Dear Neil: My husband spends most of his free time in front of the TV, and he hates it when I try to talk with him while he is watching something. I earn more money then he does, and I have a passion for salsa dancing. Although my husband knows how to salsa, he doesn't want to be my partner. We've been married for 13 years and have no kids. We can spend days without talking to each other. What can I do? I don't want to live like this.
Unhappy in France
Dear Unhappy: TV is for most people a way to escape their day-to-day lives. It's how people normally avoid real engagement with each other, and it gives a convenient excuse for sidestepping or ignoring real-life problems and issues.
Ask your husband when it would be a good time - today or tomorrow - to talk without the TV on. If he commits to a time and honors it, tell him that you feel ignored and lonely in the marriage, and that you want the two of you to be closer, to talk much more frequently and to do more fun things together. Tell him you want the marriage to take on a greater importance than it does now, and for the TV to be less dominant and less important to the two of you. Then ask him how he feels about the marriage, and if there are any changes he would be interested in the two of you making. Such a conversation is long overdue in your relationship, and will hopefully allow the two of you to clear the air and make important changes.If he won't agree to less time in front of the TV, he has checked out from the marriage, and has given up trying to have a relationship with you. It is up to all of us to make sure that TV (or any other huge distractions) don't become more important than our significant relationships. Absolutely no one says on their deathbed that they wish they had watched more television.
Dear Neil: I am a 27-year-old woman who has been in a one-year relationship with a 28-year-old man. Our relationship is very strong: we laugh together, are supportive of each other and we have great sex. We've been talking about marriage for four months, but the other night, he told me he's not sure he wants to get married at all. I feel hurt, confused and misled. I want to have children, and I do not have time for a relationship that will not lead to marriage, even if it is as good as this one is. What do I do?
Should I Hang It Up? in Minnesota
Dear Hang It Up: You may be ready for marriage and a family, but that doesn't mean your boyfriend is, and this difference may indeed be a deal-breaker for your relationship. Tell him that you're looking for a husband and children, that those are non-negotiable goals and desires of yours, and that you will not remain in a relationship with him unless his future goals and intentions match yours. You might be willing to negotiate when marriage and a family take place, but not if. If he says he is open to your goals, give him a deadline to meet that's not far into the future. When the time comes, if he can't take that step, he is saying he is not ready for the commitment you're wanting. But my instinct says he is already telling you he is not ready for what you want, and this relationship is likely not going to be "the one."
Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I met online and have been together for nearly a year. He is a good guy, is honest with me, takes good care of me and spends his free time with me. But I recently found out that he is still going on that dating website where we met. Does it sound like he is keeping his options open?
Wondering in Australia
Dear Wondering: Yes, it does.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777or by emailing him through his website at www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.