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Come Down to My Level

If you've actually made it all the way down to the basement of a rodent-operated cafe, then you're undoubtedly crying out for help. Url's Cafe is privileged to have Amanda Reckonwith in the basement, ready to offer opinions, sage advice, and perhaps some makeup tips.

Dear Amanda,
My husband and I have been married for 20 years. And in the last three to four years, our relationship has been devoid of intimacy. I'm not talking about sex, but real intimacy--he never simply touches me, says anything nice to me, or spends time with me unless he thinks he can get something in return. I have talked to him about this, but it does no good. He says that he'll try to change, but he never does. I've suggested marriage counseling, but he refuses to go.

In addition, in the last year or two, he has become hypercritical of me and anything I do. We have three children, ages nine, 13 and 17. Our nine-year-old is autistic and needs stability--otherwise I would have left my husband a while ago. Should I stay in this marriage until my autistic son gets older, or should I leave and deal with the consequences of the break up? I'm terrified of the damage a divorce might cause him.

Lucy in Walnut Creek

Amanda's Answer:
Lucy, Lucy, Lucy--
Staying with your husband for the sake of your nine-year-old autistic son is a noble and admirable sacrifice, but you better wake up quick because I can smell the coffee from here! Although I'm the first to admit a twenty-year marriage is worthy of fighting to keep (you should sell marriage shares!) I refrain from doing so if it's at the expense of your emotional well-being. Tell your husband in no uncertain terms that without his emotional and physical display of appreciation for all you're worth (I mean more than the occasional poke in the whiskers) the marriage has become impossible to manage--especially in a family where you are already giving extraordinary attention to its members. (You're not Mother Teresa, girlfriend, so don't sell yourself short.)

As for selling yourself short, how are you addressing the special needs of your son if you cannot do the same for yourself? My concern is that your child, without proper guidance, counseling, or involvement in special programs, will learn how to disassociate himself even further by witnessing firsthand the stunted emotional patterns developing between you and your husband. You cannot hide your fear from your child no matter how learning-impaired he is--children intuitively sense distress, however covert, and are affected by it.

I suggest you check out Center for the Study of Autism on the Web by pointing your browser to to see an impressive selection of sites for autism-related resources which are currently available. Reach out to others who have gone through what you're experiencing and seek their advice. Then take what you need and flush the rest. Jot down the contact information for resources that you may need to turn to should you decide to end your marriage. Even if you don't make the decision to leave your husband, arm yourself with information and educate yourself about your options--your son deserves that much, doesn't he?

I should know--I'm Amanda Reckonwith

Dear Amanda,
I am 27 years old and have been dating a 36-year-old man for the past year. We spend all of our time together and get along wonderfully--EXCEPT that he will not discuss marriage because he says he is "still unsure about us." I don't understand this because we love each other and spend a lot of time together. Part of my frustration has been that he refuses to have sex until he gets married--but he won't discuss getting married!

This is admirable, but a little strange from a 36-year-old. He thinks I'm rushing him, but to me it is only natural to want to move to the next stage of our relationship. We have broken up recently about this. Am I crazy or is he?

Tina in Oklahoma City

Amanda's Answer:
Uh-oh, Tina-- Who's crazy, you or he? That's easy--you are! He's either gay or a devout Catholic priest-to-be (or both, which is probably more likely); or asexual; or just plain not into you sexually. What does it matter who's crazy as long as you move on to someone else who's willing to serve up more than excuses?

Listen, a friend once told me her definition of insanity: doing the exact same thing and expecting different results. Ring familiar? It should, honey, you're the one pushing the doorbell over and over again in that relationship, and each time you're expecting it to ring differently. Insanity, see? Now that you've stopped ringing his doorbell, go find yourself a new one to, uh, push-- but for Chrissakes don't spend an entire year hoping to hear chimes if all you're getting back is buzzing.

Recognizing when something isn't working is just as important, if not more so, as acknowledging it when it is working.

I should know--I'm Amanda Reckonwith


Dear Amanda,
I am an attractive and outgoing woman in my late twenties. I am currently involved with a man who is really uncomfortable with "my outrageous personality," as he calls it, because I tend to be a big flirt. Most people are respectful of the fact that I am already attached, but my companion believes that I give off the wrong impression, especially when I am in his presence. I am completely faithful, I just like to meet and greet people (I work in public relations for gosh sake!). How should I handle this?

