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Annie's mailbox: Dad's confession creates a bind

Dear Annie: My parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next year. Unfortunately, my dad recently decided to confide in my wonderful husband about his affairs. He told my husband not to tell me, but there was no way he could keep this a secret. I don't know why Dad would put him in such an awkward position.

Apparently, my father has been lying and cheating for many years, and once, while my parents were on vacation together, my mother caught him in the act. I am just sick over this. I always took comfort in the thought that my parents were a happily married couple. I respected and admired my father.

I feel betrayed, too. What, if anything, do I say about this to my parents? Remember, I'm not supposed to know. — In a Pickle

Dear Pickle: Since your mother is aware of Dad's infidelities, it isn't much of a secret. The only reason to keep quiet is to protect your father's trust in your husband's discretion, although we can't imagine you want Dad confiding more secrets like this. We think Dad may have wanted you to know about his affairs, in which case, there is no harm in saying you've noticed that he and Mom seem to be growing more distant and you hope they will consider counseling.

Dear Annie: I recently took my mother to a local fair where we ran into an old friend of my brother's. My mother asked "Dick" if he was still at his job. Dick said "yes," and added, "I work with John" — my ex-husband.

I had not seen Dick in years. Why do people think they can just bring up the name of an ex and not think you will be startled or hurt? I still have feelings for my ex and am working through them, and Dick knows John and I are divorced. Can't people be more thoughtful?

I say, since Dick does not know my side of the story, he should refrain from mentioning my ex to me. Do you agree? — New England Heartache

Dear New England: When you run into someone you haven't seen in a while, it's not surprising if he mentions a person of mutual interest in an effort to make conversation. We don't believe Dick meant to hurt you, since he didn't know you would still find these references painful. He was unintentionally insensitive, but please try to forgive him.

Dear Annie: Like "Hopeless," my ex-husband was addicted to painkillers after an auto accident. He, too, spent most of his time in bed, never worked and missed seeing his children grow up, to say nothing of how it destroyed our marriage and the debt we incurred. When the meds from the doctors weren't enough, he started buying street drugs.

My ex tried a pain management clinic, along with acupuncture, chiropractic, various doctors and a drug rehab hospital, all at my urging. He was diagnosed as depressed and put on antidepressants, but he refused to stay on them. We went to three different marriage counselors, but none was good enough for him. In my opinion, he enjoyed taking the meds and "checking out of life." He threatened suicide, and I stayed for 15 years because of the guilt.

I finally went into counseling and learned I could not change him. I also learned I was not responsible for his actions, even if he committed suicide. Guess what? We have been divorced for six years, and he never attempted to hurt himself.

My advice to "Hopeless" is to get counseling for herself and learn not to be bullied by him. If he chooses not to improve his life, divorce him. My children and I are much happier now. — Learned a Tough Lesson

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.