Smothered wife needs some space

DEAR ANNIE:My wife of 18 years left me. The day started out like any other. I got dressed for work, gave her a kiss on the lips and told her, "I love you. See you later." She said, "Love you, too." When I got home, I discovered that she had taken all of her things, plus a few of mine and both of our dogs. She didn't give a reason. She only left a short note saying, "I have to get away. I can't take it anymore."

She has been gone almost a week, and I haven't heard a word. I know she was a bit depressed after a co-worker accidentally totaled her car. We work in the same office and were around each other 24/7. We did everything together. We had arguments like any other married couple, but I didn't think any of them were serious. The last one was two weeks ago, but we made up, and I thought we both had gotten over it.

This would be easier to deal with if I didn't still love her with all my heart. I can't sleep or eat. I wish she would call and talk to me so we could work this out. If it means going to a marriage counselor, I'll do it. I'll do anything to get her back. Please help. — Depressed and Confused in Colorado

DEAR COLORADO:Too much togetherness can be suffocating — small problems are magnified, and things that might be overlooked become intolerable because there is no perspective. We also suspect you may have been somewhat oblivious to your wife's unhappiness. Right now, she needs a little space. If she contacts you, offer to go for counseling. If she doesn't, ask a relative, mutual friend or co-worker to intercede on your behalf so you can see whether the relationship can be mended.

DEAR ANNIE:We are trying to buy our dad a birthday present. He has four children, all adults, but only one is married.


Here is the dilemma: The gift we have in mind will cost $300. Does each adult pay the same amount, or are my married brother and his wife considered one? Please tell us the fairest way to split the costs. — Baffled in California

DEAR BAFFLED:There is no definitive rule. In some families, the cost is split according to employment — those with full-time jobs pay a full share, those with part-time jobs pay half, and those who are unemployed contribute what they can. The best way to do this without rancor is to hold a sibling meeting (include your brother's wife) and reach an agreement about what is fair.

DEAR ANNIE:I read the letter from "Elaine from California," who said she was inspired by another letter in your column about a woman who couldn't stay sober. She asked if she was too old to change, and her counselor replied, "Is your heart still beating?"

Her story hit me right in my middle. I am 67. I have had three back surgeries and will always have physical limitations. I also live with chronic depression and am overweight. It seems like I have struggled with one or all of these conditions my entire life.

As I get older, I am more and more weary. I have a psychiatrist, a therapist, a good back doctor and the best primary care doctor. And I have asked each of them whether there is any use in thinking I can improve my condition. They all gave me positive answers, but "Elaine's" letter rang a new bell. Even when some parts are broken, there are parts that still work.

Here is one of my favorite quotes for lifting the spirits, from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.


There is a crack in everything,

That's how the light gets in. — Ellen in Florida

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