DEAR MARY ANN: My husband and I have been married for almost 30 years. He is in his mid-50s, looks great for his age and has money to burn. He has always been good with women, and women have always liked him back. To my knowledge these have been platonic relationships. Recently, however, he has been seeing (again on a platonic basis) much younger women, mostly women in their 30s but also some still in college. These women are always attractive, smart, sexy and ambitious. He is not interested in any other kind. We have talked about this, and he insists he is just being friendly and giving advice to young people on how to get ahead in their careers. I have been looking the other way. Is this the correct thing for me to do?
-- THE WIFE
DEAR WIFE: Married men and women have friendships with other people outside of the marriage. Your husband's pattern of relationships with the women you describe does not sound like these are true friendships. Under the disguise of mentoring he has granted himself a license to ogle. While giving counsel on how to break the glass ceiling to these much younger and sexy women, he is actually breaking your heart.
Your husband is cheating on you. When you look the other way to save face you erode your own self-esteem. Tell your husband how much his behavior hurts you. The truth you share with each other is the foundation and core of your relationship.
After 30 years of marriage you may continue to prefer to keep the status of "wife" in spite of your husband's behavior. Your husband may never stop playing the Don Juan role with young women. Be confident in the knowledge, however, that if you ever decided to take your husband to the cleaners, that afterward, even wrapped in pink cellophane and tied with a bow, he would not be as attractive or as comfortable. As things stand he can enjoy mentoring younger women with absolutely no commitment on his part because of the safety your marriage provides. You have more power than you realize.
DEAR MARY ANN: For more than a decade, I and about 10 other women have belonged to a book club. Recently, one of the members has taken over the scheduling of meeting times, and that seems to have triggered her "take over" of the group, where she imposes rules unilaterally. More importantly, she has become dominant in discussion of the books and very disrespectful of anyone else's view, smirking at their comments and in a condescending manner explaining why she thinks they "just don't get." This intimidates several members from offering their opinions. While we all seem to recognize this as bullying, we each seem hesitant to challenge her because of the upheaval it will create. This change is threatening the continuation of the club, which is a pity since this has become a close-knit group. How can adults resolve bullying?
-- BULLIED IN THE BOOK CLUB
DEAR BULLIED: Ten years is a long time for 10 women to be together discussing books. Don't discontinue the club and lose the close-knit friendships you have created.
Bullying is the buzz word today. From preschools to retirement homes it is rearing its ugly head. Your club member is certainly acting like a bully: She is using humiliation, intimidation and embarrassment to raise her own self-esteem. Could something else be going on in her life to cause her to act this way?
Some book clubs use the meetings to refuel friendships, drink wine and play Steel Magnolia as they analyze plots; in some close-knit clubs the actual review of the book is not the No. 1 priority. This member may be acting like a bully because she has outgrown the group. She sees the club as more of a social gathering than an intellectual one; she views herself as getting things back on track.
Personalities and priorities change in 10 years. Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Don't remain silent while she takes over; don't permit her to intimidate or ridicule. Everyone in the group should be comfortable in voicing their opinion and point of view. This woman's controlling behavior may cause her to review her last chapter with your book club.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.