Life Advice



Ask Amy: Husband consigns himself to misery

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am a man in my mid-60’s, married for the past 35 years to my second wife.

We have two children, both grown and on their own.

We have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for years. She is an alcoholic and is often very nasty toward me. Life is miserable.

Prior to this marriage, I was married for two years to my childhood sweetheart and soul mate. We had what I thought was a wonderful marriage until one day she announced that she did not want to be married any more. She refused to tell me why or get counseling.

I was devastated. I tried for the next year to woo her back. I found out later she had been having an affair with a co-worker whom she eventually married.

My dilemma is that I cannot get my first wife out of my head or heart. We have not had any contact in more than 35 years, but she is always on my mind.

I know she felt that she made a big mistake by ending our marriage, but I don't know what to do about my feelings now.

I made vows that I plan to keep no matter how miserable I am, so I cannot leave my wife. I cannot go to counseling because I think it would break my wife's heart to know my feelings, and I have never spoken about this with anyone.

I had always envisioned living with my soul mate into our golden years with a long and happy marriage.

Now I will be spending my golden years with a bitter alcoholic with no chance for intimacy.

I don't know what to do.

– Lonely and Miserable

Dear Lonely and Miserable: Let’s see: You can’t affect any change in your current miserable situation because you evidently made lifelong vows to remain miserable, no matter what – and this vow includes refusing to seek help.

I hope you realize that if you seek individual counseling, what happens in the room is completely private. You don’t need to tell your wife anything that is shared with your therapist.

Therapy is where you can reveal your persistent longings.

My own theory is that your longing reveals your desire to escape; your former wife is a placeholder for everything you believe you have sacrificed.

Attending Al-Anon meetings (virtually or in-person) will help you to clarify your intentions and options; communicating with others whose lives are impacted by alcoholism will make you feel less alone and – I hope – much less miserable.

Dear Amy: I'm 64 and a widow, living in my own home.


My sister is finally getting divorced after 30 years in a terrible marriage. She has a 21-year-old daughter.

She is going to be moving in with me while she figures out her next steps in life.

We lived together when we were younger, and got along very well.

My concern is with my niece, who will be coming with her. She is a good person – smart and savvy.

She works, and both my sister and I work full time during the day.

In the past, my niece has had boyfriends live with them and stay in her bedroom.

Also, there seems to be an open-door policy on friends coming and going. My sister said that she never knows who's coming over, and they come at any time of the day and night.

I want them both to feel good about living here during this transition time. But I'm not comfortable with the open-door policy. What would be the best way to approach this?

– Excited but Nervous

Dear Excited: You should be completely honest with both women before they move in. Tell your niece that you are extremely uncomfortable having overnight guests in your home, and so you are going to say no to that. Ask her to describe the way she typically hosts friends, and if you want any guests out of the house before 11 p.m., you should say so.

Handling this in advance could head off problems and resentment later.

Dear Amy: Now that you are leaving your desk, I can finally ask a question that has been on my mind. I’m wondering how you handle the burden of learning so many sad stories?

– Wondering Reader

Dear Wondering: My own childhood (challenging, but happy) conditioned me toward empathy. My adulthood (challenging, but very happy) has taught me compassion. I feel honored that people who have suffered so much let their stories tumble out. They are far braver than I am.


(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.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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