Dear Margo: One Key to Happiness

Margo Howard’s advice

One Key to Happiness

Dear Margo: I am writing in response to a letter I saw in your column. When I was 30, I was still single and had been “in love” twice since I was 18. The first one came to an end naturally (he’s now one of my oldest and dearest friends); the second, tragically. My fiance was killed in a car accident a few months before our wedding when I was 26. I went on with my life, and at 30, I was happily enjoying my career and family and being the favorite Auntie for my nieces and nephews. I was really happy and realized that if I never fell in love again, it’d be cool. I was just as happy without a significant other as I had been when I had one!

I went along doing my thing, being social, enjoying my job and hobbies, and when I was 30 I met an awesome guy 10 years my senior at a Humane Society fundraiser. We met in May, moved in together in January and got married the following May on the anniversary of our first date.

As a society, we put so much emphasis on marriage as the be all and end all to happiness that we create too much stress and angst about it. Quite frequently, when we stop wigging out about The Big M, as my husband and I jokingly call it, we find someone to be with.

We’re still together 12 years later and are planning on forever. I honestly don’t think everyone has to get married to be successful and happy. For us, this is how it worked out, but we were both happy with our lives before we got together, and if it hadn’t worked out for us, we’d still be happy. And yes, First Love did dance at our wedding. — Lucky

Dear Luck: Hooray for you — and thank you for confirming a few of my beliefs. One is that a partner does not make a life great, but can share it. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness, and for many people, solo is the way to go. Bachelors were always around, but the women’s movement made it acceptable for women, as well, to travel light.

Not to get too woo-woo about it, but I do subscribe to the Zen tenet that when you stop looking, you will find whatever it is you want — or stumble on it. And lastly, I am a great believer in affinity groups. You and your husband shared an interest from the get-go, which immediately gave you something in common. Long may you love. — Margo, happily

An Emotionally Awkward Situation

Dear Margo: A guy I befriended in the gym a year ago became my client, and we are both aware of the extra mile I have gone and how well it has served his business. While he’s been verbally appreciative of what we do and has invited me to some of his social occasions, I thought there was a mutual liking, personally.

Just today I was a part of a conversation with him and another woman when she began thanking him for the lovely gifts (this is the festive season here). As we were all standing together, I could sense his awkwardness and discomfort. I am aware that this woman has connected with him in the gym this season. I felt a bit bad. I had presumed we were all on an equal platform. (By the way, the guy and I are both single, and she is married with a family.)

This isn’t some sort of love-triangle at all. If he does not send a gift, that is fine with me. I have a job to do and will continue to do it and remain courteous. But I am anticipating a “corporate gift” to me, and it will feel like a compensatory/consolation well-I-meant-to-send-you-one-as-well thing. How do I respond to this kind of consolation? — Somewhat Disappointed

Dear Some: With a cordial thank-you note. — Margo, normally

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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15 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  Thank you for sharing and ditto what Margo said.

    Letter #2:  You don’t say what your business is but many businesses send gift to their good customers so I’m wondering why you think he should give you (who he presumably pays all year for your services) any gift at all…unless you are his hairdresser, mailperson, or cleaning woman or someone who is customarily tipped by clients in the holiday season.  I’m not sure but I sense an undertone of you wanting to have some sort of romantic relationship with the client (why else point out the woman he gifted is married….perhaps he is good friends with the couple..but its really not your business anyway) which is bad for business.   But, if he does send you a gift (what is a corporate gift…were you expecting lingerie or jewelry?) by all means send a thank you note.   

  2. avatar bamabob says:

    I think what LW2 is saying (and I could be 100% wrong) is that she is expecting a gift only because of the awkward conversation that took place. He was uncomfortable with the discussion in which she learned the other woman received a gift and she now thinks he will give her a gift to cover his embarrassment. A “corporate gift” to my understanding, is a “thanks for the help with my business” gift rather than a “love spending time with you” gift–one in which there can be no misinterpretation of the sender’s intentions. So….given that he may be giving her a gift only because he feels obligated to since she is aware of the gift to the other person, she’s not sure how to respond. But as Margo said, the response to any gift, regardless of the motive behind it is, “Thanks so much!”

