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Section: mental-health, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I suspect my wife of six years is having an affair. She means a great deal to me, and I don't want a divorce. My suspicions are beginning to wreck my personal and professional life, and I don't know what to do. I recently heard of a TV show that investigates and catches cheating spouses on film. I am seriously considering contacting the producers. Do you think my wife and I would be able to reconcile if I had her investigated and caught her on this show? -- Just Asking in the Big D

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Section: relationships, age, general-health
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I want to thank you for the encouragement you give your readers to mend family fences before it is too late. You printed a letter from a woman who said her brother had little contact with his father, who was dying. I, too, was estranged from my father for several years, but we reconciled our differences a couple of months before he died, thanks to you. I am so grateful I took the time to read your column the day that letter appeared. I immediately related it to my own situation and helped care for my father at the end of his life. I also told him how much I loved him for the first time, and it made a world of difference. I have been estranged from my mother for many years, as well, and recently learned that my stepfather is terminally ill and has only a few months to live. It made me realize the torment she must be going through. I decided to call my mom and tell her how much I love her before it is too late. Thank you, Ann, for those wonderful words of wisdom. Your advice helped me have no regrets when I lost my dad, and now, I am going to make sure I have no regrets with my mom, either. -- R.L.

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Section: relationships, children
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
My ex-husband and I divorced 18 years ago. He told me he no longer loved me and that family life was not for him. He agreed to counseling, but of course, it was a waste of time. The counselor later told me it was obvious that I wanted counseling to save the marriage, but my ex agreed to it only to appease me and intended on getting a divorce once the charade was over. We had been married 14 years and had two children, ages 7 and 5. It was not easy for me. My ex remarried six months after the divorce was final. I married again 10 years later. My 23-year-old daughter recently asked her father why we were divorced. He replied, "Because your mother was having an affair." I am furious with him for telling such a lie. Fortunately, my daughter did not believe him, but it's possible he has repeated that same lie to everyone he knows. I get angry every time I think about it, but don't know if I should confront him. Please, Ann, tell me what to do. -- Innocent in Stamford, Conn.

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Section: money, children, relationships, marriage
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I commend you for printing the letter from "Sick of It in South Dakota," whose children lived with their father after her divorce. She said it's time to accept the idea that sometimes the kids are better off with Dad. I am a divorced father with two boys, ages 7 and 9. They live with their mother. I pay out a lot of money for child support, but I doubt that the money is being spent on the children. If it were, I wouldn't have to take them for haircuts and buy them sneakers and winter jackets. I've asked my lawyer whether there is any recourse, but was told I could not dictate where the child support money goes. I have recently remarried. My new wife is very supportive and has a great relationship with my sons. She is more of a mother to them than my ex-wife. I see my children every Wednesday and on alternate weekends. When it is time for them to go home, they cry and tell me they don't want to go. They have asked to live with me. I know they would be happier if that were possible, and they would have a more stable and secure environment, but unfortunately, the courts do not see it that way. I have attempted to get custody of my sons, but the courts seem interested only in how much money I can pay. And have you noticed that when a couple gets divorced, the kids almost always end up with the mother, leaving the father with a painful court battle and an expensive legal bill? In spite of the aggravation, I refuse to give up. I'm still fighting for my boys. Ann, please tell all the divorced dads who love their children that they must stay in their children's lives, no matter what. Their children need them. -- Been There and Done That in New York

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Section: manners, money
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I recently gave a dinner party. I prefer to serve my guests myself and tried to be emphatic about it, but one guest insisted on "helping" me. I know "Lola" was only trying to be useful, but she was getting in my way. I asked her nicely several times to sit down and stay out of the kitchen, but she followed me around and insisted on giving me a hand. To get her off my back, I asked her to take a creamer into the dining room and place it on the table. Well, she dropped it on the tile floor, shattering the handle and spilling the cream all over the place. Lola then had the nerve to say that good china like mine is really just for show, and I should not have been using it. My great-grandmother's creamer is, of course, irreplaceable, but I am going to get another china handle crafted onto it. Should I send Lola the bill? -- Slow Burn in Pasadena, Calif.

