Dear Amy: I have been married to the love of my life now for almost five years. When we were dating, we both expressed a desire to have children. After we got married, we got two dogs that fulfill my needs. I no longer want children. I am content with our life.
My wife still wants children. Should I agree to have children to satisfy her need for motherhood and fulfill an unspoken promise? She got married with the understanding that children would be part of the equation. I know this upsets her, and understandably so.
I feel that if I agree to have children I will be miserable and regretful for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I am heartbroken that she is so upset over the matter. How can we resolve this?
— Unsure in Anchorage
Dear Unsure: When you feel your life is perfect as it is, it is common — and rational — to want things to stay exactly as they are.
One reason having pets is so fulfilling is because, unlike children, they don't grow up and present mysterious and ever-changing challenges. But ask yourself: Before you got your dogs, did you know how having them would affect you? Did you know how much you would grow to love them?
Nobody knows for sure how having a baby will affect them; for many women, the human biological drive to have children overrides this anxiety.
You should talk to other men about this; listen as they describe their experience of fatherhood. Watch the excellent television show "Parenthood," which portrays the ups and downs and chaotic imponderables and rewards of having children.
You and your wife should also seek professional (and/or clergy) counseling. If you do the work of trying to imagine your life with a child and still decide against it, you should be honest with her; she will then have a tough choice to make.
Dear Amy: I lost my left leg below the knee over 20 years ago. Now that my husband has died, I've been thinking of re-entering the dating world.
How would I bring up my disability to a date? My friends tell me not to tell them until an intimate situation arises, and I can visualize the man running from the room and being completely humiliated.
Some of my friends say to be open and honest at the beginning and bring up the disability immediately.
I feel if a man asked me out and I brought up my amputation, he would make some excuse to get out of it. I'm in my early 50s and feel I have few dating years left but am insecure about my leg.
What do you suggest?
— One-Legged Lady
Dear Lady: I have news for you: We are all amputees of one kind or another. Some of us have had our hearts broken; we have illnesses, anxieties, painful pasts or fears for the future.
None of this is appropriate "first date" material. Dating should be all about getting to know a person, but not at warp speed. There should be a gradual unfolding as you speak your truth. I assure you, if someone develops deep feelings for you, your amputation is not going to matter. But this should not be held as a deep dark secret, to be revealed in the bedroom. I think this is an approximately fifth-date revelation.
Dear Amy: The letter from "Old-fashioned Aunt," who was dismayed her wedding gift check was cashed so quickly, reminded me of a lesson I learned when I was involved in a fundraising event: Never let a donor get the canceled check before he or she gets a thank-you note from you.
I found it was a great way to stay on the right path as far as getting thank-yous out and not putting them off, and people were pleased and appreciative enough that I could usually count on them for a donation again the following year.
— Maureen in Belgrade Lakes, Maine
Dear Maureen: Excellent advice. Thank you for passing it along.