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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I got married (for the first time) three years ago. My husband and I are both in our 40s and are well matched, happily childless and happily married. We bought a house, and both of us have good jobs.

I recently wondered, “What do I have to look forward to?” I couldn’t think of anything. I spent a big part of my adult life searching for a good husband. So now what?

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I have hobbies that I am too worn out to enjoy because of my long commute to work. I search for jobs closer to home, but the job market is tight. Any spare time I have is spent doing laundry, running errands, taking care of the house, and getting ready for work.

I told my husband that we overreached with the purchase of our house. I compromised in that he strongly wanted land and a large home, though I would have been happy with a smaller place. Now we have a mortgage that limits my options because I have to keep the hours and pace of an unfulfilling job to maintain my current level of income.

Is this just life — getting through each day for the sake of doing it again another day? Every day is the same as the next — just waiting for payday to pay our bills, and it starts over again each week. We socialize, but it stresses me because I feel it, too, takes away from the little spare time I have.

A. Sometimes life is alarmingly like that old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?”

Once you’ve been to the circus (the search for the perfect guy, marriage, the house purchase), you look around and wonder, “What’s next?”

You might not be able to make big changes right now. But when you find yourself depleted by the ordinariness of your life, you have to make an effort to enhance your daily experiences.

So look for small changes. Your commute might be more bearable if you find interesting, entertaining, or spiritually satisfying podcasts to listen to.

You will feel less depleted if you and your husband do something purely fun and recreational (like bike riding) together for at least an hour each weekend day. Having fun should occupy one ring in life’s circus, but you need to put it there.

Q. I was widowed almost four years ago after a long and happy marriage. Although I will never forget my husband or stop loving him, I am lonely. It would be nice to occasionally go out to dinner, a movie, or concert with someone.

I know a man I wouldn’t mind going out with, but I am much too shy to suggest it and possibly make us both uncomfortable. He is a widower, and I am not sure he is ready (or interested) in going out with anybody at this time, let alone me.

Do you have any suggestions how to be subtle and make him aware of me but not make it awkward for either of us?

A. You should reach out in friendship toward this man the way you would reach out to anyone in your circle (male or female) — offering friendship instead of romance.

If this man’s loss is more recent than yours, you could say, “I know from my own experience how challenging this is. Do you want to have coffee some time to talk?” I realize this isn’t that subtle, but in this regard, the dynamics of companionship haven’t changed much since high school.

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