DEAR ABBY: I love my wife very much. I like giving her back rubs, massaging her feet, cuddling and kissing her. In return she does the same -- to her dog, "Barkley."
Barkley is the only one who benefits from her affections. The dog does nothing for me except allow me to pick up his droppings. What am I missing? -- DOGGONE PUZZLED IN CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA
DEAR DOGGONE PUZZLED: What you are missing is something called "reciprocation." And your wife is missing how resentful you are beginning to feel because of it. If you haven't already done so, "Speak!" to your wife about it and tell her you need some of those demonstrations of affection aimed in your direction -- or someone's going to wind up in the doghouse, and it won't be Barkley.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Brian," has a terminal illness and only a few months more to live. We have been married four years. I fell out of love with him shortly after our wedding, and now he's sick. I'm his only caregiver.
Abby, sometimes I don't want to do it anymore. He has treated me badly and sometimes I hate him, but I want our 2-year-old daughter to know her father and have good memories. She can tell I'm not myself.
I know Brian has only a little time left, but I also know we would be happier and saner with him gone. I try to keep her away from him as much as I can because he goes off on her, too. I know my husband is angry because he's dying, but he has always been angry and had a bad temper. I try to be positive for our child, but it's difficult when you're being put down or ordered around all the time. What can I do? Just hang in there until it's over? I'm confused, lost, depressed, and I cry all the time. Please help. -- WANTS OUT IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR WANTS OUT: Please accept my sympathy. What you're experiencing is the most difficult of life's transitions -- painful, exhausting, sometimes thankless. But for your sake, please don't give up now. Once this is over you will emerge stronger, more confident -- and knowing you did your best and fulfilled your wedding vows to the very end.
Although you feel alone right now, you are experiencing what many other caregivers do when dealing with a loved one who is dying. Because you feel isolated, you might benefit from contacting the Family Caregiver Alliance. Its toll-free telephone number is 800-445-8106; the Web site is www.caregiver.org.
DEAR ABBY: When I started dating this guy, "Mitch," everything was great. We were happy and made each other laugh. After three months, he left me a message saying he had to go out of state for work and would call when he got to where he was going. All I got was silence. Days turned into weeks and eventually into five months. Even though I loved Mitch and he had claimed he loved me, I started to accept that things were over between us.
Just as I was getting over him, he called. He told me he still loves me and is sorry he hurt me. Something does not add up. He doesn't have a cell phone, so there's no way to reach him. When I call him at the number he gave me, he's never there. I care for him, but something is not sitting well. What should I do? -- MYSTIFIED IN BATH, PA.
DEAR MYSTIFIED: Pay attention to your intuition, which is trying to tell you that Mitch is a magician. Having pulled one disappearing act on you, he is likely to perform another. When a man isn't where he says he'll be, the odds are that he is either married or involved with someone else.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)