DEAR ABBY: My wife and I were married 30 years when we ran into an old girlfriend (and ex-fiancee) of mine at a function. I spent a good part of the evening dancing with her and ignoring my wife. My wife says I was “indecent” with the girlfriend, and it hurt her badly.

It was 20 years ago, but my wife lets me hear about it every day. I can’t take it any longer. She refuses to get help or forgive me. Our marriage has gone downhill ever since. What do you recommend I do to make it up to her? I’ve tried a few things, to no avail.

— PAST ISN’T IN THE PAST

DEAR PAST: Your performance at that function must have been deeply humiliating to your wife. Was your regrettable behavior with your ex-fiancee a one-time thing or has it happened since?

You stated this happened 20 years ago and you have attempted to make amends to no avail. Unless there’s more to this story than you have written, it appears your wife enjoys carrying a grudge and punishing you — which is, in my opinion, worse than what you did.

Please quit allowing her to continue to punish you. Get counseling if you need to, and offer her the option of counseling again. Understand that if she refuses, you have important decisions to make about your future. Discuss with your therapist what emotionally healthy options there may be for you, but don’t continue to settle for the status quo.

DEAR ABBY: My husband’s mother passed away recently after a long illness. She lived in another state. He couldn’t be there while she was sick or when she died because he was also ill. He carries a lot of guilt about it.

I saw a cellphone message from her before she died, saying she was dying and asking him to come help her. I deleted it because hearing it would have put added stress on him and made him sicker. Now I feel guilty. Should I keep quiet or confess? He still is not well.

— GUILTY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

DEAR GUILTY: You made a rational choice for a solid reason when you decided to delete the message instead of sharing it with your husband. If you feel you must “confess,” disclose it to your spiritual adviser or someone you can trust who is closer to you than I am. Personally, considering the state of your husband’s health, I think the choice you made was the correct one.

DEAR ABBY: I’ve been dating my widower boyfriend for four years, and for my birthday this year he gave me an inexpensive tea kettle. (I don’t drink tea.) I had been hinting that I would love a piece of fine jewelry because I have never received anything like that from him. Should I say something? A pretty necklace or a bottle of my favorite cologne are things I would have preferred — something thoughtful and meaningful. I feel sad and unappreciated.

— ANONYMOUS IN MICHIGAN

DEAR ANONYMOUS: You appear to be involved with someone who has little imagination or is frugal to a fault. Tell your widower boyfriend (of four years) how you felt about receiving a kettle for your birthday, because you hoped for something that showed he had given more thought to what you might prefer. Then, instead of hinting, educate him about the items on your wish list when your next birthday rolls around.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

— ANDREWS MCMEEL

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