DEAR ABBY: I am a 42-year-old woman who has wanted to write to you for years. I'll soon celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. I am very unhappily married.
I married "Bill" for all the wrong reasons. I never truly loved him the way a woman should love a man. I have remained in the marriage because I am "supposed to." I was brought up to obey the Commandments and do what is right.
Bill is a wonderful husband and father. He has a steady job that pays well; I work part-time. Bill and I get along just fine. He is easy to talk to, and we're very good friends. I don't want to lose that. But there is absolutely no passion in our relationship and never was.
I married Bill because it "was time." He feels more like a brother than a husband. I don't want to hurt my children, but I can't pretend any longer. I am attracted to other men. I'm afraid I'm going to start hating him because I feel so trapped.
I don't know what to do. I just want to stop pretending. We have both spoken to professionals and I have talked to my priest. I told Bill a little about how I feel -- that I don't love him the way a woman should love a man. He just keeps on trying -- buying me flowers, doing all the right things. It doesn't matter. It just makes me angry. Could you please offer me some suggestions? I have read your column since I was a teen, and I value your opinion. Thanks. -- HAD IT IN HARTFORD, CONN.
DEAR HAD IT: Let me get this straight -- you married your husband under false pretenses and have lied to him for 20 years. Both of you have my sympathy.
The best advice I can offer is to think long and hard about what you have now and what you "might" have in the future. Believe me, there are no guarantees and expectations have changed a lot since you were in the dating and mating market. If you really cannot love your husband the way he should to be loved -- and counseling won't help -- then let him go. He deserves better.
DEAR ABBY: My mother died recently after suffering a stroke. Immediately following her death, one of my father's more painful tasks was notifying various agencies: Social Security, retirement benefits and so on. Dad shook his head in amazement as all but one of the people he notified simply fired off a series of questions, thanked him curtly and hung up. Only one civil servant proved to be truly civil, prefacing the conversation with, "I'm sorry for your loss."
Abby, I know people who work in government and private pension departments receive many calls about deaths every day. That doesn't make each death less sad, or each call less difficult for the person picking up the phone and dialing. We can connect on a human level even through layers of officialdom and technology. A few simple, sympathetic words can make a world of difference in the dark days following the loss of a loved one. -- NANCY IN OAKLAND, CALIF.
DEAR NANCY: Perhaps it's a self-protective mechanism when people who work with case numbers, files and statistics lose sight of the fact that behind that information are broken hearts and grieving families. Thank you for the reminder. I'm sure no one meant to be cruel. What you have described is an example of people who have become desensitized.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)