Dear Annie: Last year, while recuperating from surgery, my husband, "Ted," had six months of free time, so he started looking up old friends on the Internet. He e-mailed one woman who, unbeknownst to me, was a former girlfriend.
The more her name came up in conversation, the more concerned I became. I finally looked at their correspondence. The first letters were innocent stories about kids and daily stuff, but she soon moved into remembrances and hints of wanting more, and Ted wasn't stopping her. They both just turned 60.
On the surface, Ted and I were having fun, traveling and enjoying great sex, yet the e-mails became more and more intimate. I noticed her phone number appearing on our cell phone bill. Then I discovered Ted visited her while I was out of town taking care of my sick father.
I confronted Ted, and he immediately apologized. He said I was the most important thing in his life and promised to end all communication with her. Ted sent one last e-mail, telling her I was not comfortable with their contact. She became enraged that I would end a "40-year friendship."
For a while, all was well, but then Ted started listening to sappy love songs and I got suspicious. I checked his e-mail, and sure enough, he had initiated contact with her again. Now, they e-mail once a week. They don't know I am on to them.
In 17 years, Ted never gave me reason to doubt him. He always has been a good provider, good lover and great friend. I am depressed and angry. The problem is, I don't want Ted to know I am still intercepting the e-mail. How can I save our relationship? Really Sad in California
Dear Really Sad: You need counseling. Tell Ted, "Honey, I've noticed you seem unhappy and distracted, and I'm having some trust issues about your ex-girlfriend. I think we could use some professional help. Please come with me." Then, whether he agrees to go or not, ask your doctor to refer you to someone.
Dear Annie: I agree with your advice to "Worried about Mom," whose mother has breast cancer, and Dad doesn't want her to leave the house. I am a breast cancer survivor. "Worried" says Mom is fairly active and healthy. She is absolutely correct to think it will depress her mother to be in "lockdown."
Mom should try to live as normally as possible. The more active she remains throughout her treatments, the better she will feel. Research indicates that it is a plus to continue regular exercise, such as walking. If Mom can find a yoga class that modifies positions for breast cancer patients, that's good, too.
Mom also should join a breast cancer support group, such as the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery (cancer.org); The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (www.komen.org); the National Toll-Free Breast Care Helpline (800-I'M-AWARE) (800-462-9273); the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov); and the online resources at www.breastcancer.org. A 19-Month Breast Cancer Conqueror
Dear Conqueror: Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and the resources you mention. Here's one more:
Dear Annie: I have been an oncology social worker for more than 25 years, and I also am an 11-year breast cancer survivor. One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes. The best news is there have been major advances in medications to control nausea and other common side effects so that cancer patients can generally maintain something close to their normal lives.
"Worried" and her family should focus on keeping life's routines and rhythms flowing while adjusting to the necessary changes. There certainly is no reason for Mom to stay shut in her home, making her feel isolated and depressed. Remember, most women treated for breast cancer go on to live long and healthy lives. Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, Chief, Oncology Social Work, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
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