    (I, too, sensed some disappointment that she had feelings that weren’t reciprocated but one should never mix business with pleasure IMO for just this reason)

  3. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – I don’t blame Margo for responding to this letter in such a succinct manner, it doesn’t warrant the time nor effort to give a thorough response. She needs to grow up, put her big girl panties on and stop obsessing about something so insignificant.

    Letter #1 – So true. I too congratulate this letter writer on her happy and long relationship.

    As a society we have a bizarre relationship with the sanctity of marriage. On one hand we claim that it is a sacred vow that a man and woman make. Yet few enter into them with the mindset that it is lifelong commitment. Most enter into marriages with the ever looming realization that if things get bumpy they can simply divorce.

    On the other hand people allow marriage to define them too much. There are so many women and men that feel like failures if their marriages come to end. Much like wealthy men that lose their wealth and commit suicide. I know men and women that are (IMO) clearly homosexuals, that believe because they can point to a wife or husband, that is proof that they aren’t gay. Again, an example of marrying for the wrong reason. I’ve been single forever and have met many people that question “why?” as if it is not normal not to marry.

  4. avatar GabbyM says:

    From what I understand of LW#2, there are two different things going on..1, the LW expects a gift for Christmas as part of her business (from the tone of her letter, I’m guessing she’s his personal trainer) While a gift is nice, it is NOT mandatory. The second thing I got from the letter is that she likes the guy and is mad that he gave a married woman gifts while she, a single girl batting her eyes at a client, got nothing. Grow up.

    LW#1: Congrats! I do, however, have another perspective on marriage. When my cousin’s common-law partner died, she went through a great deal of trouble with his estate. Even though common-law is considered the same as marriage, it is NOT the same in the eye of the law. Part of the problem was that my cousin’s husband had not updated his will in over 30 years and still had his sister listed as beneficiary but without that one little piece of paper listing her as spouse, my cousin had to get his family to sign everything over to her. The trauma she went through for a year after his death actually spurred her children to finally get married after 10 years of being “engaged”.

    • avatar Sharon Crawford says:

      Common law marriages are treated exactly like “regular” marriage in Canada. But then, of course, we have marriage equality for everyone gay or straight.
      Some states in the US recognize “common law” marriages but the rules are different from state to state. (How long you’ve lived together, do you present yourself as married, etc.) I know California doesn’t recognize any type of common law marriage. Other states may differ. If you don’t want a marriage ceremony but still consider yourself married, you’d be wise to consult an attorney in the place you live.

      • avatar Janet66 says:

        To Sharon Crawford:

        I’m a Canadian family lawyer and unfortunately what you say is NOT true. In the province where I practice, common law relationships are treated *very* differently from marriage.   There is no concept of net family property or equalization for common law couples. A spouse can assert claims for child and spousal support, but chances are remote that they will get half the property accumulated if in the other spouse’s name.

  5. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – I don’t think she is his personal trainer or hair stylist, because she references going the extra mile to help his business.  Who knows what she does, but the point is that HE is the client, and as such, if there is any gift-giving during the holidays, SHE is the one who does it.  I am a business executive, and my office is flooded with token gifts during the holidays from vendors who were very happy to receive our business – and payments – during the year.  She put him in an awkward position, and you never do that to a paying client.  She sounds very immature to be in business.

  6. avatar luna midden says:

    lw2-OK, so a person comes up to another person and ‘thanks them for thelovely gifts’. It sounds like these gifts ‘arrived’ when she was not home, so, knock out the affair thing, UNLESS she is FLAUNTING IT. How much does the LW2 REALLY KNOW about this guy? She thinks she knows that this married woman ‘connected’ with him, THIS YEAR, but, could she be the WIFE OF A GOOD FRIEND? This LW just doesn’t know the answer. As for the MAN feeling uncomfortable, WHY? Who made him feel uncomfortable? Unless, again, this ‘Married’ woman was having something going on with him, why would he feel uncomfortable about gifting a friend? I suspect that the LW let on, through FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, MAYBE VOICE TONE, that she was UPSET, SURPRISED, ETC. that she did not ‘GET A GIFT’ from this man, so now, he feels uncomfortable.

