Dear Margo: Something Sounds Not Quite Right

Margo Howard’s advice

Something Sounds Not Quite Right

Dear Margo: I am having an awful problem. I’m married to a wonderful man, and we love each other, but it seems that he may want to separate. Someone in my family made a comment about his religion, saying he may not be going to heaven since he’s not a Christian. I obviously don’t believe this and have told him so many times. He is still very upset and sometimes talks in terms of “if we stay together…”

Margo, I am devastated. I love this man more than anything in the world. Even now, as he’s trying to decide what he wants to do, he tells me he loves me. I am confused and scared that he’s going to leave me over this situation. He says he needs time to sort this out, and I am trying to give it to him. What do you think is really going on here? — Uneasy

Dear Un: I think the person he should separate from is the idiot relative who said such a dumb, bigoted and insulting thing, and I would tell him you whole-heartedly support him. I think if you make it clear that you were horrified at that narrowness of thinking on the part of your family member and offer to join him in staying out of his or her company, that would help the situation.

It is an odd disconnect, however, to be insulted by a family member and then think of leaving your wife. The only wild card I see is that he may have used this unfortunate comment as a cover for some other marital unhappiness. It seems to me the only remark capable of blowing apart a marriage would have to come from the spouse — and even then, one remark would appear to be overkill. Good luck with sorting this out, and let me know what happens. — Margo, hopefully

Dealing with an Unrealistic Friend

Dear Margo: I am in my mid-20s and am part of what we call a “girl gang.” Eight of us have remained friends from college and we all wound up working in New York City. One member of our group is causing a problem the rest of us don’t know how to deal with. She is nice enough looking, but you wouldn’t put her on a magazine cover, if you get my drift.

The thing is that every once in a while someone will compliment her on an outfit or her hairstyle, and then she’s off and running: Should she approach a modeling agency? Should she go to open calls and try to be an actress? We’ve tried to tread delicately by saying that to be an actress you need training and bred-in-the-bone talent, and to be a model requires more than someone saying, “My, you’re attractive.” Can you tell us what to do and what to say? — Member of the “Gang”

Dear Mem Oh, my. Your friend sounds like the girl who’s told she’s attractive and then decides she should be the next Miss Universe. I suspect this friend may be somewhat insecure about her looks, or perhaps she always wished to be a beauty, ergo there’s a psychological component to her taking a compliment and turning it into a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.

I suggest your group be supportive, second the compliment and then try to bring her back to Earth. A flattering hairstyle does not a model make. And you are in New York, after all, a Mecca for beautiful people. What you might consider doing is suggesting she try going to a modeling agency or to an open call … and then your “girl gang” is off the hook. — Margo, strategically

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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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45 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Something is indeed not quite right.  Obviously, your relative was a clod.  So what?  The *not right* is your husband making this into a major matter instead of brushing it off as the opinion of a clod as most rational stable people would do.  If your relative’s comments are in fact  the reason he wants to separate…and the only reason…then I think you got a lemon.  If it is not the reason he wants to separate and is using it as an excuse to get out of the marriage for other reasons…then I think you got a lemon.  I’m sure there is much more to the story than your letter states but it strikes me that he is trying to keep you off balance for some reason.  Try counseling, if he will go. 

    LW#2:    So what if your friend is delusional?  Why does it bother you all so much?  I would simply change the subject when she talks about modeling or acting.  To actively encourage her if you think she could not make it in either field (although actors don’t have to be beautiful and she might have some bred in the bone talent) strikes me as *mean girl* behavior.  So move on.  If she tries to model or act and fails, I hope you all try really hard not to say *I told you so*.    

    • avatar Sandy B says:

      They could say something along the lines of, “you know- I think they go for a specific look in modeling and it’s hard to understand the criteria- however we’re not experts on it. If it really interests you- give it a try. If it works out great- if it doesn’t you haven’t lost anything”

      • avatar luna midden says:

        Sandy B, I believe Margo is on the right line, and should push it more… Margo is right about NYC…you go on line, google open calls, or even ‘background’ people (ones walking by, standing around,etc) an there is ALWAYS something going on… If she really thinks she HAS IT.. casting directors would pick up on it… As for modeling, a lot of models start in their teens, but, to see if she is blowing her mouth, I saw the head of one of top modeling agencies.. and he said all they require, as the other tops ones. is ONE PHOTO of the person. (I believe it is a body shot to see the whole figure) and they can tell from the one shot if ‘YOU HAVE IT’. He said do not spend 1000s on a portfolio. So, next time she opens, they should have a groupon ready for a photo shot… and see her reaction.   Bet that will cure her, if not push her to do something. BTW-not all models are GORGEOUS-they have the bone struction in their face and body and Makeup artists and the clothes do the rest.

