Dear Miss Emily: I wonder if you can give me some advice? I have been thinking of leaving my husband for some time now. Recently I have been in touch with an old flame who seems to want us to get back together, and regrets us having split up. Trouble is, I think he is blurring the issue. I used to be in love with this man, and he is offering me a way out of my marriage, but I am thinking that what I should do is leave my husband anyway, and spend some time on my own. My husband is, I suppose, a bascially good man. But he can't read or write, and I am responsible for everything in our house that remotely involves literacy, including filling out his application forms for jobs, finance, etc. We have only been married six years, and I wanted it to be for life -- but I think if I am married to him much longer, I am going to lose my marbles. I have tried getting him to think about adult literacy classes, but he says he is too old, and digs his heels in. It's not just that, though. He is eleven years older than I am, and seems to want the same sort of relationship that his parents have, and they are in their eighties! I am only 40, I do have a son, but he is 21, has a girlfriend and a job. I just don't know how to leave my husband with the least amount of pain (if that's even possible -----------------------------Miss Emily's advice--------------------------- What timing! I recently read a Dear Abby ( or was it Dear Amy) in the newspaper that addressed illiteracy. Most of them were quite possitive. Despite the obvious drawback in not knowing how to read or write, the people mentioned were talented, capable and intelligent in all other respects. At one time, you probably saw this deficit as something that could be overlooked because of other attributes that your husband possessed. That said, I am also keenly aware that some "red flags" are rationalized away when they should not have been. It is an unreasonable assumption to think someone will change after marriage. This old flame of yours may not be the answer, although I know you are eagerly looking for one. He may very well be a fantasy that would turn out to be a major flop in reality. But you know that, don't you? I think living on your own would be a good start to figuring out what you want to do. Call it a separation. It's the classic "baby steps" approach, and it would be the best plan for both you and your husband. It's possible that you and he will decide to reconcile. And, yes, there's no easy way to tell him you want to leave. But if you emphasize that you wish to sort out your feelings by creating space between you and him, it will allow him to keep some dignity and, hopefully, avoid the pain that would come from asking for an immediate divorce. It would be premature, from my point of view, but you definitely need time to clear your head and make the best choices under these rather delicate circumstances.