Annie's Mailbox: Husband wants to make marriage work

Dear Annie: I have been married to "Kristina" for 14 years, and we have a beautiful 7-year-old daughter. My wife has numerous health problems, including arthritis and diabetes. I have been a husband, father and doctor to her. Over time, I started becoming detached emotionally, and then our physical contact diminished. All our disagreements are about Kristina taking care of herself and the lack of sex.

I always thought that because she is so dependent, I would never have to worry about her straying. I was wrong. I caught her cheating with one of her married co-workers. She admitted it but still is lying to me about him. I have to take Kristina's word that it is strictly business between them, but I don't trust her.

I want us to work things out. The problem is, the co-worker said he would leave the company, but four months later, he still is there. His wife has no clue. The stress is taking a toll on my health. Kristina says she is committed to the marriage, but also says this co-worker filled an emotional void and she misses his friendship. I think she's in love with him.

I have accepted my part of the blame for not trying harder years ago. We went to counseling then and are in counseling now, both individual and joint. What should I do about the co-worker?

- Brokenhearted

Dear Brokenhearted: You cannot force the co-worker to quit. You can, however, tell Kristina that her constant contact with this man undermines your efforts to heal your marriage. If she truly wants to be with you, she will take the necessary steps to cut him out of her life. If you haven't specifically brought up this issue with your counselor, please do so immediately.

Dear Annie: Ten years ago, my daughter got married during a Halloween party. Everyone wore a costume, even the minister. Her father and I were horrified.

Now she wants to renew their vows on their Halloween anniversary when her husband comes home on leave from Afghanistan. They want everyone to wear costumes again. We want her to have the white wedding we missed before. She won't budge. Can you help us?

- Bereft in Bethesda.

Dear Bereft: Sorry, no. This is her anniversary and her choice, as it was the first time. You would be less upset if you adjusted your attitude and decided to participate and have fun. Maybe she will surprise you and come dressed as a conventional bride (instead of the Bride of Frankenstein). If you want a white wedding, consider renewing your own vows. Then you can plan the event you've always wanted.

Dear Annie: Your reply to "Professional Woman," who complained about your use of the term to refer to a stripper, was way off base. Sure, most people probably knew that you were referring to some sort of sex worker, but how sexist is that?

In the 19th and even 20th centuries, the phrase "public woman" was used to refer to prostitutes on the assumption that any woman who would occupy public space without a proper male escort must be a prostitute. It provided a handy way to exclude middle- and upper-class women from public spaces, stigmatize working-class women (who appeared regularly in public spaces), and render as sexual prey all women who went out in public.

The double entendre implicit in the phrase "professional woman" undoubtedly serves a similar purpose, insinuating that sex work can be a profession for women and also that "professional women" are sexually available. It's sexist and discriminatory.

- Leigh Ann Wheeler, Associate Professor of History, Binghamton University (SUNY)

Dear Professor Wheeler: We did not intend to be sexist or insulting. However, you've made a well-articulated argument for us not to use the term again, and we won't.

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