DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My wife, 26, is a very outspoken woman. I usually find it amusing, but the other day she told off her equally mouthy younger sister and her sister slapped her a hard one right across the face. My wife slapped her right back and they started to push and hit and shove until their dad shouted and got between them. I stood there dumbfounded. I have never seen women physically fight, although I had heard of fights when these sisters were young and pulled each other's hair out. My wife was bawling when I took her home and she cried for about two hours afterwards. She finally slept but had nightmares all night. I'm beginning to think there's something horrible going on under the surface in this family. I am 28. I don't want to hazard having a child with a violent woman. What I saw was frightening. They wanted to rip each other apart. -- Worried Husband, Winnipeg
Dear Worried: Something has happened that causes them to react to each other like wild tigers. Once you find out what it is, it will help to make sense of the situation. As a person who did years of face-to-face counselling, I can promise you there is an untold story here that made them explode. If your wife can't get it out, ask her to get some help because her behaviour is really upsetting you. You might also approach her parents for enlightenment. If they won't tell, aunties and cousins are usually good sources of family history.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Every night before we got to bed my husband and I have the custom of having a slow dance in the living room. About six weeks ago, he just stopped coming to get me to dance. Unless I pushed him to do it, he wouldn't. He stopped calling me pet names, started coming home later from work and saying he had to go back to work. His weight started to drop and he joined a gym. Now I have found pamphlets about getting hair implants. He has new clothes at least once a week, and he plays new CDs of music I don't know anything about. I asked him what was going on and he acted really affronted and said, "Nothing whatsoever!" and then left the room in a hurry. I am aware these are all signs of an affair, but we've never had one disagreement that lasted longer than 10 minutes. We always had good sex and in the last few months we've had great sex, even though the dancing is gone. If he were having an affair, wouldn't the sex with me have tapered off? -- Doesn't Make Sense, Garden City
Dear Sense: Sometimes a new affair stokes a partner's general fire. Because libido is so high, the partly forsaken partner gets more sex than before, though not as much tenderness. You need to take him for a car ride to a park (away from any kids who might hear), then pull over and have a talk. Tell him you have noticed all the classic signs of an affair and you want to know who it is and if he plans to leave you. The saddest affairs happen when the marriage has been good and someone novel comes along and a still-loving partner jumps ship. It may not even be love, but overriding passion. We tend to think affairs happen because one or both of the partners have been cold or doing something wrong. But sometimes they just happen because a hot new match comes along and there's attraction, willingness, time and a place for privacy. If he won't tell you anything, tell him you will do whatever is necessary find out what is going on so you can make informed decisions. Ask him to go for counselling with you. If you can find out who she is, call her for a talk. Silence won't stop this affair, but exposure might.