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Dear Carolyn: My husband has been friends since college with a woman who ended up marrying one of his fraternity brothers. Her husband is an alcoholic who will not go for help, even though all of his friends have urged him to. The wife will not go for counseling either.

Since her husband is emotionally and physically absent from their marriage, she calls on my husband for companionship and advice. The last time they stayed with us on a vacation, she and my husband went on long walks talking about lots of things, including her marital problems. She does not confide in me, even when encouraged to do so, and I don’t like inviting myself on walks.

I have talked about my unhappiness with my husband, and he has apologized, explaining that he did not realize how I felt.

The dysfunctional couple will be staying with us again soon. If the unhappy wife initiates more talk-therapy sessions with my husband, what can he, or we, say to her without making her feel like her old friends are withdrawing support?

– Anxious Wife

A: It’s he, not we, and he needs to keep it simple.

“I appreciate that you want help, and I want to be helpful. But I can’t be your therapist. It’s not fair to my wife, because this is my vacation time with her, too, and it’s not fair to you and (Husband), because I’m not qualified to give you the help you both need.”

And then you and he back it up. She suggests a long walk, he either declines or invites you along.

(Side note to your husband: You need to come through here. Deal?)

Small tokens of gratitude

Dear Carolyn: I have an amazing and supportive husband who I am thankful for every day. Recently, I have been overwhelmed at work and my husband has stepped up and taken over pet care, housework, and he even drives me to work when his schedule allows.

Of course, I’ve thanked him, but any recommendations on new ways to show him appreciation? I’ve brought home nice wine or taken him to dinner so much that it’s beginning to feel too easy. We’re also on a tight budget.

– T.

A: It is too easy – nice wine is what you give a neighbor who gets your mail while you’re away.

To thank your husband, take care of him in small ways that you’re able to and that you normally don’t. Examples … hard to give, since it’s only right if it’s something he values. Foot rub, anyone?

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