Dear Annie: I am trying to decide if I should print out the following letter and give it to my wife. What do you think?

Dear Leigh: My goal here is not to blame or accuse or criticize. I just want to find a way to better communicate. Please don't get angry or frustrated or feel like I am trying to attack you because that is not the case.

The area I am writing about today is intimate relations. We have talked about them before and I've really tried to provide the requested time, space and distance since last summer. Unfortunately, I've not seen any real improvements in this area. My purpose is not to criticize or cast blame or anything more than to clear the air and understand needs and expectations. We have virtually no sex life. I have been the "initiator" in every encounter over the last few months. In the past year, you've had three, possibly four overnight sleepovers at the homes of various female friends, leaving your husband and small child at home.

My bottom line is that I feel like we are roommates who sleep in the same bed and raise a child together. We seem to live our own lives other than that. My weight gain hasn't helped, and I know that, too.

At any rate, regardless of what the answers are, I really need you to be clear and honest with me, with respect to whether you have ever fulfilled your physical needs elsewhere since we got married 14 years ago, or even if you wanted to but didn't follow through. Have you been thinking about it? If so, and you've yet to take action, is this something you want to explore? These questions keep me up at night. We need to talk about these things, no matter what the answers are. -- Mitch

Dear Mitch: While it's important to have eye-to-eye heart-to-hearts with your spouse, letters can be a great way to broach sensitive subjects that might otherwise arouse defensiveness. The format gives each partner space to organize and communicate his or her thoughts and feelings. So, yes, give your wife this letter, along with a day to herself to read, absorb and articulate a response.

That said, this is but one tool. A marriage counselor could equip you with a full kit for rebuilding the channels of communication and repairing the foundation of your marriage.

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