As an addendum to my last posting above, here is a comment with some resonance for me that I noticed from Paul Roark on another forum today:
"I ... don't often use Lightroom. I'm a Photoshop and QTR guy. Learning new software is not what I do for entertainment. I understand LR's attraction for many, but it doesn't have the tools I need, and PS CS5 has the same raw converter -- which I really like. I don't have a database problem that is serious enough to need that LR function."
Actually this is what I thought when I saw your original post today. ACR that comes with Photoshop is the same as in Lightroom. So for Lightroom 3.4 the exact same editing functions exist in ACR for Photoshop CS5. The user interface is different, but the functionality is the same. All edits you have done in Lightroom can be used in ACR if you turn on xmp write in the catalog settings in Lightroom under the metadata tab. If you do this then wait for a while until Lightroom has written all the xmp files. After that you can open a RAW file in Photoshop or Bridge via ACR and all edits are included.
Your wife should be able to help you in understanding the concept of Lightroom! The reason you need to import your pictures into Lightroom is simply to that Lightroom can put an entry into the database (aka. Lightroom catalogue) to reference
that particular image. For RAW files you have on your HD in a folder Lightroom will only reference this RAW file. The RAW file itself is not
in the database. The database only contains information about the RAW image. That information includes all the metadata in the exif data, the location on the HD and all the edits you have done in the develop module on the RAW file. If you turn on xmp write in the catalog settings all this information (except the location on the HD) will be written to the XMP file and the XMP file will be placed in the same folder as the RAW file so ACR knows where to find it when you open a RAW file.
I see Lightroom as what Bridge in Photoshop could have been (and maybe should have been!). Lightroom is my control panel that I almost never leave. I can edit my pictures in the develop module, I can edit in Photoshop from Lightroom and get back into Lightroom when I have done the Photoshop editing. I can group my images in collections. I can edit pictures in different variations using virtual copies. I can also call many other external editing programs like e.g. HDR programs that will be invoked via a plugin in Lightroom. I can publish my pictures to web galleries like Flickr and Smugmug directly from Lightroom. I can print my pictures from Lightroom. I can search all my pictures across HD's and folders without the need to know in which folder a given picture is located.
Remember when you turn on XMP write you will only have a XMP files for each RAW file. Any virtual copies will not have a XMP file. Also there are no XMP file for JPG, TIFF or PSD files you have edited in Lightroom.