Dear Margo: I have a difficult problem I need an outsider's help with, as I wouldn't want friends or family to know. My husband is a very quiet man, and when I say quiet, I mean that he can go for days without having a conversation.
It doesn't seem to bother him, but it certainly bothers me. I knew he was quiet when I married him, but I didn't expect to have no one to talk to. We discussed this before we got married, and he said that he would open up, but asked me not to push him. If I try to start a conversation, often I only get a shrug or a grunt in return.
This is affecting everything in our marriage. Of course, our sex life is suffering because he doesn't talk to me all day and then just rolls over and wants sex. Hello? Forget foreplay. I don't feel loved or appreciated; it's like I am a piece of furniture that cooks, cleans and takes care of the kids.
I am not happy and don't know how to make things better. — Getting the Silent Treatment
Dear Get: I have a hunch your friends and family already know your husband doesn't speak. Forget how your life looks to others. The important thing is to solve this problem — one way or the other.
Tell him that conversation is going to become part of his life, either with you, a therapist or his divorce lawyer. No one should have to go through life with a partner who shrugs and grunts, while expecting sex on demand, cooking, cleaning and child-care services.
Now you know how to make things better. — Margo, responsively
TO SEEK ABSOLUTION OR NOT?
Dear Margo: Fifteen years ago, when I was just out of college, I married a man for all the wrong reasons.
He was a few years older, thoughtful and understanding. Less than a year later, I was unfaithful and left him.
He really wanted the marriage, and for reasons both cultural (Japanese) and religious, he viewed divorce as shameful. We broke off contact even before the divorce was final, so I lost track of him long ago. I don't know if he's dead or alive, and I can't begin to imagine how my actions ultimately affected his life.
I've been happily remarried for 10 years, and I don't harbor any romantic notions about him, but I cringe when I think of my immature, heartless behavior. Part of me is tempted to try to find him, to offer apologies. Part of me thinks that seeking redemption is selfish and I should leave it alone, though I can't decide if some of that feeling is the fear that he would greet such overtures with anger.
As I can't decide how I feel, I haven't broached the subject with my current husband, though he knows I have regrets about that time in my life, so I think he would support any decision I made. What do you think? — Ambivalent
Dear Am: I well understand the desire to put things right, or at least to apologize for behavior that, today, you are not proud of. I would not recommend it, however, for you have no idea where he is, or how he is.
I doubt your regret would do him any good now, as one would assume his hurt has healed some time ago, and you might just be reintroducing painful memories. Sometimes seeking redemption is like confessing, in that it's really for the benefit of the person initiating it; for the recipient it often means more pain.
Let it be, my dear, and be thankful that maturity has softened you. — Margo, judiciously
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.