Dear Amy: I'm an older man and have been married for a long time.
It is not a "terrific" marriage, but I've lived it for so long that I'm just used to it.
A few years ago I met a single woman.
One thing led to another, and we spent the night together.
I've carried on a sort-of relationship with this woman, and she's now demanding I drop my wife to be with her.
Based on things she has said, I know she's only after my money.
I also know she's sleeping with other men.
I want to get her out of my life, but she has threatened to tell my wife all if I don't "get my act" together.
I've tried everything I can think of without making her mad enough to do it (I honestly don't know if she would or not).
I can't come clean; it would kill my wife (her health is poor).
I know I'm a stupid jerk for getting into this, but I've never done this before and feel so guilty about it.
I need help.
Stupid in Texas
Dear Stupid: I'm going to trust your assessment that this revelation would actually harm your wife. All the same, you need to steel yourself for the worst-case scenario and strategize ways to protect your wife from the worst consequences of your stupidity.
Tell your "sort-of" girlfriend that you have gotten your act together and that you plan to recommit to your marriage and you won't be seeing her anymore.
The only power she has is through your fear; remove this power by being certain about your decision and cutting off contact.
This is the plot for an old-school film noir. Don't play the stooge.
If she threatens you or wants money in exchange for her silence (Barbara Stanwyck-style), that's a matter for the police.
If you belong to a religion, this would be an ideal matter to bring before clergy. You need to discuss your guilt.
Dear Amy: I've been happily married for over 20 years to my husband, who is also my best friend.