Annie's Mailbox for Feb. 19, 2011: Out-of-work boyfriend lost intimacy

Dear Annie: I am a 42-year-old woman with two teenage daughters. I have been living with my boyfriend, "Jonas," for 15 years. For the past two, Jonas has been out of work. This has affected his mood, as well as his sexual drive. He is not interested in being intimate. He keeps telling me it's because I don't wear enough makeup, or that I should dye the color of my hair.

Like a fool, I have tried to give in to his requests so that he will love me, but it hasn't helped. My daughters want me to throw him out because he says mean things and doesn't treat me right. But I love him, and he has nowhere else to go.

— Texas

Dear Texas: Your makeup and the color of your hair will not determine whether or not someone loves you. Those are excuses Jonas gives in order to keep you at a distance. Jonas seems depressed and bitter, but that doesn't mean you should tolerate being poorly treated. Put your backbone into place, and tell him to get some low-cost counseling through his church, the YMCA or United Way and to look for any kind of employment, including part time. If he refuses, you may have to take your daughters' advice. It doesn't help anyone if you are simply Jonas' enabler.

Dear Annie: Last week, my wife of 20 years told me she needed some "space." She and our teenage daughter went to stay at her mother's. Two days later, they informed me that neither of them wants to come home. I am devastated.

Although their leaving was a complete shock to me, I can't say it wasn't warranted. They told me I've seemed unhappy for a long time. I thought I was making positive strides and things were improving, but apparently not enough. I never imagined we wouldn't be able to work things out.

When my wife first brought this issue to my attention two years ago, I saw my doctor, and he determined that my testosterone levels were low, which may have caused some underlying depression. I've been receiving treatment, but in hindsight, I guess I should have sought additional help, including the counseling you so often recommend to your readers.

The purpose of this letter is to tell every other husband and father out there to act sooner rather than later because before you turn around, it might be too late. Too many men ignore the signs or are unwilling to accept help. Use every available treatment in order to ensure that you address all needs, both physical and emotional.

My wife gave me ample time and multiple opportunities to make things better. In the end, she had to do what was best for her and for our daughter. I can't fault either of them for leaving. Please print this so they know how sorry I am, how hard I'm working with the counselor and how much I want them to keep a place for me in their lives. I love them with all my heart. When you keep telling people to get counseling, Annie, you provide an invaluable service to the community.

— Arizona

Dear Arizona: Your letter is heartbreaking. We can add nothing, but we wish you the best of luck in changing your life and regaining your family.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Tired of Being Around the Funk," whose mother-in-law has body odor and insists she only needs to wash "the important parts."

My grandfather was a doctor. Sick patients often came in with body odor. Grandpa would start their exam by inquiring about their hygiene, asking, "How do you bathe?" A common response was, "Up as far as possible and down as far as possible," to which Grandpa's standard reply was, "Then you need to bathe 'possible,' too." That was 55 years ago, and I still follow his advice.

— Loved My Gentle Grandparents in Iowa

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