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Dear Annie: Use affections productively

Dear Annie: I married “Eddie” after getting pregnant at 18. We have two children and have been together for 32 years. For the past 20, we have not slept in the same bed. It began when Eddie started falling asleep on the sofa watching TV. Then he simply began going to bed on the couch.

The only time he would touch me was when he wanted sex. When my father died eight years ago, I cried myself to sleep and never once did Eddie try to comfort me. If I asked him for a hug, he thought it had to lead to sex. At that point, I decided to cut sex out of my life entirely. I told him I need to feel close first, but it made no difference. I have redecorated the bedroom trying to entice him back into my bed so we could have the intimacy I need, but he just heads over to the couch.

I hoped things would change when the children were out of the house, but they haven’t.

At 50, I feel I have wasted my life. I am on medication for depression. We have no friends. Every dinner out has to include the children. We only take vacations where Eddie wants to go. Forget counseling. He thinks people who get professional help are weak. He never opens up and won’t discuss our problems. Leaving him is not financially possible and I’m not sure I would. I still love him. What can I do? – Lonely With Him

Dear Lonely: We’re not sure how “wonderfully” you get along when you are miserable, and he refuses to discuss it. Since you want to stay with him, we recommend you tell him you are tremendously unhappy and would like him to go for counseling so both of you can present your side to a professional. If he refuses, go without him and find better ways to cope. Also, get involved in activities that bring you some sense of fulfillment and consider volunteering at your local hospital, perhaps in the pediatric unit. All that affection shouldn’t go to waste.

Dear Annie: I am 12 years old and have had braces for one year. My orthodontist is a very nice man, but he has horrible breath. Some of my friends are patients of his as well, and they agree when I say his breath smells like a dead rat.

How can we tell him his breath stinks without hurting his feelings? – Gagging Patient

Dear Gagging: You can ask one of your parents to speak to the orthodontist, but if they won’t, you’ll have to be brave enough to do it. Offer him a breath mint and say as kindly as possible, “I hope you don’t mind, but I have a very sensitive nose.” (We trust he won’t give your braces extra tightening.)

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar are longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.