Dear Annie: Three years ago, my husband, "Albert," had a heart attack after losing a job he'd held since he was 17. He tried consulting for a while, but after his bypass operation, he had a complete personality change and seemed unable to take on anything new. He has trouble concentrating. He has not worked since.

Because he took no interest in anything, Albert could not manage the finances and got us into debt. I had to sell our house before the bank foreclosed, and we've moved twice since.

Now he is at home all the time, and I have lost all autonomy in the house, especially in the kitchen and with our finances. I have become an unpaid housekeeper. Albert controls all the money from his pension and gives me nothing. He has taken over my car and won't maintain it. He refuses to help with housework or home repairs. He sits in his chair all day, reading or watching television.

I have to coax him to wash his hair, cut his nails and go to the barber. We have no social life except at my instigation, and he has lost touch with his friends, most of whom were connected with his work. The man who had a brilliant mind, great energy and sense of humor is no more. He used to be the gentlest of men, but now he loses his temper often. He never is intimate with me.

I realize Albert is depressed, but he refuses to see his doctor (who is aware of his condition but says he can do nothing until my husband actually comes in to see him). He is not religious and scorns any suggestion of spiritual help. We have no family nearby except one daughter who does what she can, but he doesn't listen to her, either. I have nowhere to turn. Please help. —Desperate Wife

Dear Desperate: Albert is not only depressed, he may be having cognitive difficulties as a result of his heart condition. Perhaps you can get him to see his doctor for that purpose, and then the doctor can prescribe antidepressants or refer him for counseling. However, he cannot force Albert to do anything about his depression and neither can you. So, for your own peace of mind, please contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness ( at 800-950-6264 and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance ( at 800-826-3632 for help and information.

Dear Annie: I work with this lady, "Patty." She has been seeing her boyfriend since January. Every day she tells all of us exactly what she and her boyfriend do. It gets so sickening, none of us wants to hear about it.

Don't get me wrong, we are all very happy for Patty, but how can we tell her in a nice way that we don't want to know all the details? —Annoyed at Work

Dear Annoyed: The co-worker closest to Patty should take her aside privately and tell her exactly that — that you are thrilled for her and you know she is excited, but the constant stream of information is more than you can handle. In the meantime, pay less attention. When she starts yakking, tune her out, busy yourself with something else and stop responding in any way.

Dear Annie: "Disappointed in Boston" chided you for suggesting a lie to tell a relative that her perfume was overpowering. You said it was more tactful to say one is sensitive to odors than to tell her aunt that she stinks. I have a quote on my desk by an unknown author that gives a clear rule about just this kind of situation. "Truth is generally kindness, but where the two diverge and collide, kindness should override truth." —Jacksonville, Fla.

Dear Jacksonville: Thanks for the backup. And that wonderful quote is by 19th-century British novelist Samuel Butler. (We looked it up.)

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.