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Breakup of long marriage may be only short-term

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 1:00 p.m. CDT

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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I just got some shocking news. His father — age 81 — is leaving his wife of 60 years! Mom is not entirely self-sufficient and seems dependent on him.

Dad found himself a younger woman — a “chick” of 70. He has announced that he still has sexual needs and wants to enjoy the rest of his life. My husband thinks it will be a short-term fling and he’ll return to Mom, but she says she won’t be taking him back. (Who knows how she’ll feel later?)

My problem is, no matter what happens between them, I’m having a hard time even considering forgiving him for his selfishness. I know it’s not my place as his daughter-in-law, but I don’t know how I can bring myself to face him feeling as I do. Any words of wisdom? — JUDGMENTAL JUDY IN ARIZONA

DEAR JUDGMENTAL JUDY: I do have a few. If your mother-in-law hasn’t already done so, make sure she gets the best legal advice possible. After 60 years of marriage, there should be plenty of assets to split. They will make her financially independent, and from that, emotional independence will follow. Do not count her out as a weak sister just yet because she appears to be stronger than you think.

While it’s possible your father-in-law may want to reunite after the fling, it is equally possible that when the “chick” sees his nest egg is cracked in half, he will be less appealing to her. Only time will tell. In the meantime, keep the peace, bide your time, and as tempting as it may be to voice everything that’s on your mind, keep your lip zipped. This isn’t your marriage, so don’t stir the pot.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to “Tom,” the love of my life, for four years. We have been together more than 10 years and have a 2-year-old daughter.

Tom was diagnosed with a terminal illness early last year and is close to the end now. He’s very angry, which I understand, but he takes it out on me since I am his caregiver. I’m also a full-time student about to graduate with my degree in registered nursing, so I’m busy all the time.

Between school, my daughter and giving full care to my husband, I’m stressed out. He yells a lot about everything, from money woes to the wrong bread on his sandwich. To top it off, we haven’t been intimate since our daughter was born.

I’m not considering straying from our marriage, but at times I feel I’ll be ready to date as soon as he’s gone. It makes me feel guilty. Is it wrong to feel this way? Do you have any advice to help me through this tragic time in our lives? — DEPRESSED AND LONELY IN MICHIGAN

DEAR DEPRESSED: Yes. Stop beating yourself up for experiencing human emotions at a time when you’re hauling a load that would crush an ox. Of course your husband is angry. He has good reason to be — but he’s misdirecting it on you.

Guilt is the last thing you need to add to what you’re dealing with. It’s normal to crave the closeness you haven’t experienced in two years.

If there are counseling services offered at your nursing school, please avail yourself of them. Venting your feelings in a supportive environment will lighten your load and help you cope with your husband. There are also online support groups for caregivers. If you reach out in either direction, you’ll feel better. It could also be helpful to ask your husband’s doctor for a referral to someone who does end-of-life counseling for him.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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