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Section: children, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
When my sister and I were young, we were told our mother had died when we were babies. Two years ago, I was contacted by a woman claiming to be our biological mother. She had been searching for us for 33 years. My father died 10 years ago, so I have no way of knowing the truth, but her story sounded legitimate. I am slow at developing new relationships. However, my sister, who lives on the opposite coast, welcomed the woman with open arms and began calling her "Mom" immediately. I was stunned when I learned that the woman had packed up and moved to be near my sister. I invited my new mother to come stay with me for a week so I could get to know her better. I explained it might take me a while to adjust to her. A week after our visit, which I thought went well, I received an angry letter from her saying she was disappointed in our visit because I did not welcome her as warmly as my sister did, which hurt her feelings. I tried to discuss it with her but got nowhere. I saw my sister not long ago, and she lectured me about my lousy relationship with our new mother. She made me feel terrible. Do I need professional help? I will get it if you say so. -- Washington Woes

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Section: relationships, sexuality
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I never have cheated on my wife and am absolutely certain that I never will. We have been married for five wonderful years, and our marriage is rock solid. Here's the problem: About a year ago, during a moment of passion, I happened to call out the name of my wife's best friend, "Annabelle." You can imagine my wife's reaction. Annabelle is single, in her early 20s and good-looking, and she has a terrific figure. She moved out of town three years ago. I made it clear to my wife that nothing ever went on between Annabelle and me and that calling her name was just part of a harmless fantasy. I tried to explain that fantasies are normal and I have no intention of acting them out. My wife accepted this explanation, and things seemed to be going well. Now comes the hard part. Annabelle visits us once a year and stays for a week. Her visit is coming up soon, and my wife has started to turn very cold. In fact, she's downright hostile. I know she is afraid I will be attracted to Annabelle and feels threatened. What can I do to reassure her and get things back on track? -- Faithful in Denver

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Section: relationships, health-and-wellness
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I have been married for three years, and it is obvious that my mother does not like my wife. I can deal with that, but I'm becoming increasingly upset by the way Mom behaves around "Amelia." Two weeks ago, there was a milestone family affair, and we hired a professional photographer to take pictures. As we were preparing to pose for the photo shoot, my mother informed Amelia that she could not be in the pictures because she was not a blood relative and therefore not a family member. My wife stepped out, but I could see she was very hurt. There have been other instances, as well. One evening when several of us went to the theater together, Mom happened to end up sitting next to Amelia. She abruptly stood up, moved to the other side of the row and announced, "I want to sit next to my son." I have asked my mother to please stop treating Amelia so shabbily, but she insists she has nothing against my wife and accuses me of being overly sensitive. I hope you can help me. -- Not Mama's Boy in Missouri

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Section: relationships, children, dating
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I read the letter from "Slow Boil in California," who resented the amount of time her husband gave his ex-wife. He apparently helped his ex-wife with her taxes, visited his ex-mother-in-law when she was dying and spent 20 minutes at a time talking to his ex on the phone, discussing the kids' grades and upcoming events. I say, if "Slow Boil" wanted a man with no baggage, she should have chosen one. When two people have children together, that makes them a family whether they are together or not. That husband should help his ex-wife no matter how he feels about her, simply because she is the mother of his children. His new wife should not feel threatened by this. It can actually be beneficial to her as well as to his children if there is no hostility. After a divorce, a lot of healing can take place when the ex-partners are civil and kind to one another. If there is no civility, bad feelings turn into bad words that turn into bad behavior. The children then learn by example to perpetuate hate and anger. As a child of divorce, it has given my siblings and me great comfort to know my father still cares enough about my mother to help her out when she needs it and that we can still enjoy family events together. It has also made us appreciate our stepmother for being so generous and loving. "Slow Boil" should be thankful she found a man with a bigger heart than most. -- Grateful in Plano, Texas

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Section: children, sexuality, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I would like to address this to all the young women who, for whatever reason, think having a baby is "cool." I am the 17-year-old mother of a 4-month-old daughter. I will be the first to tell you it is not easy. And if you think having a baby will improve the relationship between you and your boyfriend, you are wrong. It will only make matters worse. My boyfriend and I called it quits a couple of weeks ago, when the fighting became unbearable. After three years of being very close, it's over. If I have changed just one teenager's mind about getting pregnant, the time it took to write this letter will have been well worth it. -- Been There in Indiana

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"Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies."
-Ann Landers