Annie's Mailbox: How do I approach divorce?

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Dear Annie: How do I talk to my adult children about divorcing their mother? I've been a good father and tried hard to be a good husband, but I knew early on that the rushed decision to marry was a mistake. I considered divorce 17 years ago and went to counseling, but my wife said I was the one with the problem, and things didn't change. I have had a number of indiscretions seeking companionship and intimacy.

When my wife said she would turn my children against me, I became depressed and had thoughts about suicide. She has said she will make my life hell if I leave her. But, Annie, we have no life as a couple, and I often wish God would take me. My children are tremendously important, but I feel manipulated by them with their threats of keeping the grandchildren from seeing me if I divorce their mother. I plan to stay in the marriage a little longer for the sake of my youngest child, who will graduate next year, but I don't know how much more I can take.

My wife and I both are at fault for this broken marriage. I am guilty of many things and have apologized. My children know their mother is difficult to live with. I want them to understand that the marriage is beyond repair and divorce could be a way to heal. I am angry that my wife isn't thinking about the children when she bad-mouths me to them. What can I do?

- Fearful in the Dakotas

Dear Fearful: Most children, no matter the age, are upset when their parents divorce. And it is unfortunate that many spouses try to alienate the other parent from the children. When you decide to file, get your children together for a discussion. Explain that you love them all deeply and have no intention of enumerating their mother's faults or your own and assessing blame. Things just haven't worked out, and you both are unhappy. No matter how difficult the situation becomes, it is important that you don't give up communicating with your children. We also recommend the National Center for Fathering (http://fathers.com), which is loaded with information and support.

Dear Annie: A dear friend of mine has become quite the gum chewer and is terribly noisy with it - popping and cracking, etc. When I quit smoking some years back, I took up gum chewing and understand that chomping away can bring pleasure, but I don't do it in public. "John," however, seems oblivious to his noise, no matter when or where. I've seen friends give him nasty looks, but he doesn't notice.

I love John and can endure these noises, but some of our friends have begun to distance themselves, and he can't understand why. I don't want to hurt his feelings, so how can I tell him his gum chewing is the reason?

- Would Walk Across

Croc-Infested Waters for Him

Dear Would Walk: Say, "Honey, I never realized how loud our gum cracking has become. When I do it, will you please tell me so I can stop? It must be really irritating to others. And I'll tell you when you do it, OK?"

Dear Annie: You told "Confused Bride" that bridesmaids purchase their own clothing. Where and when did this tradition originate? It is the bride's wedding, and if she can't afford to provide dresses for her attendants, she should cut back somewhere else. This is a huge expense for young people.

- S.O.

Dear S.O.: Attendants always have supplied their own attire. Considerate brides will allow some flexibility with the gowns, i.e., choosing the color while allowing the bridesmaids to select their own style and price. Brides who can afford to spring for the dresses are welcome to do so and many have. Otherwise, bridesmaids who cannot manage the expense should decline the honor.

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, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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