Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband has told me he doesn't want to be married anymore -- after 10 years and three children. He says I should be happy that he came to me directly before cheating on me or anything else. Really?

I am sick to my stomach. We just had a vacation together, and everything seemed great. Now he says he wants to move out and start his life over. He says he will continue to help take care of the kids but realizes he wants something different in his life -- not me. He thought the only respectable thing to do was to tell me. After he said that, he didn't want to talk about it.

He made a statement with dates for when he wants to leave. When I asked if he had a girlfriend, he said he didn't yet but he was interested in someone. He said he agreed not to mess around with her until we had broken up.

I am so angry. What can I do to save my marriage? --Distraught Wife, Detroit

DEAR DISTRAUGHT WIFE: Ask your husband to go to counseling with you. Even if he confirms that he is ready to move on, ask him to participate in counseling for the sake of the children.

If you can get into a professional counseling environment where the two of you can talk through your challenges and concerns, you stand a chance of learning more about where his heart is and whether there is a chance at reconciliation. It could be that this other woman is a passing interest but that out of respect, he feels he should leave rather than get involved in an affair. The root of the reason for his straying may be something you can identify and work through with help. Try that before you let him go.

No matter what, since you have three children, you will need to figure out how to manage them from two households. A counselor can be instrumental in that.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My next-door neighbor is a nice guy who always seems to need something. That proverbial cup of sugar has turned into dish detergent, flatware, a bottle of wine, anything. He knocks on our door at all hours of the night when he needs something, and it has become annoying.

Don't get me wrong. My wife and I like him a lot, and he is generous with us. He gives us a bottle of wine for the holidays and odd gifts here and there. But we don't like being his go-to, especially after midnight.

How do we handle this? We live in an apartment building, so it's easy for him to walk a few steps across the hall to make his inquiry. -- Bothered, Queens, N.Y.

DEAR BOTHERED: You don't have to answer the door just because somebody knocks on it. If it's late and you don't want to be bothered, ignore the knock. You can also tell your neighbor that unless it's an emergency, he should not come by after a particular time. You can set boundaries without being mean.