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Dear Ann Landers: I have been married to "Laura" for 26 years. She has a degenerative disease and is on a number of medications. There are days she can hardly walk. The problem is that Laura feels it is her "wifely duty" to provide me with sex at least twice a month. Unfortunately, I am no longer attracted to her.

I love Laura with all my heart, but I have no interest in being intimate. When I decline her offers for sex, she accuses me of having a girlfriend. I'm afraid it would hurt her terribly if I told her the truth -- that I see her as an invalid and feel like her caregiver, not her lover.

I have tried hard to put Laura's medical condition out of my mind, but it's impossible. I have offered cuddling instead of sex, but that irritates her, and we end up arguing. Tell me how to make this better.

-- Embattled in North Carolina
Dear Embattled: If ever a couple needed joint counseling, you two are prime candidates. There's a gap the size of Australia between you.

I'm guessing you are in your early 50s -- much too early to give up on sex. Laura needs to feel like a desirable woman, and you must find a way to see her in that light. Competent counseling and good medical attention can be a boon to your marriage. Please get both.

Gram missed out

Dear Ann Landers: I would like to comment on your response to "My Side in Montana." You told her a wise wife will treat her mother-in-law as if she is No. 1 because her husband and, eventually, her mother-in-law will love her for it. You may be right about most mothers-in-law, but you haven't met mine.

When I married "Louis" 30 years ago, I treated his mother as lovingly as I treated my own, but there was no pleasing the woman. She disliked me from the day we met. I was young and idealistic, and believed if I treated her well, she would come around. I was mistaken. She was emotionally abusive and controlling, and tried to break up our marriage. She told her friends I wouldn't let her see the children, when the truth was she had no interest in them. She never bothered to show up for their graduations, weddings or baby showers.

After 25 years, I decided enough was enough. She missed out on being a grandmother and never had a relationship with any of us, so it was no great loss. I wish things could have been different. I never told my mother-in-law how I felt. I simply stopped calling. We haven't heard from her since.

-- Better Off in Houston
Dear Houston: The woman missed what could have been the best part of her life. How sad. You handled the last act just right.

Make an allowance

Dear Ann Landers: My 12-year-old son, "Jonathan," gets a weekly allowance for doing his chores and displaying good behavior. He is responsible with the money and saves most of it.

My husband says Jonathan should not receive any allowance for the four weeks he spent at camp this summer. He claims it would be the same as a "paid vacation." I disagree. I think the boy would feel we were punishing him for attending camp. We have decided to let you settle this for us, Ann. What do you say?

-- Not Spoiling Him in Chicago
Dear Chicago: I say Jonathan should get the money. Children at summer camp usually receive an allowance from their parents to spend on small necessities and occasional treats. It will be interesting to see whether Jonathan squanders the money or saves it. You'll learn a lot about the boy when he makes the choice.

Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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