DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Throughout my 30-year marriage I've never been able to express my opinions. If my husband doesn't like what I said, he gives me the silent treatment for as long as a few weeks. Over the years it has taken away what little self-esteem I had and it has affected me physically and emotionally. If I'm wrong, I'm the first to admit it and say I'm sorry. He never does. If he goes out three to four hours, he won't say where he's going or what he's doing. If I ask him, he hits the roof and says he's tired of "20 questions." Every day it feels like I'm walking on eggshells, as I know there are more silences to come. -- Tired of Silent Treatment, Winnipeg
Dear Tired: Prolonged silent treatment is a form of mental and emotional cruelty which your husband has enjoyed for years. You say it has also affected your physical health. What are the reasons you stay with this bully? Your kids will be gone now, so is it financial? If you won the lottery tomorrow, how long would you stay? This is an interesting question for all married people to answer. The response will tell you a lot about what you should be doing right away to give yourself the choice of independence. Just because you wasted the first 30 years with an abusive mate doesn't mean you have to waste the next 20 to 30. Start by asking him to go to relationship counselling with you, even if you think he'll say no. If he refuses, start going for counselling yourself to learn how to be assertive with him and to build up your general self-esteem. You may end up leaving, so if you don't have a job, it's time to get one. If you have retired, get a new part-time or full-time job. He should be the one in the "on trial" position in your life. You have wasted a lot of time with a man who has you dreading his next cruel punishment.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I have a habit of clearing my throat and spitting on the ground because I have stuff that runs down the back of my throat. My girlfriend who is also 16 says "gobbing" is too gross for her, and she's had enough. But, I have to do it. How can I get that through to her? -- Spitting because I have To
Dear Spitting: Please go to a doctor and get your sinus problem fixed. Something is definitely wrong, and these problems can be treated. You don't see other guys spitting all the time; it's not a normal thing you have to accept. You may simply need a run of antibiotics or there may be other problems. Make an appointment with your family doctor or go see a walk-in clinic doctor as you don't want to lose your girlfriend -- and future ladies -- over this need to spit.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I missed an opportunity with a guy and wonder if I could get it back. I'm a very shy person BUT a few months ago I got up the nerve to smile at a guy I'm attracted to at my gym, and blew it at the last moment, looking away because I couldn't bear it if he didn't smile back. Then I was so embarrassed I tried to avoid him as much as possible. I changed my schedule since and have been accepting invitations to go out. My problem is I'm still attracted to this guy. What do I'm do if we meet face to face again? -- Regretting Missed Opportunity, Wpg.
Dear Regretting: That whole drama happened in your mind -- not in his. There's no harm done -- except your paranoia made you change your whole gym schedule. You really need to see a psychologist and work this out. Shy people can make substantial changes in their timidity factor. In the meantime, since you're still haunted by the attraction, change your schedule back so part of it will overlap with his. Make yourself walk by and say "hi" seven different times over a couple of weeks, just to be pleasant to him, not to get any particular result. Advertising experts call this the "drip-drip-drip" method. After seven contacts the average person feels a familiarity with someone and is much more likely to talk, so add a few words like "Do you work out a lot?" You are now casual gym friends. Even if you aren't up to making contact yet, your psychologist can help you. As long as you have no coinciding gym times that little adventure is just a dream that's sabotaging your other social-life experiments.
Questions or comments? Write Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6 or email firstname.lastname@example.org