment. But I would like to hear from your readers who have been in this situation and ask how they handled difficulties, especially from their families. I realize his parents and my children have concerns about emotional turmoil and possible financial opportunism, but shouldn't they be glad their loved one has companionship? We see lots of older men with younger women. Is there a double standard of acceptance?
- Not Harold and Maude
Dear Not Maude: Yes, as we often see in Hollywood, where older leading men are frequently (and sometimes ridiculously) paired with much younger women. But society can become accustomed to all kinds of combinations, including yours, and our mail indicates there are a great many older women who are quite happy with younger men. Any readers who want to weigh in are welcome to do so.
Dear Annie: "Desperate" wrote that his "incredible" wife of 25 years won't have sex with him, won't talk about it and won't go for counseling. You said it might be a hormonal imbalance. I'd like to know what hormonal imbalance makes a woman discount her husband's pleading. Is there a hormone that causes cruelty, selfishness, hypocrisy and narcissism?
Her husband is 52, and unless he wants to be "desperate" for another 30 years, he needs to lay down an ultimatum: either she goes to counseling and gives it a real shot, or she grants him a divorce. There might be someone out there who thinks he's "incredible," and it would be nice if he finds her while he still has his own teeth.
- John in L.A.
Dear John: We agree that his wife is being unreasonable, but unless he is willing to give her that ultimatum, he can only work on his response to the situation.