Ask Amy: Long-term marriage is lonely, lacks spark

Dear Amy: I have been married for more than 20 years to a very nice man who is a good father. We generally get along, but we don't have much of a romantic relationship.

It has always been this way (at least since early dating). He works hard and is devoted to both his career and children, but I feel like our relationship is not that important.

For the past few years we have spent very little time together as a couple. It has gotten to the point that we don't have much to do or say to each other.

I feel very lonely and can't seem to find any comfort with him. We have been to marriage counseling, but our issues were never resolved (at least to my satisfaction).

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I feel like we are friends but not lovers. As I get older, I wonder what will become of us and how I will deal with the loneliness as our children move away. Do you have any advice?

— Friends Without Benefits

Dear Friends: Thoughtful parents and partners try to keep the relationship fires stoked during the kids' younger years by having date nights, going away together occasionally and overall putting the marriage at the center of the family.

In your counseling sessions, are you only looking for ways for him to change? Are there things you could do differently to try to inspire a shift in your marriage (and other relationships), thus easing your loneliness?

To enjoy a companionable togetherness, you two have to spend time together. Simply put, you have more to talk about when you've done things together. Traveling, hiking, bike riding, going to concerts or working on a home project together are all positive places to start.

Meanwhile, you should definitely continue with professional counseling on your own. Your loneliness could have deeper roots than your marriage alone.

Dear Amy: I am 50 years old and a lesbian. My family has known this since I was 22 years old.

Five months ago I started a new relationship after being single for four years. My girlfriend is a wonderful person and wants to get to know my family.

My past long-term relationship didn't go well. That person was a leech who stole from me and from some of my family members. My family holds that over my head and won't let it go. My current girlfriend is not welcome at my parents' house and my siblings won't talk to her.

I am so devastated and hurt, I just feel like letting them all go.

My family are devout Catholics, and my being gay has always been a problem for them.

— Very Hurt in Seattle

Dear Hurt: Your family members are not punishing your girlfriend — they don't know her and have no grounds to actively dislike her.

They are punishing you for allowing a previous partner to mistreat and violate your trust — and theirs. They obviously don't trust your judgment.

You must acknowledge the part you played in this previous betrayal and apologize sincerely for the pain and hardship it caused.

After you acknowledge and apologize, tell your family how much their rejection has hurt you. Ask for a fresh start.

If they continue to punish and reject you, then yes — you have a choice to make.

Dear Amy: Responding to the letter from "Terrified," whose mother refused to wear a motorcycle helmet while riding: For those of us who wait and wait for an organ transplant, a motorcyclist speeding along without a helmet looks exactly like a squadron of useful organs flying (temporarily) in formation.

Each cyclist who dies of a brain injury can save at least five lives by supplying two kidneys, one heart, a pancreas, lungs and liver to patients for whom there may be no other viable treatment.

Let people who choose to wear a helmet do so, but don't criticize those who choose to take their chances and want to sacrifice their lives to save many more. Over 100,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney transplant; anything that increases the supply of lifesaving or life-extending organs can't be too bad.

— Peter

Dear Peter: This is pretty stark, but I get your point. Thank you.

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