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Ring up one for discussion

Dear Carolyn: What is your opinion of married men who refuse to wear a wedding ring? My husband of many years took his off a few years ago, and has steadfastly refused to put it back on even though I've stated repeatedly that it would mean a lot to me if he would wear it again. My gut says he's either cheating on me or looking for the opportunity to cheat. -- Mine's On

A: Please consider that the real source of your distress isn't that your husband goes ringless, but that you have no idea why -- neither why he does it nor why its importance to you isn't persuasive. Consider that the real worry isn't his possible intimacy with someone else, but instead the lack of intimacy between you two.

If you agree that's the case, then please say as much to your husband. Make it clear to him that you're not peering at collars and credit card bills looking for signs of other women. Instead, you're looking for him, because you miss him.

Even if your gut is right that his attentions are elsewhere, this will make it clear that yours are something he needs to face.

> Cheating spills over

Dear Carolyn: My parents recently went through a very ugly divorce. My mother cheated on my father. While their marriage was falling apart, I was being proposed to by my soon-to-be husband. Wedding planning has been challenging. I am worried about how my parents' families will behave at the wedding.

My mother and I don't have much of a relationship, but we are working on rebuilding. My father asked me if I would be inviting her to the wedding. I explained to him that it's a possibility.

He responded by telling me that if she comes he won't attend, which seems pretty selfish . We plan to keep families separated as much as possible. I explained this to him but he doesn't seem to care. He keeps saying this is "his problem" but fails to realize the impact it has on me. What to do?

-- Overwhelmed Bride-to-Be

A: I'm sorry your happy occasion is shot through with sadness.

Some ways to clarify things:

(1) "No, Dad, it's my problem, too -- I have two parents, even though one hurt the other terribly."

(2) Think about what's really at stake here: Are you afraid your family will embarrass you in front of other guests? Are you afraid any fighting will ruin the experience for your guests?

(3) Take whatever fears you identify in No. 2, and compare them against the idea of excluding your mom, and of having your dad boycott. Project to 10 years from now. What's your worst case? When the best outcome isn't an option, it's useful to think in terms of being able to live with yourself.