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A TODAY.com panel is here to solve your relationship woes.
updated 11/4/2011 2:36:20 PM ET 2011-11-04T18:36:20

Love dilemmas abound, and here, in our first installment of a weekly advice column, a TODAY.com panel answers questions from two readers dealing with relationship issues. Have your own question? Submit it here.

First, let’s introduce our panelists:

The wise grandma: Kitty Schindler
At age 87, retired nurse Kitty Schindler is TODAY.com’s oldest regular contributor. As one of 10 children raised by a Pennsylvania coal miner during the Depression, she shared her advice on getting through tough times in her Ask Kitty column; now she offers advice from the perspective of a successful long-term relationship — a 61-year marriage.

The relationship expert: Dr. Robi Ludwig
Dr. Robi Ludwig is a National TV commentator and psychotherapist who practices in New York City. She is also the author of the book, “Till Death Do Us Part” as well as a contributor for both Care.com and TODAY.com.

The dude: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a 44-year-old journalist and native New Yorker. Despite possessing a worldview some might describe as “bleak” and/or “cynical,” Alex has been very happily married for a decade, and is the father to two incandescent little children, Charlotte (age 7) and Oliver (age 5).

Question 1: I'm a mature man in a 13-year relationship with a woman I really love. She's got everything I want and one thing I don't want: Facebook. She's on it 12+ hours a day, or is just surfing the web. But she starts at 6 or 7 a.m. and is sometimes on past midnight. I've spoken to her about it but the conversations are going nowhere. Help!

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Kitty says: It’s not much of a conversation then, is it? Women sometimes tend to hold on to relationships long beyond the expiration date because it’s too painful for them to let go. Ask yourself where you want the relationship to go. What future do you see for yourself? It’s time for a mature meeting of the minds. You need honest answers and a change of attitude on her part. Put all your cards on the table and don’t allow her to expect the status quo. Tell her you are unhappy and changes must be made. If she says she needs time to think about it, set a deadline for her answers.

Dr. Robi says: It sounds like your lady love could be suffering from an Internet addiction problem. Internet addictions are similar to impulse-control disorders and are becoming increasingly problematic for people these days. Perhaps you can ask your girlfriend the following questions:

  • Does she feel preoccupied with the Internet?
  • Has she tried to make previous yet unsuccessful attempts to curb or cut back on her use of the Internet, especially when it comes to Facebook?
  • Is she using the Internet and Facebook as a way to escape problems or as a way to turn painful moods into more positive ones?

The other symptoms of unhealthy Internet use can include neglecting friends or family in order to stay online, a withdrawal from other pleasurable activities and feeling guilty or ashamed as a result of this online behavior. If these signs and symptoms appear to apply, you may want to suggest the two of you go for counseling. Counseling can help prevent further harm from happening to your relationship and also help the two of you learn healthier ways to communicate and be with each other.

Alex says: It’s a little mystifying that your lady friend’s continuing to tirelessly surf the Net even after you expressed your displeasure with it. Are you sure she’s not pursuing a covert relationship in cyberspace? Not to be too blunt, but perhaps you’re just not holding her attention the way you used to. Maybe it’s time you either stepped up your game or asked a few more pointed questions.

Question 2: My husband and I have been together for 17 years but every time we go out to dinner or an event, he scans the room and finds a woman who would make eyes with him for the entire time. How can I approach him to stop? Later, when I do bring it to his attention, he denies it. I do feel unappreciated when this happens, but he is very attentive at home.

Kitty says: After the work involved in 17 years of marriage, you are entitled to pleasant evenings out. Next time it happens, bring it to his attention right then and there. Tell him if he doesn’t stop immediately, you will ask the waiter to call a cab for you and go home. That will get more of his attention than some woman across the room.

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Dr. Robi says: It sounds like your husband has a tremendous need to build his ego and test out how attractive he is to other women. This might be fine if he wasn’t married and if you didn’t care. The best way to handle this situation is to address it. Let him know you appreciate how attractive he is to other woman, but that it really makes you feel bad when he engages in these long flirtations, especially when he’s at a party with you.

Perhaps he’s unaware of how you feel and you need to make him aware. You can also ask him how he would feel if you did this to him when the two of you were together at an event. Let him know you appreciate how normal it is to find other women attractive, but to be so obvious about it in front of you makes you feel very uncomfortable and upset. Hopefully this new awareness will help your husband treat you in a way that makes you to feel more loved and appreciated!

Alex says: Lots of married guys console themselves with the ol’ “there’s no harm in looking” defense, but if your allegations are correct, it seems like your man might be crossing the line between being harmlessly flirty and, well, sleazily predatory. I understand that you’ve already called him on it, and maybe you don’t want to make a federal case out of it, but if it’s making you feel underappreciated, you need to be heard. For a start, you could give his obviously very active libido a jolt by creating a little distance and withhold any physical intimacy. Honestly, he needs to cut that crap out.

Do you agree with this advice? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

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