Q: I want to get into marriage counseling with my wife, but I really don't think she will go for it. She's the type of person who refuses help of any kind, and she's very reserved; she keeps a lot of things to herself. How can I tactfully bring this up to her in a way that is encouraging? I want to save our marriage.

– L.L., Buffalo

A: Start the conversation about counseling by talking about yourself, not about her. If you talk about her, she may feel like you are on the attack, which might make her defensive and less likely to hear what you're trying to say. Tell her you've been thinking about therapy because you want to take steps to be a better husband, and you can contribute more to the relationship if you have more tools in your kit.

While things can start with you, the process will be much more effective if both of you participate. After all, you're both members of the marriage and both of you need to be involved in order to change or improve. As a couple, you both will benefit from advice on how to communicate better and have a more satisfying relationship.

Invite her to go see someone with you, with no obligation, to test the waters and see how it feels to her. She might be surprised at how liberating and positive it feels. If the professional is the right fit, it's likely that your wife will feel reassured and some (if not all) of her objections will disappear.

The discussion of going for help might get heated if she jumps to the conclusion that the counseling is the first step to separation or divorce. In your mind, it's probably just the opposite, so make that clear.

Ditching the ex

Q: I just can't seem to let go of my ex. We've been off and on for years, and every time I end things with him, I begin missing him and end up taking his calls, letting him right back in again. What is wrong with me? Why is it so difficult for me to say goodbye for real?

– M.K., North Tonawanda

A: Many people break off relationships without cutting the emotional ties as well. The main reasons for this could be fear of the unknown, being “toxically comfortable” in the relationship, or wanting to change someone.

First, consider the reasons why you broke things off in the first place. Obviously you know that the two of you have issues and are probably not a good fit.

If you're really and truly done with him, cut him off completely. This means no phone calls, no texts, no email, and certainly no meet-ups. Get rid of the things around you that remind you of him and think of it as a fresh start.

The only thing aside from cutting contact that will help you move on is time. They say that time heals all wounds, and it's true. You just have to be ready to take that time and resist the urge to let him back into your life. And if he has ever been abusive in any way, l urge you to seek counseling.

There are plenty of other fish in the sea, and one of those men could be a great partner for you. Have some self-worth, self-love and self-respect. Recognize that this relationship has run its course, and that you deserve a healthy, long-lasting love.

Patti Novak welcomes your relationship questions. Email her at and please include your initials and hometown.