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        You are right Sandy and Katherine, the first thing I thought was “mean girl”, esp when she said they have a “gang”, how much more immature can you be? I actually was a model, did my final photoshoot in my 40’s, but was always insecure about my looks. I suspect this is the same dynamic.

        LW1 – find out the real reason for hubs talking “seperation” and cut that relative out of your life. I even thought maybe she should convert to the so beloved hubby’s religion, it doesn’t mean she has to follow it. This one is kind of a head scratcher.

  2. avatar Sleepwalker says:

    I feel for LW1…within a month of being introduced to my future MIL, she presented both my fiance and myself with “rapture survival kits” since we’re not going to heaven with the rest of the family, it’ll help us live through hell on Earth for three whole days!

    We were also told once the family ascends to heaven we can have her house and cars as long as we’re willing to take care of her pets because apparently animals can’t go to heaven either.

    Her only son whom I’m marrying has served his country for over 8 years now and is going to be going back into the service again but that doesn’t matter because he doesn’t buy into her religion. This is pretty much why I decided that if we do eventually have a kid that it will never be exposed to his mother’s church.

    Long story short, he’s marrying you and not the family and it’s very easy to put enough miles between you and that branch of your family to keep the peace. Obviously you don’t share their beliefs so it shouldn’t effect him on a daily basis.

    • avatar mayma says:

      Putting miles between them and the family will do nothing to keep the peace with this dude. He’s mean.

      • avatar Serenity Miao says:

        @Mayma We don’t know this. There’s a possibility that his in-laws have dumped on him for all of these years, LW has said absolutely nothing to them, and he just can’t take it anymore.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Move far, far away. Good lord.

  3. avatar mayma says:

    Your husband is gaslighting you. He has some [other] reason for wanting to leave the marriage, possibly a different woman, and instead of taking responsibility for that, he is trying to make you believe it’s your fault — and a “fault” you can do nothing about, to boot. This is the worst sort of person. Tell him this has nothing to do with you and that you won’t be tortured for it. Then run for the hills, and seek counseling to discover how you can heal from a near-dangerous level of naiveté.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: “If we stay together… you’re going to stop overreacting to stupid BS like this and grow a thicker skin, for God’s sake.”

      LW2: The thing is… your friend may not be a model. but you’re not a modeling agency either, so it’s not really your business to tell her anything. Acting is a skill that can be learned, and looks are merely what a client needs at a given moment. Your little gang should focus on something else.

      • avatar ilovemypillow says:

        David, re your comment to LW2: I disagree with your opinion that “acting is a skill that can be learned.” As a longtime resident of Hollywood, I have first hand experience that such is not necessarily the case. It’s no a physical skill such as, e.g., learning to ride a bicycle, where almost everyone has the needed balance. It’s a craft that some people simply cannot get no matter how hard they try. One needs talent and a certain emotional freedom. I’d also add that just being in a movie or stage production does not mean that one can act. Also, you opined that “it’s not really your business to tell her anything.” I think that’s nonsense. They are friends! Friends can tell each other things.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I disagree with your disagreement, and it sounds like you do too.

          Acting is a skill that can be learned. Sure, some people are more talented than others and some people have the abilities that are generally inherent in good actors apparently from childhood—since we have child actors. However, Daniel Radcliffe is a case-in-point—since his acting abilities increased tremendously from HP1 to HP7. And I would be willing to bet that hundreds of acting coaches who are also longtime residents of Hollywood would agree with me that acting can be taught.

          As far as “friends can tell each other things,” this is a statement that is sometimes true and sometimes not. Would you tell your friend that she’s out of her league for a particular guy that she has the hots for? Or that her dreams are stupid and unattainable? Going back to the Hollywood metaphor—being driven or derailed by statements like this are exactly why some creative people succeed, while others fail. Also, we don’t know what sort of friendship these two have with each other. As I’ve stated before in previous posts, I had a “friend” who loved to do stuff with me, while he criticized me in every way imaginable. This person managed to plant the suggestion in my head that I’m too skinny and too fat at the same time. Go figure.

