DEAR ABBY: I'm not attracted to my husband. I love him and don't want to live without him, but I do not want to be physically intimate with him. I know it is unfair to him, and I have tried everything from antidepressants to meditation to diet, but nothing works.
I used to have a high libido, but I haven't wanted to have sex with him in years. We do it maybe two or three times a month because I force myself to, but it is unpleasant for me. He doesn't want to guilt me into sex and hates that I force myself, but he has a very high libido.
We are in our mid-20s and I know this is killing him -- and us. I am attracted to some (but very few) others -- just not to him. I have always been more emotionally attracted to women than men, but I don't think that is it. I need help before our marriage starts to crumble. -- AVOIDING IT IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR AVOIDING IT: I can't wave a magic wand and make you more physically attracted to your husband. I can suggest that the most sensitive sexual organ in a woman's body resides between her ears.
However, I am not qualified to diagnose whether your problem may be of a physical nature. That's why I'm advising you to ask your doctor to perform a thorough physical examination. If he or she finds nothing amiss, ask the doctor -- or your health insurance company -- to refer you to a licensed mental health professional who can help you figure out what's going on.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I moved to a new town last year and are working on settling in and making friends. Our way has been to accept every invitation offered in hopes of building relationships in this small community.
We recently had dinner at the home of a neighbor couple who were very welcoming, but we quickly realized the four of us have absolutely nothing in common. Making conversation through the meal and coffee taxed all of our small-talk skills, and there were many painful silences. Any foray into current events, family life -- even gardening -- revealed stark differences that brought conversation to a screeching halt. We made an excuse to go home early and sent a thank-you note the next day.
Usually, I think a dinner invitation requires a reciprocal invitation in the future. In this case, I'm wondering if it would be better to just let it go. Would it be rude to not reciprocate, or must I suck it up? If we must have them over, how do I ensure the second dinner goes better than the first? We hope to live here for a long time. -- DIFFERENT IN THE WEST
DEAR DIFFERENT: Do the right thing and invite the couple for dinner. It does not have to be in your home -- a nice restaurant would do. If the evening was as uncomfortable as you have described, they may not accept your invitation. But if they do, a way to make conversation flow more easily might be to include another couple.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old professional man who loves children, but never had any of my own. Consequently, I have never had to contend with the considerable cost of raising children. Many of my friends are parents, and I feel the urge to buy their kids nice presents I know they want, or that I never received when I was a child, e.g., a wonderful bike or train set.
What's the protocol for giving an expensive gift (e.g., a saxophone that can cost $1,000) to non-related children without creating awkwardness or obligation? Naturally, I would always check with the parents first. (All of us are white-collar executives and employed, but no one is "filthy rich.") -- GIFT GIVER IN OAKLAND, CALIF.
DEAR GIFT GIVER: The protocol is the one you are already observing, which is to have a conversation with the parents before buying expensive gifts for their children. And when you do, make clear that it is not your wish to cause awkwardness or a sense of obligation.
DEAR ABBY: I am increasingly reluctant to attend social and church events because several members of our group photograph everything and post the pictures online. My husband and I are private people, and we are uncomfortable with this. Why do people think they have the right to do this, and what can we do to stop it? -- DISCOURAGED IN THE EAST
DEAR DISCOURAGED: People post photos of themselves, their activities, their meals, etc. for a variety of reasons. Because you and your husband prefer not to be "memorialized" this way, tell the person taking the photos that you prefer to remain out of camera range -- and request that in the future, any shot you might "accidentally" be in not be posted. If the person demands to know why, say, "Because I don't want anyone from the IRS to find us."
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ken," decided to have his mother move in with us without first asking me how I felt about it. I don't want to be insensitive. I know she has nowhere else to go. The problem is, she's the most domineering person I have ever known. If she enters a room and doesn't like a picture, she'll move it or get rid of it without asking.
When I tried to warn my husband that this wouldn't be easy, his response was, "You just don't like my mother." I do like her, but I don't know that I can live with her. I feel like my marriage is hanging by a thread. Any advice? -- SERIOUSLY STRESSED-OUT
DEAR SERIOUSLY STRESSED: Your mother-in-law is acting like YOUR house is HER house. Set her straight. And if your husband tells you, "You just don't like my mother," tell him that it isn't that you don't like her; it's that you don't like the way she's acting and you will no longer tolerate it.
DEAR ABBY: When is it appropriate to correct someone's spelling and/or punctuation errors? Our pastor writes a message in our church's monthly newsletter and invariably makes several grammar or spelling mistakes. The church secretary also makes mistakes in our weekly bulletin and never catches the pastor's errors. In addition, the day care personnel at our church make mistakes in the written lessons for the children.
I have offered to proofread for our pastor and secretary, but they never take me up on my offer. I grew up in a time when accuracy mattered, but nowadays many folks think that if one can make oneself understood, that is good enough. I'm interested in what you would advise. -- FUSSY WRITER IN MARYLAND
DEAR WRITER: You were kind to volunteer to edit the bulletins and newsletters, but you can't force the pastor and church secretary to accept your generous offer. However, because young children model the behavior of the adults around them, my advice to the parents would be to remove theirs from any program in which the day care personnel are so poorly educated they can't use proper English.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069