Dear Margo: Unacceptable Behavior

When is neglect due to more than a busy workweek? Margo Howard’s advice

Unacceptable Behavior

Dear Margo: I’ve been married for almost 10 years. We recently had a baby, and my husband’s a great dad. Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve started feeling very lonely. When he comes home from work, he spends a couple of hours with me that feel forced. Then he spends the rest of his waking hours in his home office until 4 or 5 a.m. I have slept alone in our bed every single night for two years, including the entire time I was pregnant.

I have discussed this with him, but to no avail. He blows it off, gets upset with me or promises to work on a change (which never comes). Each time after our talks, he will spend one day being super-sweet to me, and then it’s back to the status quo. It has become a running joke (to him) for me to ask him to go to bed with me and for him to patronize me with a smile, call me silly and send me off to bed alone. To top it off, while I was pregnant I found a text from him to a female co-worker asking her to skip work and go to a movie with him. He offered her a ride to work one day, telling me at the time that he was taking “some people” to work.

If he had not been secretive about these things, I never would have been suspicious. I feel like I deserve to be married to someone who wants to be with me, and though he says he does, I feel his actions prove otherwise. I’ve asked friends for advice, and they think I should not be putting up with this, so I was hoping for a neutral POV. — Miserable

Dear Mis: To tell you the truth, I don’t know how you got pregnant. I also don’t know whether he’s carrying on with the co-worker. But I will tell you this: He is acting like a rent-a-dad who is your roommate. There is so much wrong with this set-up that I would recommend a separation because I get a strong vibe that counseling is not in the cards. One of you should move to a place nearby so you can co-parent, and the time apart will clarify what the final outcome should be. (And I agree with your friends.) — Margo, forwardly

The Curse of Three?

Dear Margo: I feel like Calamity Jane and want to stop feeling sorry for myself. In the course of one day last week, the following things happened: The dog ran away, the baby threw up on a silk chair, and I forgot about a roast chicken in the oven and only remembered it when the smoke alarm went off. When my husband came home, I was a head case. I told him about my day from hell, and he just laughed. I wanted to brain him, but thought better of it. By the way, do you believe that bad things happen in threes? — Beleaguered

Dear Be: I gotta give it to you: That’s a rotten day. Stuff happens (to everyone), and if we’re lucky, these things are not piled one on top of the other. Of course, you know that the mishaps on that particular day were not of the disastrous kind. (Well, maybe the dog.) And I think I do believe in the “3’s” thing because it seems to have proved out, often with airplane crashes. I also know that such things are coincidences. Hope today is a great day! — Margo, steadily

* * *

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.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

38 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  First, I’m with Margo…how did you manage to get pregnant? Second, how can he be such a great dad when he spends only 2 hours a day with his family and the rest of his time in his home office?  It sounds like he has checked out of this marriage.  I strongly suspect he is having at least an emotional affair with someone..perhaps not his co-worker…perhaps someone online.  A separation sounds like a good idea although I wouldn’t close off the counseling option. 


  2. avatar etiennewestwind says:

    LW2: I´d want to laugh with relief that those things hadn´t happened to me.  Though if it were my husband or a good friend, I´d like to think I´d manage not to.

    • avatar Brenda S says:

      I’m trying to figure out why she has a chair made of silk and has a baby at the same time.  Nice furniture and kids don’t go together.

      • avatar Trish says:

        I was kind of wondering about that myself. What was the baby doing on a silk chair? Obviously she wasn’t expecting the baby to throw up but surely she knows babies diapers have been known to leak ergo babies and silk ‘anything’ do not go together.
        Do any of you remember when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge was a baby? Diana, Princess of Wales always dressed him in silk onesies. No wonder he was never seen in the same outfit twice!

      • avatar Lila says:

        Nice furniture and kids are not mutually exclusive, but one does have to be vigilant / have common sense with babies, and set rules for older kids.

        I am reminded that as kids, the ONLY place we were allowed to eat or drink was at the dining table.

  3. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    I might not be popular for this answer but what the Hell – I have never been anyways so why start now.  LW1- have you allowed him any space to parent the child.  I have seen this in many new parents.  The “Mother” knows best and the father retreats.  And this could certainly push him away from you and the child.  I have seen this in several of my friends.  The father really tries but no matter what he does, the mother says – no that is not right – do it this way, only because that is what she wants or has been told by her family or friends.  This causes the man to back off and in extreme cases to find consolation else where.  I am not saying the Mom is wrong but we must look at our own actions and try to see how they affect other people’s actions and responses. 