          • avatar judgingamy says:

            I agree David Bolton. The LW is basing her prediction of her friend’s success in a modeling/acting career only on what LW considers to be pretty. Her being “honest” and telling her friend, I don’t think you’re pretty enough to be a model or actress will NOT be good for the friendship. Sounds like LW and her friends are quite catty. She can tell her friend it’s a long shot, just based on the amount of competition and dependence on being at the right place at the right time, but if her friend has an IQ above 75 she probably already knows that.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      I think it depends on how often the husband is expected to see this relative. If they live nearby, and see the family often — you know, they’re expected to come over every weekend, show up for all birthdays, etc — then I could see divorcing over something like this.

      What the wife needs to do is make it clear she’s fine with the husband NEVER seeing this relative, even if it’s her mother or father — that he need not spend Christmas, or Thanksgiving, nor any other holiday with the insulting bigot. Ever. Total cut-off for him, even for special events. That will also cut into her time seeing said relative, because he would rightly be hurt if she decided spending Thanksgiving with the bigot was more important than spending it with him.

  4. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Another ringing endorsement for avoiding organized religion and those who pontificate on who gets the code to Heaven’s Gate. Am mystified on why hubs might want to dump you over  this … unless … did you stick up for this family idiot? Did you offer some bromide like “well so and so means well” or “Pay no attention, she was just speaking her mind” or “Well, if you’d go to MY church with me more often, maybe she wouldn’t feel that way?” Something tells me it’s your failure to lower the boom on the dope in your family that is giving him second thoughts about a lifetime of Thanksgiving dinners with your family … or even with you.   

  5. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Bro David’s “Your little gang should focus on something else” nails it. (If Ms. Insecure had a yen to become a trial lawyer because of her ability to argue, would you be in a dither over her prospects?)

    • avatar Ariana says:

      LW#2: I’d only try to get your friend off the topic by mentioning that those are the two of the most brutal professions for making it big. Only a small percentage can make a career out of it. Those who make it suffer from being in the limelight and those who don’t are depressed.
      Tell her to learn how to take a compliment and be happy that she’s pretty enough for people to make compliments in the first place. 

    • avatar hmna says:

      Have you seen the job market for lawyers these days?

      Law school has become a really risky bet.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        What we lump together under the term “the trades” are looking better and better — plumber, HVAC, electrician, mechanic, beautician, line cook or chef, heck, mortician — these are jobs that are never going to be outsourced, and that often make good money.

  6. avatar Cindy M says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo. One little comment from a relative and your husband’s reacted this way? Either that relative has more influence and interaction in your life than you’re letting on (is it your mother – who might be overbearing, nosy, loud, obnoxious?) and this is a “final straw” scenario, or your husband sure is thin-skinned; or, as Margo suggests, he’s using that comment “as a cover for some other marital unhappiness.”

    L #2: I’m very pretty and it’s not gone to my head. But some people…oh yeah. I definitely wouldn’t encourage her (as false hopes go). OTOH, a kind reality check couldn’t hurt either; if she wants to check out a modeling agency or acting — well, it doesn’t hurt to try. And not all successful actors are drop-dead gorgeous; maybe she’s pretty and talented enough to have a good, solid career as a character actor. Otherwise be nice, bite your tongue. Time goes on and things change; even two years from now this aggravating situation might be “old hat”; you’ll all have moved on.

  7. avatar carol grzonka says:

    lw2, encourage her to try a model agency. not all model’s looks are runway/covergirl quality. it’s my understanding that some make a very good living in connercials and ads.

  8. avatar Carrie A says:

    #1: So how did you react to this stupid comment towards your husband? Did you stick up for him or just go along with your relative’s rudeness? I suspect that even though you’ve told him you don’t believe it you’ve never told your relative this. My husband’s mother was terrible to me after we got married and if he would not have stuck up for me, even if he told me in private he didn’t agree with it, I probably would have considered leaving him, too. Think about your reaction to these clods and you may have a little more insight into why he’s thinking of separating.

    #2: You sound like you’re just worried that she might succeed. Why else would you want to be the one to tell her she’ll never make it as a model or actress when, as far as I can tell, you don’t run a modeling or talent agency? Tell her to go for it and if she’s not suited for it they’ll let her know. Although she might make it and I don’t know if you can handle that – all your criticisms sound like jealousy.

    • avatar judgingamy says:

      I totally agree. When I was 18 I wanted to enter a Cosmopolitan sponsored model search. I was attractive but I am sure millions of attractive and super attractive girls entered. There is absolutely no way I would have won. Yet, when I wanted to enter, my mom was like, go for it! I ended up not doing it- I was too lazy to fill out all the forms and take the specific pictures they needed, but my 18 year old self esteem would have been devastated had my mom set me down and said, you know you’re a pretty girl, but you’re never going to win. Why is LW2 making this her problem? Tell her good luck (and mean it) and let her find out for herself if this is something she wants to pursue. And if she gets laughed out of a modeling agency’s office and her feelings are hurt, take her out for drinks and make her feel better.

