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Ask Amy: Long-term marriage deserves real renewal

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • November 29, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Dear Amy: I’ve been married coming up on 50 years. My wife strayed from our marriage bed on several occasions and, frankly, never satisfactorily explained to me why. In any event, she decided to stay married. We have gotten on well together for years and successfully raised two fine children.

My daughter wants to throw us a 50th anniversary party, at which she wants us to repeat our wedding vows. I find this to be a terrible idea.

My wife made the most solemn oath in front of a church full of family and friends, and then she broke it. While I still love her and want to remain married, I find the idea that we would repeat what was a travesty in the first place to be unacceptable.

When I told my daughter I did not want to do the vow thing, she pushed back. All I could think to say was, “I don’t need to show my commitment. I’m still here, right?”

She sees this as a grouchy old man’s answer and is attempting to steamroll me. Meanwhile, my wife says as little as possible about why I seem to be so hardheaded about the issue. How can I stop this renewal of vows?

Amy says: What stands out most glaringly is the fact that you and your wife don’t seem to have talked about this. You don’t know (or understand) her motivation for straying. You don’t seem to have forgiven her; you have only moved on. You may feel you’ve done all you need to do by simply staying married, but you sound more hard-hearted than hard-headed. You deserve better.

I’d like to encourage you to take this tremendous marital landmark as an opportunity to discuss the state of your union. Stop circling and be brave enough to expose how bewildered and hurt you feel. Talk. Listen. If you and your wife can’t find a way to have this conversation, enlist the help of a counselor. Why do this? Because you are worth it.

Ultimately, you and your wife might mutually decide that a renewal of your vows will be just that — a renewal — and an opportunity to start over. If you decide against it, then you will make this choice together, and if your daughter deems you both to be grumpy, then so be it.

Time for gambler to quit

Dear Amy: Can a successful gambler also be a compulsive gambler? I have tripled my money in five years.

But what began as a part-time hobby now occupies much of my free time. When not gambling, I am a professional with a full-time job.

I have attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings as a precaution. But almost all attendees have lost considerably, from life savings to marriages to health and sanity. Not once have I met a successful gambler at these meetings.

Yet my growing compulsion (perhaps obsession) with gambling is a major concern.

Your advice is appreciated.

Amy says: Every gambler is successful before he starts losing. The very nature of gambling is that the game (whether it is day-trading stocks or playing blackjack) trips receptors in your brain to keep you playing.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (ncpgambling.org) released a study saying that 2 million Americans are addicted to gambling, with another 4 million to 6 million described as “problem gamblers.”

I’m going to diagnose you as a responsible person who is smart enough to seek help for a compulsion that is starting to run you. A glance around the chairs in a Gamblers Anonymous meeting should serve as a real-life lesson in useful clichés: You should beat the odds and quit while you’re ahead, before you start the tumble toward the bottom.

Holiday in hell

Dear Amy: The letter from adult children of divorce hit home for me. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that you would suggest that they should pull in their divorced parents for a family celebration. This sounds like a holiday in hell to me.

Amy says: This couple had been amicably divorced for 20 years. My suggestion was for the adult children to host the celebration and invite both parents, leaving it up to them to decide whether to alternate years or attend together.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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