    LW2 – no response – you letter is just too stupid for words.

    • avatar Trish says:

      You make a lot of sense Kate. I really hope the letter writer reads your comment carefully.
      MAYBE she’s so focused on the baby she’s lost site of her marriage. I find that so sad.

    • avatar NYCGirl says:

      She said this had been happening prior to the birth of the baby, though.

      • avatar Sita says:

        Yes this has been happening for 2 years. I’m betting that her husband is addicted to porn. I’ve seen it happened to two friends. Also he might be having an emotional and internet affair.

        • avatar R Scott says:

          Well, it’s about time! I had to scroll through 8 comments before I ran across “addicted to porn”. Now I can shout  BINGO!   Thanks.

    • avatar toni says:

      Lw2, nobody died. That’s an irritating day. Not a bad day. Grow up and get off the pity pot.

  4. avatar Constance Plank says:


    Turns out my husband wasn’t that much into me. It was a miracle that we had a second kid!

    I remember asking him to come to bed with me, when my first born was under two, he pretended not to know what I was asking, and then I found him whacking off in his office to written porn. He liked masturbation way more than he liked sex with his wife. After all, when he had to make love to me, it wasn’t all about him.

    When I lost all the baby weight and was very fit and toned he liked me even less, because I was “sexy and it scared him.” (Thank you, marriage counseling!)

    This man has left you emotionally. There’s no chance of him changing if you don’t kick his sorry ass to the curb-side. Maybe then he’ll value you. (Maybe then you’ll value yourself!) If he starts to realize what he’s lost, there might be hope. And if he doesn’t, you’re done with him a lot sooner.

    Yes, this is a ‘do as I say, not as I did.’ I won’t bore you with more of my story, but I wish I’d never invited my husband to work in the company I started. I had to lose my company in order to finally lose him. Mind you, I’d probably be supporting him for the rest of my life, so it’s a mixed blessing.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills where there’s a fire.

    • avatar Trish says:

      Good luck Constance. We live in British Columbia, fires are a way of life for us every summer. I’ll be thinking of you, praying for the best.

      • avatar Constance Plank says:


        Thanks for your good thoughts. Wildfires are a way of life here as well. When I checked on the local fire this morning, it’d burnt 2600 acres of land, but due to the very rural surroundings, had burnt only one house and 3 outbuildings. I have 11 acres which are mostly grass and oak meadows. While it is cleared around my house, if there’s ever a near fire with a strong wind, my house will burn.

        As long as my loved ones are safe, I’ll be okay with it.



  5. avatar Trish says:

    LW2: What about the dog? Did you find him/her? What do you mean “ran away”? Did he/she bolt when the door was open or get out of the yard somehow? Does he/she have a micro-chip? IS YOUR DOG OK?

  6. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    Miserable – forget all the advise telling you to immediately dump the guy. I don’t know why Margo said that she didn’t feel that counseling is in the cards, I didn’t get that sense at all. Even without babies, relationships can often go a bit stale – (I often find with people that it seems to either be 7 or 10 years for some reason). We get into habits- ones that don’t necessarily maintain the health of our relationship that well (particularly when we’re more tired – which babies bring).
    You need to lay your cards on the table with him. And not in a nicey nicey way, which is how I surmise you go about asking him to come to bed (very rarely is patronizing the first option when someone is really angry). The fact that he’s attempted to change after these episodes is a good sign. The fact may be that he himself doesn’t really know how to get out of the rut he’s in. And yes – he might be having an affair – or at least an emotional one. You need to tell him that you are both going to couples counseling or else you’re separating. Good luck!

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      He doesn’t attempt to change…he plays the super sweet hubby for one day, then reverts to form. This appears to be his fulfillment of his “promise”. Which is probably how she got pregnant, during one of his 24-hour saccharine sessions. He clearly finds her distress amusing, and his one day only “Love-In” is not an attempt at change or reconciliation, but a patronizing act of condescension.

      Spending his time holed up till 5 am in his home office and finding it a standing joke to smile and pat the silly wifey on the head, then send her to bed alone for two years, prior to and including the time she was pregnant does not sound like the ideal situation to take to couple’s counseling. He sounds like the kind of smug, inward-looking person who will think that he is much more intelligent than the counselor, his wife, and everyone, and who will not take things seriously (and maybe not even then) until he is served with divorce papers.

