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Spouse sees the worst, waits for better

Q. I am 54 years old and have been married to my (second) husband for 25 years.

My husband drinks at least six or more beers every evening.

He gets up by 6 a.m. and goes to work and will work all day without any issues (to my knowledge). He does, however, start drinking by 4:30 or 5 p.m. and will drink until he goes to bed (between 9 to 10 p.m.).

I have asked him to stop, and he flat-out said no. I asked him to cut back. He did for a while but now is drinking every evening again.


I have an extremely long work commute, so I go to bed early and get up by 4:30 a.m. We have not been intimate or even cuddled in years. I have told him this bothers me, but he says it’s all my fault.

I love him so much and he still gives me butterflies (I’ve told him this).

Nothing — and I mean nothing — has worked.

I can’t imagine my life without him, but I also can’t live my life like this. Is this selfish? I mean, we did say “for better or for worse.”

I just need someone to spell it out, even if it is not what I want to hear.


A. If your husband’s alcohol use is a primary control issue between the two of you, then the only thing I need to spell out for you is: Al-anon.

Attending meetings and reading literature regarding the choices you have surrounding your husband’s drinking would help to recast your perspective and alter your behavior (not his).

You two are ships passing in the night during your work weeks — only intersecting for relatively brief times in the evening, when he is engaging in drinking behavior, which you both know is a trigger for you.


I believe the “for better or for worse” part of the marriage vows is not meant to consign spouses for a lifetime in a miserable union where neither party is thriving, happy, healthy, or motivated toward positive change.

What greater good is served by you remaining in a marriage mired in anger and disrespect? If you can’t live your life like this, then I don’t think you should.

Q. I’ve been working in various outpatient physician offices within a medical center for over six years.

When booking a patient’s follow-up appointment, I always preface the date and time by saying, “The next available appointment is...” or, " The first available appointment is....” Invariably the patient’s response is, “Nothing sooner?”

I can’t tell you how annoying that is. I sometimes snap back by saying, “That’s what first available means,” but I try not to do that.

Can you suggest a more polite but just as succinct response? It would be greatly appreciated by a huge population of appointment schedulers.


A. Grrrrr, people! We’re so predictable and so very annoying — especially when we’re not feeling well, are worried about our health, or are flummoxed and frustrated by the complexities of the health care system.

Your job is repetitive, and you are able to predict this somewhat irrational response — and so I suggest that you start each shift by taking a deep breath, reminding yourself that the people who ask, “Nothing sooner?” have no idea that this is the 30th time you’ve heard the phrase today, and that these patients are also customers who are just trying to get through their day and take care of themselves — just like you are.


The answer is to try your hardest to recognize each person as an individual — just as the physician who treats them must do.

The succinct response is for you to say, “I’m sorry, nothing sooner,” or, more helpfully, “We don’t have anything sooner, but should I let you know if we have a cancellation?” (And I, and scores of readers, will now try harder to curb this reflexive response.)

Q. I was upset by the question from “Want to Nosh,” the houseguest who didn’t like it that her severely ill friend didn’t provide enough food for her.

Thank you for understanding that people who suffer from food-based or -borne illnesses can’t always manage others’ dietary needs.


A. “Want to Nosh” knew of her friend’s illness. She’d had this experience before, but instead of anticipating it and seeing to her own needs for her next visit, she chose to complain about it.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at