DEAR ABBY: I am so lonely. My husband refuses to communicate with me or do anything with me. The only outlet I have is work and school. I would like to end this misery, but I don’t know where to begin. We have been married for 17 years. I have never been unfaithful to him, although I have thought about it – not for the physical aspect, but for the communication. – DESPERATE FOR SOMEONE TO TALK TO

Has your marriage always been this way? When did this “great silence” begin? Most important, why have you tolerated an emotional “starvation diet” for so long?

If you think your marriage is worth saving, offer your husband the chance to repair it through marriage counseling – but be prepared for it to take some time, because old habits are hard to break. If not, then accept the fact that you have suffered enough, and formalize the reality that you haven’t really been married in a very long time.

DEAR ABBY: I am shy. I am by no means painfully shy, but I tend to be more of an observer when I first meet people. Once I’m comfortable I can open up and be myself. Sometimes it’s only minutes, but other times I need to meet someone more than once. Many of my friends have told me their first impression of me was that I was extremely snotty. This is wrong. I’m a very kind person.

I have accepted this personality trait, but it may be interfering with my finding a job. I was recently laid off, and I’m applying for and interviewing for a new one. However, after numerous interviews I have not been invited back for a second one.

I work in public relations, where personality can be a key in hiring. I believe my shyness is hindering me from “wowing” potential employers. How can I overcome it and give a better first interview? – WANTS TO BE HIRED IN WISCONSIN

Public relations is a form of sales, and in sales first impressions are essential. An interview is not a social situation, where you can look someone over and decide whether or not to open up. This is business, and if you’re going to get hired you are going to have to sell yourself. So start working on your sales pitch. Tell potential employers what makes you the right person for the job.

Your friends and family can help you by role-playing practice interviews. Ask them to honestly critique you. If you have been working with a placement agency, discuss this with the person who has been sending you on these interviews. His or her input could also be helpful.

If this doesn’t make your job search more successful, then perhaps it’s time to extend your search into other fields besides public relations.

DEAR ABBY: Is there a polite response to the question, “How are you?” in situations when your life is horrible, but you would rather not talk about it (i.e., divorce)? – DEVASTATED IN HIGHLAND, UTAH

If you would really prefer not to talk about “it,” the response you should give is, “Fine, thanks – and how are you?” This will deflect attention from yourself and onto the other person.

When you are ready to deal with follow-up questions, all you have to say is, “How am I? I’ve had better days!” And nine times out of 10 the person will pounce on the opening.

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

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