  7. avatar Briana Baran says:

    LW2: The day I got my very first new couch, friends (actually, a co-worker of my now long-vanished first ex and his wife) begged me to watch their 18 month old son. I was 24 and had no children of my own. They neglected to tell me as they hurriedly dropped him off that he was not only teething, but was running a tremendously high fever and had a stomach virus. He had just had a very heavy lunch. He projectile vomited all over, and I do mean, all over my brand new couch. Everywhere. It looked like three Regan’s from The Exorcist had visited, in Technicolor.

    Point: When I had kids, I made certain to have ALL washable furniture.

    Sadder than the letter itself is the fact that it is in today’s column. Must have been slim pickings. Puking baby, burnt chicken, runaway dog. Does anyone else see a progression of events here?

    DID the dog come back?

  8. avatar Hikerdude says:

    Three things – pet restraint (leash, runner, enclosure), children on age appropriate furniture, oven timer. Sorry you had a bad day, but all three issues were quite easily preventable. Apparently, all survived the ordeal so my advice is to prepare/plan/anticipate, try to laugh (now) about that day, and while you’re laughing, tell hubby that you wish he would be more sympathetic if he comes home and finds you frazzled.

    • avatar bobkat says:

      Maybe she’s sleep-deprived. She could’ve been holding the baby while standing near the silk chair and it threw up and the stuff hit the chair. Having a new baby can be very stressful. She’s lucky the smoke alarm was working and the house didn’t burn down.

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Yeah, something’s rotten here. Why is he asking another gal to go see a movie with him? He’s got YOU. I’d divorce him, unless you want to go on sleeping alone for the rest of your life and “living with” rent-a-dad. He can still be a good father after the divorce. You don’t have a life together. I’d make it official.

    L #2: Things certainly do seem to go in 3’s.

  10. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Wasn’t it Elvis who never again slept, so to speak, with Priscella after she’d given birth? Something’s out of kilter here, and I don’t see anything short of separation and divorce to get your life back on track. Do it while you still have friends, because from their point of view you are fast becoming a nut case who ignores their advice the same way your housemate ignores you.  

  11. avatar msmary says:

    Margo’s advice to separate was on the nose, but first, LW needs to consult the best family law attorney she can find. This was one of the things Nora Ephron listed in her book “I Feel Bad About My Neck”. “File for divorce the minute you separate. You can always change your mind. ” She was right, and I wish I’d had that advice when I separated from my now ex-husband. It was a costly error.

  12. avatar martina says:

    LW2 – If that were all that happened on the worse day of my life, I would have been laughing right along with my husband.

    My daughter and I lost my mother-in-law’s pekinese, Tilly, on our 15 acres of land in the middle of the night when we let her out to “go”.  My mother-in-law had just passed away and Tilly was all my husband had left of her.  Boy were we freaking out – after much frantic searching with flashlights, Tilly came home just before my husband did and he never did find out that we had lost her.

    We’d never planned on getting a dog and she was 12 when we got her and I was thinking she would live only another couple of years.  That was six years ago.  We just put her down shortly after her 18th birthday. She was a tremendous comfort to my husband.

  13. avatar mayma says:

    LW2, check back in when you’re worried about how to pay for your kid’s insulin shots, or when your boss is an unhinged tyrant, or when you want to go back to school but your confidence is shattered by trauma, or when forest fires are headed toward the home you just paid off.

    Seriously, your mentality is … odd, to me. Really, really odd.

  14. avatar sone511 says:

    LW1: I’ve so been there. For years, I couldn’t figure it out because I swore now ex-DH wouldn’t cheat on me, he wasn’t like that. Well, lo and behold, that’s what he was doing all the time. It’s amazing how many bored housewives there are who are available for him to cheat with. There’s no fixing this because he has the best of both worlds – you there to take care of things, full access to his child, plus, all of his “girlfriends” online. RUN, this can’t be fixed.

  15. avatar Rick S says:

    I think a keylogger on your computer would be a start.  It may tell you what he is doing and lead you to the solution. 

    I also wonder what he was like the first 8 years vs the last 2 years.

    You can say a prayer of thanks no one died, was injured or house burned down.  You had a frustrating day and you should have said to your husband when he came home… WE need to go out for dinner.

    • avatar Nikki Sunset says:

      I agree that a keylogger is an excellent first step. Aren’t you dying with curiousity about what he is doing in his office?
      I have no personal knowledge about separation or divorce but would talk to a lawyer how to protect your assets before I separated. This man does not have your best interests at heart, he has his own, and you need to know what your assets are before he starts to hide them.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      I think consulting with an attorney before putting things on the computer that could cause you to commit a crime would be a better idea. Even if you own that computer, you have no right to access his personal accounts without his permission. Some keyloggers do just more than determine keystrokes.

