Dear Amy: Recently I told my wife that I planned to reach out to "Sharon," a former co-worker who is an industry expert, for advice about changing jobs.

My wife angrily accused me of having an affair with Sharon, and insisted that I wanted to get a job near her to continue the affair. I have never cheated on my wife. I work from home. I don't travel for work and rarely go out with friends.

Sharon lives over four hours away. I haven't seen her in over six years and haven't spoken on the phone in years. I worked with Sharon for three years, and I never saw or talked to her outside of the office.

In the 15 years we've been married, my wife has never acted so irrationally, or accused me of having an affair. The next day all my wife said was, "I'm sorry. Can we please not talk about this again?" She insists that we should act like nothing happened.

I'm deeply hurt that she would even think I'm having an affair. I'm also worried about her mental health because her accusations didn't make any sense.

Do you have an explanation for my wife's irrational behavior? Should I join her in pretending it never happened?

Amy says: Your wife reacted in a way that was irrational and unprecedented, and now she is embarrassed by her behavior. Of course she doesn't want to discuss it further.

But I agree with you that it is important that you two discuss this in order to come to a resolution that will satisfy both of you. Resolving a challenge is the opposite from pretending it never happened.

Your wife might have long-standing insecurity about your previous work relationship. She also should be asked to understand how hurtful it is to absorb such a serious, unfounded and unfair accusation.

Because this behavior was so outside the norm for her, there might be an underlying medical, hormonal or emotional trigger. Talking further with a calm and mutually compassionate attitude might help to reveal what is really amiss.

Offering sympathy

Dear Amy: I've reached the age when more and more people I care about are sick, ailing or dying. I want to offer words of comfort, but most of what I can think of to say is stilted, shallow and sounds insincere to me — even as I'm saying it.

Where can I find more eloquent speech for these unfortunate situations?

Amy says: Hang eloquence. Just say ... something. Some suggestions:

"I don't really know what to say."

"I'm really sorry you're going through this."

"I'm thinking about you so often. How are things going for you?"

Do not:

Compare one person's illness or loss to another person's. ("My cousin's husband had lymphoma. No big deal!")

Tell someone that God or the universe won't give them more than they can handle.

Make their hardship or suffering about you or your own experience.

Do: Be natural, compassionate and adopt a listening stance. When someone is suffering, simply having a calm, stalwart and undemanding companion can help a lot.

Is tact dead?

Dear Amy: I am constantly amazed (appalled?) at the comments people make about other people's lives.

If you don't approve of the name chosen for your new grandchild, the choice of clothing or the color of someone's living room, keep your mouth shut. There's an old saying: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Amy says: I agree wholeheartedly.

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