      This is really not a problem for these girls. Must be nice to have such perfect lives with no problems that you have to manufacture drama about something that has nothing to do with you.

      • avatar Carrie A says:

        Exactly! I don’t get why they call themselves her friends yet want to completely crush her dreams. Encourage her to try and comfort her later if it doesn’t work out – that’s what friends are supposed to do! I’m glad your mom cared enough and was kind enough to be so supportive 🙂

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      Carrie, that’s exactly what I was thinking re LW1. It’s possible that the guy is unbalanced enough to leave his wife over something her relative said, and it is possible that he is using that as an excuse, but it seems more likely in this scenario that lw calmly accepts assertions like this when around her family, and then later tells him in private, “Well gee, honey, it’s not like _I_ think you’re going to burn in hell”

  9. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#1: Smoke screen. Nobody leaves their spouse because one of their spouse’s relatives makes an offhand comment belittling their religion. If he’s that convincing to make you believe that that’s the real reason not to stay together, maybe he should be the one going to the casting calls.

    • avatar judgingamy says:

      Oh, that’s awesome. However, I am going to credit wife’s denial instead of husband’s incredible acting skills. Hopefully the wife never gets any emails from Nigerian royalty/distant relatives.

  10. avatar nartweag says:

    I get the feeling there is more to the story with LW1.

    It could very well be that the husband is an atheist or some non-christian religion, while the wife is indeed Christian (not just her family). Even if she does not say to him, “he will burn in hell”, that is what the core of Christian belief is. “I am THE way……” and all.

    Having been a Christian falling from my religion at the time I was dating my now (atheist) husband, it was very painful to think that he wouldn’t go to heaven. I was already questioning and having some strong objections to what I had been lead to believe, so I had to do a lot of thinking and soul searching within myself.
    This scenario looks different from mine in that it would seem the non religious spouse is the one thinking of all of what it means to be “unevenly yoked”.
    They really should find a non church (yet open to discussing matters of faith) therapist to figure all this out.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      Or she should find a good private detective

    • avatar Toni Cakes says:

      Given how she phrases how she talks to him. “Of course *I* believe you are going to heaven!” Is much different than “Your beliefs are just as important and I support you”

      the “if we stay together” may have more to do with how she also treats his beliefs.
      If she is handling it by actually understanding his religion or lack there of is truly important to him or is its a matter of “you are a non-believer but I love you and so does Jesus,” completely ignoring that to him his views are as real as her religion.

      I have seen people do this and then wonder why their non-Christian friends stopped talking to them- because they can’t grasp that there may actually be something else besides their god out there and it gets really offensive.

  11. avatar mac13 says:

    LW#1: Run away quickly.  The faster the do, the faster you will start to heal over your breakup. If he can’t stay married to you for the reason you stated you are better off. If there is another reason, it is most likely he has found someone else. You will still be better off. You might call his bluff, next time he says, “if…” tell him you agree. If he can’t get over it maybe he should leave. But, don’t be surprised when he sprints to the door.

    LW#2: Wow, first. MYOB. Look across the internet and find pictures of actresses without makeup. I say a picture of a beautiful country singer sans makeup and she was as plain as dishwater. It’s all makeup, clothing, lighting, etc. Your insecurities are showing thru.  Maybe you should seek help. And in my best WWW voice, “and your little friends too.”

  12. avatar susan hiland says:

    LW#2 What would it hurt to give support to your friend? Real friends support each other, and don’t snicker behind backs at fantasy dreams of the other one. More than likely she is dreaming and wouldn’t do anything about this but if she does good for her. You are only young once. Live a little.

  13. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: There is so much more to this story then you are not telling. Either you didn’t stick up for your husband which is causing him to question or there are other reasons he wants to get a divorce. Either way, go to counseling, with or without him. If he actually does leave over something as petty as a comment like that then good riddance!

    LW#2: I suspect you and your friends are incredibly catty b/c if you were a true friend you would’ve said to her “That business is incredibly difficult to get into. But, if you think you have a thick enough skin try it out. If it works out great, if it doesn’t no harm done.” Rather than focusing on the fact that you don’t think she’s “magazine cover pretty.”