  16. avatar Artemesia says:

    That time in the ‘home office’ is probably spent on line with his lover or maybe a collection of them — or even playing video games. This is a guy who has left the marriage. He is dating someone else when he wants to go to a movie rather than taking his wife.

    Time to see a lawyer and a shrink to help sort out next steps and secure yourself and your child as this guy has both feet out of the marriage.

  17. avatar Noonatic says:

    LW2 1) someone left a door or gate open so the dog got out
    2) Are you insane leaving a baby on a silk ANYTHING?
    3) There are timers on all stoves. Use it.

    You are an idiot whiner. Put your big girl pants on and deal with life. If these are your most pressing problems then you are VERY lucky!

  18. avatar brent finley says:

    Sounds to me like LW#2 has effed up priorities. I accept that the dog running away is a real issue; it is with the other two “major events” that leave me shaking my head.

    Big DEAL! Your husband was right to laugh it off, and you need to get a reality check.

  19. avatar Annie H says:

    Regarding LW #2.  Let’s say that her letter was edited and she went on to say that her bad day went on for three weeks or she said I know it really isn’t much to complain about or whatever. She was whinning a little not a lot and the point of the letter (which a lot of you missed) was does Margo think bad things happen in 3’s.  She was using her day as an example.  Geez people, put your claws away.  By the way, I do believe bad things happen in threes and not necessarily on the same day.

  20. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – At best your husband is sooooooooooooooooo not into you anymore and at worst he’s having an affair (yes, he’s leaving the house when you go to sleep and he’s banging the chick in the text message”. Seprarate and then proceed to divorce. You might as well since you’re not invovled in a marriage anyway.

    LW2 – I want your life..or a least your silk chair (pre baby vomit). You didn’t have a bad day you just had a day.  Is the dog okay?

  21. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – Needs to have a serious conversation with her husband. Not the type she has been having in which he promises to change, things do for a moment and then back to his normal dismissive behavior. No. I mean a real and frank, “What is going on in your life and how do you see our marriage progressing?” type of conversation.

    Because this is the thing that may be happening.

    He may have a crush on this female coworker or he may not like being at home and happy with the whole idea of being a father, husband, head of house role. If that is the  case and she loves him, BEFORE she leaves she should find out what his fears or issues are, because they may be able to be resolved.  My knee jerk reaction usually in this instance would be to say leave him – life is too short. However, I have come to realize that there are a lot of men out there that really do love their wives but at the same time are bored by their home lives. And they don’t take their wives concerns seriously and dismiss their complaints until they are confronted with divorce papers and then its….“Why didn’t she tell me it was that bad, I would have changed, I don’t want to lose my family!” And they really mean it.

    Just like women can be oblivious when it comes to putting up with a man and how he may be mistreating them, dismissing it as “He’ll change” the same can be true with men when it comes to not deeing the damage they are doing in a relationship and how fed up their partner may be.        

    • avatar wendykh says:

      But why do the men get the idea they can do that? In what world can a parent just disappear in the other room after supper never to be seen again until dawn? Oh right, one where mom does all the other stuff. :-/ You know, stuff she probably isn’t thrilled with excitement to be doing either but hey someone has to do it, and dad has decided he simply can’t be bothered. How about growing the heck up and realizing this is a short time in their lives until the kids can happily be with sitters or relatives or more autonomous in the evenings enabling mom and dad some grownup conversation in the sitting room while they play legos in the playroom? Why do they get a free pass to “opt out”? I know you’re not saying that behaviour is *okay*, but how often do you hear of men doing this versus women? Why aren’t these men taking the initiative instead of just opting out?

      That said I agree with you a very real and frank, not anger filled, not demanding, just blunt “where do you see this going?” kind of talk. My experience has not been like yours tho. In my experience the guys say they love their wives, but what they really love is living in a home where food magically appears, clothes are washed and folded, some occasional sex happens, and a family is ready to present at work and community functions. They think this is fine for a marriage, a normal state of affairs, and have no issue with it (and are usually getting sexual fulfillment elsewhere, porn or online, or in the real world). They can’t figure out what on earth her problem is since they have a nice home and vehicles and a baby. He will probably bitch and moan to his family and next partner that she’s some sort of “eat pray love” idiot.