    Even if they have gone to a few social occaisions together, and it would be nice to know how long ago, and what they are, this ‘personnal’ relationship has not PROGRESSED, or never EXISTED with the man. This Woman who offers ‘services’ to clients, and we do not know what they are (I am thinking ‘MARKETING’?), she does not sound like she has been in the business world long, or at least among professional business people. SHE SHOULD BE THANKING HIM!!! for his businesss!!!! Now, maybe, if she really went OVER THE TOP with work, and not the professional and personal should be mixed, but, then was the time for him to THANK HER-with a  Bottle of wine, a GC, etc. NOT AT CHRISTMAS! 

    She should also get a clue-he wasn’t thinking of giving her a personnal gift for Christmas, so, so much for those ‘feelings’ between them.    

    • avatar luna midden says:

      AND!!!! I really wish these advice columnists either got more info from these letter writers (you need to submit an email or snail address with letters-and yes, I know alot can be made up) OR did not edit out the stuff the readers will have questions about. Like SERVICES she performed. (I would NEVER write just ‘services’, it sounds like you are an escort, etc. )

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    #1: Agreed, and congratulations! 🙂 We’re married 20 years this March. Some people who are married are miserable; they’re the ones who want others to “hurry up and get miserable” too. ;-p

    #2: So long as *you* know what’s going on (and what isn’t). It’s always got to be someone making difficulties…

  8. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – What a great letter. I enjoyed reading that. It restored my faith that rational, real people still exist.

    LW2 – Brava on your response Margo. That’s all that needed to be said……well, except maybe “duh”. 

  9. avatar A R says:


    1. Perhaps you are overestimating how much you have helped his business. Perhaps your idea of above and beyond is his idea of standard services rendered for fees paid.
    2. You misinterpreted his attitude towards you socially.
    3. Being invited to his company’s social events does not equal a date.
    4. You could sense his “awkwardness and discomfort”? Sure about that? You thought there was a mutual attraction too. Perhaps your senses need fine-tuning, or perhaps you were just feeling uncomfortable and awkward yourself and projected your emotions onto him.
    5. Quit trying to pick apart his reasons for giving that woman a gift. It’s probably *not* a dirty little secret (implied by you) as she thanked him publicly. Also, as he is not her client, it apparently was a personal gift, so why are you attempting to draw a correlation between the two very different relationships?
    6. Wait…YOU were expecting a corporate gift from HIM? You being the vendor/independent contractor should actually have given him/his company a gift to thank him/his company for continuing to do business with you. He can get your type of services elsewhere, however you want to keep him as a client, therefore it was your opportunity to provide a “thank you for doing business with me” gift. So….. I can’t figure why you expect a gift to be forthcoming from him.
    7. Even if he did for some vague reason a thank-you gift, you don’t send a thank-you card in response to a thank-you gift. That would create a circle of never-ending thanks.

  10. avatar Janet66 says:

    Regarding LW#1:

    I wonder sometimes when women say this, if it’s revisionist history?  Yes, it’s important to make the most of your life and achieve maximum personal happiness whether married or single. Yet, countless studies point to married couples being happier, healthier and wealthier. I have yet to meet a woman over 25 who wants to be married with children, but is single, express complete happiness. Most are happier when they finally meet “The One” and have their kids.

    Realistically, if you value regular sex with a committed partner, romantic love, affection and companionship, all important facets of many people’s happiness, it’s just not going to happen as a singleton. I say this as someone who has been single and married. Just my personal experience and the experience of those I’ve personally known. On the other hand, if you enjoy being single and could care less about a relationship, more power to you! 

  11. avatar Daniele says:

    LW2: Maybe the “awkwardness and discomfort” you sensed was from the fact that he was afraid you’d judge him for giving presents to a married woman, a woman to whom he has little business giving lovely gifts to.

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1)  Thanks for this upbeat story … it’s made my day!

    LW2) The woman at the gym must be a dolt to be thanking him for gifts in that public situation. No wonder he was uncomfortable.