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Addiction may be grounds to end marriage

Question: My 15-year-old marriage is falling apart. It has never been very good. My husband is a functional alcoholic. He tried a few AA meetings and heard about the extremes (loss of jobs, blatant physical abuse, etc.) and decided that he wasn't that bad and therefore does not have a problem.

What he refuses to look at is the lack of trust that he has created in me and his two children from a previous marriage (ages 25 and 21). We are at the brink of divorce. However, he is not willing to address his alcoholism or go to counseling.- Boston, Mass.

Dr. Laura: Folks seem to want to make alcoholism a disease and a person's irresponsible, self-centered lack of character secondary to the alcohol consumption and not a fact in itself. The trap for you is therefore at least twofold.

First, you imagine that your disgust, disappointment, hurt and frustration aren't justified because he's not responsible (that's the `disease concept' interfering with good sense). He is responsible. He is in control. He is making the choice of short-term gratification versus long-term commitments.

Second, you in your own right are dependent; you take your lead from someone you thought was a strong man (mistaking controlling dominance for strength) and you lack the confidence to stand for principles and work aggressively for them in your life and the lives of your family.

Addictions, along with abuse and affairs are the Three A's on my list that support consideration for dissolving a marriage. Your husband has had adequate indication that his behavior is destructive and has chosen not to change. Since you are probably afraid of being on your own, you will likely use inappropriate guilt (i.e., "Should I have done something more or different?") to avoid facing your own fears of autonomy.

Question: I'm a guy in my early 20s and am struggling with something that may sound ridiculous. All my buddies talk about `sowing wild oats' before settling down. At what point does one sow enough wild oats that you never want to stray or you feel OK about settling down with one woman?

- Richmond, Va.

Dr. Laura: Fascinating question! It's simply a fact that sex feels good and that the male animal enjoys the conquest. It is also a fact that the human male requires attachment, affiliation and affection.

It becomes a decision of a mature man to sacrifice the more animal conquest for the more human connection in the covenant of marriage and within the meaningfulness of family.

Maturity and human dignity are the important factors; not the `score.'

Question: Do you think it's sometimes OK to withhold "the benefit of the doubt"? One friend said she overheard another friend talking badly about me. Should I confront that woman about what she said? It's actually hard for me to even believe it because she's always been such a good friend - and still behaves that way. What do you think I should do?

- Dallas, Texas

Dr. Laura: If a person has been consistently, or almost always trustworthy, it is appropriate to give that benefit of the doubt. If a person is known to be primarily destructive or cruel, it's probably more wise to assume the worst and protect yourself and others accordingly.

Furthermore, it is not impossible that your good friend was saying something unflattering. So what? Don't you ever blow off steam by saying things you only half-mean about important people in your life?

Unless this information is an abject betrayal of the foundation of your friendship, let it pass.