Life Advice



Ask Amy: Lovelorn spouse wants to tidy up behind him

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I've been in a loveless marriage for 15 of the past 22 years. We are basically partners in raising the remaining children at home (ages 16 and 14).

Recently I reached out to my ex-wife to tell her about the passing of my parents. We started corresponding about our lives, where we have been, and what we have been doing for these many years. Quite frankly, I never stopped loving her. I was simply young, dumb, and did not know how to communicate back then.

As it turns out, we are both very unhappy in our current marriages. We have expressed that we never stopped loving each other.

My ex-wife has since left her husband and is filing for divorce. I want to follow suit, but am having trouble, as I feel I have a mess to tidy up before I leave, i.e. sell the house, get the kids into another home with their mother, and deal with finances.

Should I tell my wife I am leaving for another woman, or simply explain that I am not happy and move out? I don't want my children to think my unhappiness has anything to do with them.

I just need to be happy. I want to feel loved, have intimacy, laugh, and be with the woman I have loved throughout my entire life!

How should I proceed, so I can be with the only woman I've ever loved?

-- Love Story

Dear Love Story: This is not a mess that will be easily "tidied." Your wife and children will likely be bewildered, and you'll be spreading a lot of hurt around. NONE of this is their fault. Your choice to leave your family, and to sell the family home and relocate them to another one -- all of this -- is on you.

You must tell the truth. I mean, come on -- don't you think your family will figure this out when you and your ex quickly head off into the sunset?

You should make this disclosure with the help of a couples' counselor, who will assist the two of you to communicate about this in order to break up as well, and as peacefully, as you can.

My advice is for you to take full responsibility for your own choices, treat the mother of your children with respect and kindness, do everything possible to stay close to your children, and shelter all of them from your current joy and excitement about leaving.

Telling your wife of over two decades that you have (basically) never loved her should be off the table.

Dear Amy: I was married for 16 years. I have two sons. My ex and I have been separated for 12 years and divorced for six. He and I have remained on friendly terms. We are there for our sons and are polite to each other.

I didn't immediately go back to my maiden name because my boys were still living with me. However, now they are grown, done with college, and are out of the house and living on their own.


I talked to my sons about switching back to my maiden name, and my 23-year-old wants me to keep his last name. Your thoughts?

-- SQ

Dear SQ: I think you should go by whatever surname you prefer. Your ex-husband can't name you. Your son can't name you. (OK, your birth name presumably originally came from your father, but that's the name you identify with.)

You get to legally choose, and to go by, the name you prefer.

This might make your son uncomfortable (initially). Between your two sons, your eldest has shared your surname for the longest time; it is logical and understandable that he would prefer that things not change.

You should tell him that you've heard his point of view, but that while you proudly shared his surname while he was a child, you are now (also proudly) reverting to your own. None of this changes who you are -- only what you are called.

Dear Amy: I understand the frustration of "Tired and Frustrated," who has a pronounced limp, but doesn't want to be "helped" while out and about.

I am one of the "pushy" people who offers help. To everyone.

I have been berated by people who don't want help, and I have also been thanked with a smile.

I will continue to do what I feel is right, and you are welcome to call me anything you like.

-- Helper

Dear Helper: Well, there you go.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)



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