LaTesha in Washington, DC

Amanda's Answer:
Hi there, LaTesha--
According to Los Angeles-syndicated, pop-psychologist Dr. Laura Schlessinger, "any committed person who mingles with available, opposite-sex cronies is basically exhibiting farm-like manners and is simply asking for trouble. It simply isn't done." (Apparently, Ms Shit-slinger, is so insufferably straight she cannot postulate in gender-nonspecific references... but thatÕs another rant.)

Sorry LaTesha, but based on your outgoing personality, I think the doctor would advise you to feed from the trough. (Luckily for you, however, I tend to empathize with BIG personalities--being one myself--so I'm not going to suggest you throw away your proper eating utensils just yet.) Take note, yours is not the sole perspective: Your companion is feeling hurt and betrayed by your openly flirtatious mannerisms, right?

He's actually let you know how he feels--ergo, the onus is now on you to either tone down your overzealous public relating or publicly relate to a new boyfriend. As your companion, you owe him the respect of your attention, as he owes you the same. I'm unsure why you need the attention of other people when you're already dating, but if you're so inattentive as to make him uncomfortable, your flirting and outrageous personality have become little more than disrespectful. What's considered innocent behavior by you is literally hurtful to someone youÕre involved with!

Stated this clearly, honey, you need to pull in the slack or untie the knot. (Yee-haw!) Yet all is not lost, LaTesha. I'm thinking that if you spent more exclusive time with your boyfriend, you'd receive the focused attention you seem to crave and he'd get the pleasure of your respectful company. (Why you choose to square dance when someone you love wants to tango is certainly beyond this single columnist!) By the way, have you thought of pursuing your public relations career in Washington, DC? I think there's an internship that recently opened up for which you'd be faaabulous!

I should know--I'm Amanda Reckonwith


Dear Amanda,
Up until two weeks ago, I thought that I had the perfect marriage. I recently became emotionally and physically involved with a fellow actor in my theater group and because of this affair, I know that my relationship with my husband will never be the same.

After one of our first encounters, my lover and I discussed openly about the consequences of the affair. After a few more encounters though, we concluded that we were falling in love, but that it would be better for us just to remain friends (even as difficult as it would be). Because of this affair, I have come to realize that my marriage is deeply flawed--particularly because my husband does not feel as strongly as I do about developing ourselves as individuals. Because of this, I have been feeling very claustrophobic.

I do not want to hurt my husband, but I feel like our connection as partners has faded. Is wanting to develop myself as an individual a good enough reason to leave my husband? Even if I choose to stay and attempt to work out our differences, I will always wonder what my life would be like alone. What should I do?

Paula in Seattle, WA

Amanda's Answer:
Hey, PIS (Paula in Seattle),
If you thought you had "the perfect marriage," only to realize in as little as two weeks time the marriage is "deeply flawed," I'd say there's more here that's deeply flawed than just the marriage, if you catch my drift. Let's start with your perception of marriage; you admit you were partnered in a perfect marriage, but then you accepted some serious behind-the-curtains, undress rehearsals with Mr. Sensitivity, the actor. If this is what you mean by "developing yourself as [an] individual," I've got news for you--it's called cheating, and unless you have an open relationship with your husband, I bet that's what he'd call it, too.

Listen, if you really feel the "connection as partners has faded," maybe it's because you're not living up to your end of the partnership: ask him directly how willing he is to explore his own individuality. Tell him you're interested in meeting other men and see how he reacts. If he's into it then you both can continue to "develop." If he's not, tell him in no uncertain terms that you need options for personal growth and let that dialogue take you to the next step.

Thus far, you've clammed up so tight it's no wonder you're feeling claustrophobic. The way I see it, two communicating individuals comprise a partnership; so when one partner falters, the relationship becomes unbalanced. You can choose to help your marriage by making the effort to communicate your needs. Or you can continue with the dishonesty and risk hurting others by doing so.

It's your life--you call the shots, but your marriage is shared and, therefore, requires copious communication skills--skills you have yet to fully exhibit, at least with your husband that is.

I should know--I'm Amanda Reckonwith