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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I have been married for 20 years. During much of that time, my husband has accused me of sleeping with some of the men I’ve worked with. Though I am friends with my co-workers, I have never been unfaithful.

I have come to discover my husband has been having sexually explicit conversations with a girl he knew from high school. I have found his profile on dating sites listing him as “single and looking for a commitment.”

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I am unsure if he has been having affairs all this time and has been blaming me to lessen his own guilt. How should I approach this, or should I just cut my losses and not look back? I have tried to pretend there isn’t an elephant in the room, as we still have one child at home, but I have a hard time looking at him.

A. If you chose to cut your losses, what would that process be like? Would you leave a note for your husband and child on the kitchen table, and “Thelma and Louise” it in your Mustang convertible? After 20 years, you have to deal with your marriage, even if you ultimately choose to leave it.

I think it’s probable, if not likely, that your husband has created a smoke screen of cheating accusations in order to obscure his own behavior. You could start a conversation by taking that elephant in your living room out for a little stroll. Reply to one of his online dating profiles.

“You’re seeking commitment? Awesome! So am I!” you can say. Then you can take your conversation to the office of a professional marriage counselor.

Q. Our daughter (who is a freshman in high school) has told us that she is physically attracted to girls as well as boys. She thinks she may be bisexual, as she currently has a “crush” on a girl. She has joined the Gay-Straight Alliance at school and enjoys hanging out with new friends who are gay. She also has been active in theater and choir for several years and knows gay people from those activities.

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I am OK with her having those friendships, but I am not comfortable with her pursuing same-sex physical relationships at her age. If she decides to live this lifestyle as an adult, we will certainly continue to love and support her. How do we approach the next four years of high school relationships?

A. Sexual awareness, acceptance, and ongoing sexual education should be an important part of every thoughtful parent’s playbook.

I’m confused (and your daughter will be too) about your definition of unacceptable sexual behavior. If same-sex sexual relationships during high school make you uncomfortable, would your daughter having a sexual relationship with a boy be OK with you? If not, you should definitely let her know. Speak the truth — often — and with honesty and affection. And listen more than you talk.

There are very good reasons not to become sexually intimate before you are mature enough to handle it. The emotional intensity, for one thing, can be overwhelming. The risk of pregnancy and STDs is very real. You sound like very thoughtful people, and it is great that your daughter is so open with you. Reach out to PFLAG (www.pflag.org) for more information about how to parent your daughter well. And realize that her sexuality is not a “lifestyle” but very much part of her core identity. Her sexual identification may change, but this is less a choice than a very human process.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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