  14. avatar BeanCounter says:

    LW#2:    Tell her to GO FOR IT.   Let her discover how she won’t be a model, and that will be that.  Just tell her that she needs to make sure she is secure financially, and that you won’t be able to help her if she falls flat on her face.   set the boundaries and let her learn a life’s lesson, otherwise you’ll be dealing with this forever.  

  15. avatar CanGal says:

    umm Even successful models are not magazine cover pretty. It’s called photoshop.

  16. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #1 – The dumb comment is merely a catalyst in this drama. Hubs is looking for excuses. Run, run for the hills, I say.

  17. avatar dcarpend says:

    One of my dearest friends is an actress of no small talent, and she’s pretty and charismatic enough that I have literally seen conversation stop when she walked into a room. She has lived in NY for well over a decade now, and has consistently gotten acting gigs — and also consistently had to take other work to pay the bills. It is very, very tough.

  18. avatar D C says:

    Movies and TV are FULL of people who many do not consider to be mainstream beautiful. Those people have careers… just like I do — I’m not the CEO of my company, but I play a part. LW#2 seems to think that unless you are Angelina Jolie or (insert latest supermodel name here) you might as well just stop dreaming dreams. I think this is the reason I don’t have a lot of women friends. Too many catty witches and not enough sincere friends. I’d rather just have the few sincere friends and not be bothered with a “gang” of witches.

  19. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Hm. If he knows you don’t share the relative’s opinion, why should he want to leave you? His reaction makes no sense.

    LW2: I understand not encouraging someone to pursue something if you don’t at least somewhat think the person has what it takes. I get that; I really do. However, it’s not the big problem you are making it out to be either. If she’s at all perceptive, she’ll notice that no one ever hollers out “Finally! We’ve all been saying for *years* that you should be a model/actress!” I do wonder what you guys could be saying that makes her think a haircut or outfit indicates stardom. Are you sure that the compliments you and your pals pass about are genuine in tone and not overdone, gushy sentiments?
    Also, a “girl gang”? Did you seriously just call it that?

  20. avatar fallinginplace says:

    LW#1: I wonder if hubby is concerned that he will face this kind of nonsense from other family members if they stay together and/or raise kids in a faith of which the wife’s family disapproves. That could cause strain in a marriage. I still remember as a teenager when my Baptist friend told me that she was really sorry about it, but that since I’m Jewish, I was going to hell. Imagine marrying into that family.

  21. avatar Serenity Miao says:

    LW1: I think the problem isn’t that the relative said something awful, but that LW probably didn’t stand up for her husband. Yes, she told him that she doesn’t believe he’s going to Hell and whatnot, but this could only be the latest incident of in-law aggravation for which she never stepped in. Don’t we see letters of that variety often enough? “My spouse is great, but my in-laws are insulting towards me, and my spouse never stands up for me.”

    LW2 sounds catty, like she doesn’t want to help her friend be realistic so much as put her in her “place.”

  22. avatar Diagoras says:

    LW1 – I don’t think the husband is crazy or using this as an excuse. Notice that the LW does not say, “I told my relative to back off” – no, she said she told her husband she doesn’t believe what the relative said – as if that were good enough! It’s not good enough. She needs to stick up for her husband and cut that relative out of their lives unless and until the husband gets an apology. (Now of course I’m not suggesting that they should expect an apology – most likely none will ever happen; I’m just allowing a path toward forgiveness in the unlikely event that they do get an apology.)

  23. avatar Susan Fried says:

    To fallinginplace:

    I, too, am Jewish, and though I was never told I was “going to hell,” I was called a Christ killer.
    However, all my years of Sunday School taught me that Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell, and it’s the work you do and how you conduct yourself, here on earth, that will live on in others’ memories. So, maybe LW1 will borrow that philosophy, or even one of the Eastern ones, and share it with her husband.

  24. avatar ldmalik says:

    I just want to say that I am the writer of letter 1. I think I didn’t state what was said properly. I did stand up for him to my mother as I have with my sister-in-law once before. He is a hindu so it’s a very different religion than anyone else in our family. He said he couldn’t be with me because everytime he looked at me he thought of my mother’s remark, keep in mind she’s 1000 miles away. We are now divorced over this. He kicked me out on a Monday, Tuesday he took half the money from our bank accounts and opened his own, Wednesday he cleaned out every piece of anything I owned in our apartment and dumped it off and Thursday he filed for divorce.

    • avatar mmht says:

      I’m sorry you had to go through that. Anyone that treats someone the way that he treated you is arse and you are better off without them.