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Old flame is no reason to let marriage fizzle

Q: My wife and I are in our 50s. We've been together for 30 years and have children. I just found out that she began dating me only so she could make another man she was dating jealous. Ever since I found out, I cannot look at my wife. I cannot even talk to her. All I want to do is die. I feel like I've been living a 30-year lie. Please tell me what I should do.

Mia: This is seriously bothering you? Who cares why she started dating you – what matters is that she liked you enough to stick around, marry you, have kids and make a life together! A 30-year marriage is a pretty awesome achievement. And I doubt she spent all those years with you just to make someone jealous. I think you should forget it and count your blessings. But if you can't let it go, ask her. I bet she'll laugh and say she stopped caring about the other guy after about two dates with you.

Steve: If you've had a happy 30-year marriage with two kids, what the heck difference does it make why she first went out with you? But since it is weighing on your mind, you need a thorough discussion of it with your wife. And if that doesn't provide closure, I suggest counseling to find out why this morbid feeling has taken such a hold of you.

Q: I'm writing about your use of the term “go south” when you advised a young woman to get a lawyer to protect her interests in case “things go south with your boyfriend.” I'm sure you meant no harm, but I find it offensive to all who are Southern born and bred. The terms “go south” and “gone south” are only used when something goes wrong. I respectfully request that you and Mia join me in an effort to teach folks to use a less offensive term.

Steve: As someone who is a half-blooded Dixie boy, I would never knowingly insult a son or daughter of the South. So I quickly consulted the “American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms,” Robert Chapman's “Dictionary of American Slang” and The New York Times' word maven, William Safire. I have good news. The term “go south” has nothing to do with “the South” or American Southerners. There are a couple of origins for the word. The first is in cartography, the fact that south is down on a map. It began as a metaphor for “down” as in “the stock market headed south yesterday.” The second origin is Native American: Some tribes believed the soul flew south when it departed the body. Thus, going south became synonymous with dying (or some other bad thing). Feel offended no more.

Mia: Well, who am I to disagree with William Safire? Nice work, Steve.

Steve (not his real name) is 50-something and has been married to his second wife for 20 years. Mia (not her real name) is a 20-something single immersed in the dating scene. If you want answers to your romantic troubles, e-mail them at S& M@phillynews.com or write: S&M, c/o Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.

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