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Annie's mailbox: Love not just being 'in love'

Dear Annie: My former girlfriend and I dated for 14 months. She is 49, and I am 52. We loved each other but were not "in love." While we had some differences in personalities and opinions, we still enjoyed a variety of activities together. We also had many of the same dreams for our retirements.

I thought we had a solid foundation — that our basic compatibility and the love we had for each other made for a great long-term relationship. My girlfriend, on the other hand, feels the glue that holds a relationship together is to be totally "in love" and to have butterflies in the stomach whenever we are with each other.

We continue to speak on the phone. I miss her, and she misses me. Please share your thoughts. — Confused in Connecticut

Dear Confused: Ann Landers used to say, "Love is friendship that has caught fire." The constant "butterflies in the stomach" is infatuation. It's excitement mixed with anxiety — and isn't intended to last. Over the long haul, those butterflies should settle into something comforting and loving, with the underlying foundation being a solid friendship. If your ex-girlfriend insists on fluttering bugs for all of eternity, we wish her luck.

Dear Annie: My husband lost his job at the age of 50. He was out of work for more than a year and eventually accepted a job well beneath his previous position. Not only was this a blow to our finances, but the impact to his self-esteem was tremendous. He became depressed and began to drink in the evenings and on the weekends. The more he drank, the more depressed he became.

After begging and threatening, I finally walked out when I discovered he had consumed an entire bottle of alcohol in one day and was walking into walls. This seemed to be his wake-up call, and he made an appointment with the doctor. He quit drinking and began taking an antidepressant. His old personality has started to emerge again.

My question is, now that the underlying depression is being treated, can he ever go back to being a social drinker again? The doctor did not really address that. He felt my husband was suffering from depression and the alcohol was a form of self-medication. It was also a binge-type drinking. He would go for days with no alcohol, and then quietly consume a large amount on the weekend.

All the information on binge-alcoholism seems to address only the college student variety. We used to enjoy occasional glasses of wine with dinner and beer at ballgames, but I have given that up in an effort to be supportive and remove temptation. Can we ever go back to that, or has a line been crossed? — Sober Reader

Dear Sober: There can be side effects when antidepressants are mixed with alcohol, so your husband should abstain for that reason alone. Also, doctors often advise those who are predisposed to depression to stop drinking entirely, since alcohol has an effect on the central nervous system and those who suffer from depression are already at risk. We believe you are better safe than sorry.

Dear Annie: "Memphis Belle" was upset that her mother loaned out part of a collection that she had been storing at her parents' home. I have a solution for parents whose kids leave their valuables with Mom and Dad when they move out.

When my five kids left the nest, I told them they had 10 years to claim their belongings, after which they were fair game. This seemed a decent allowance of time, especially since I didn't charge storage fees. When the 10 years were up, everything was claimed. They now have the same agreement with their kids and thank me for the idea. — Grandma in New York

Dear Grandma: Our readers will appreciate the sensible suggestion. Ten years is a generous time frame and in most instances should be sufficient to decide what is worth keeping.

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, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.