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Steve and Mia | Tips on breaking up without cracking up


Steve is a 50-something married man who's been around the block. Mia is a 20-something single immersed in the Center City dating scene. They may not agree, but they have plenty of answers. If you'd like an answer to your romantic troubles, e-mail them at S& or write: S&M c/o Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, PA 19101.

Q: I'm in my late 20s. I've had a couple of serious relationships that ended badly for me. To get over it, I drank too much, which just made things worse. The last one took at least six months before I could get back to normal, and I almost lost my job. I know everyone has to go through breakups, but can you suggest ways to cope that aren't self-destructive?

Steve: When a woman dumped me, I'd turn out all the lights in my apartment and listen to Dylan songs. "Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there . . . "

I can see where this might not be for everybody.

Another strategy would be to immerse yourself in activities with good friends, co-workers. Maybe even jump right back in the pool by signing up for 10-minute dating. Above all, though, avoid drinking. It makes things worse, not better.

Mia: Music can help. I once played Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" on a continuous loop after a breakup.

That's not for everyone, either. Still, a six-month bender sounds like a really unhealthy way to handle this. Have you considered seeking counseling to better manage your emotions? A good therapist should be able to teach you techniques to avoid hitting the bottle.

Q: What's the best way to divide household chores between a couple? Whenever I try to talk to my husband about getting some help around the house, he says I'm being a nag. But I'm sick of doing everything myself!

Mia: You both live there, so either share household jobs or hire a regular maid service. Try to decide what you each would prefer to do - you cook, he does dishes, etc. - and come up with a plan of action. If he won't listen, I suggest halting all housework until he rebels.

Steve: Remind him that marriage is a joint project. I like Mia's idea of making a list and taking turns choosing the chores.

Q: I have been married for 24 years and have two teenage kids. I have learned that my wife has had two affairs - with a guy in Florida and a local guy who is also married. I talked to both, and they said my wife told them our marriage was over. What should I do? I don't want to hurt my children. Should I move out and start over?

Mia: You never mentioned what your wife has said about all this. Is she apologetic? Does she want to give your marriage another go? If not, then there's no point trying. If she's willing to work at it, perhaps you could try marriage counseling.

Steve: Your wife told her lovers that the marriage is over but didn't tell you or the kids? Cold, man. You two need a full and open discussion of what's going on. If she does want to end the marriage, suggest that she move out.

Q: My younger brother moved in with me and my wife about four months ago after he lost his job. He's only 24 and doesn't seem to have any ideas about what he wants to do next. He spends most of his time sleeping, watching TV and surfing the Internet. I'm not sure he's done anything to get a new job. He's starting to drive my wife nuts. How can I encourage him without threatening to kick him out?

Steve: You can't. Some folks just can't resist taking advantage of a soft touch. Tell your bro that the missus is getting tired of the arrangement, and he has six weeks to get a job and move out. If he doesn't do either by then, throw him out.

Mia: If you don't feel comfortable threatening to kick him out, tell him he must pay room and board if he wants to continue living with you. Set a date by which he has to pay up. Once he has a job, you can start encouraging him to get his own place. *