Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I discovered my husband of 23 years is having an emotional affair with a younger co-worker that he supervises (it is supposedly over). This woman has also met me. He has known her for 10 years and recruited her to work in his office. He has told me she reminds him of me. He has said the relationship was not physical. She is also married with very young children. We have two kids, one in college and one in 10th grade. We have crushing debt and sadly live paycheck to paycheck. There is not enough cash for him to move out. We have no savings, and no real college fund. I would like for us to work on our marriage and at least stay together until the youngest graduates, at which time we can sell our home and move to less expensive places. I can forgive the emotional affair, but I cannot forgive forcing us into financial ruin. My husband is turning 50 and has had a difficult professional career. He has been depressed and has a difficult relationship with our kids. We had both started new jobs four years ago with a plan to improve our situation. I don’t know what to do. We have gone to counseling, where he was told to move out, even though we told the therapist we have no money. I want to do what’s best for our kids.

Scorned

DEAR SCORNED: You have conflated two issues — your husband’s emotional infidelity, which you say you can forgive, and your financial situation, which you blame on him.

You don’t provide details about your husband’s behavior, but unless he gambled away your mutual earnings, it is unclear why he is solely responsible for your debt.

It seems that, in addition to marriage counseling, you would both benefit from financial counseling. Selling your house now, during a healthy market, and renting a house might be the best move for you.

Tackling your financial problems together, without blame or shame, and making mutual tough choices to economize could help to pull your relationship back from the brink.

For inspiration, read, “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness,” by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey (2013, Thomas Nelson).

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DEAR AMY: You receive lots of questions from older readers who complain about not being adequately thanked for gifts they have given to young people. While helping an 8 year-old boy write thank-you cards for gifts he received last Christmas, he made an observation: He is always expected to write thank-you cards, but never receives them. He said that an older relative told him it’s important to write thank-you cards because it makes the giver feel appreciated and special. He suggested that, “Maybe if kids knew how special it felt to get a thank-you card, we would be more excited to make other people feel that way.”

This has stuck with me all year long.

Thankful

DEAR THANKFUL: I often wonder if the people who are so concerned about others’ expressions of gratitude take the time to demonstrate this important value in their own lives.

Your young friend’s observation is wise, as well as profound. I’m sure it will inspire many people to reexamine their own behavior. Thank you.

DEAR AMY: “Wondering Girl” was a teen girl who had a crush on a guy who seemed to be picking on her. In addition to other things, he told her he wanted to help change her into “being a better person.” Please stop equating a guy having a crush on you with abuse. You old “Wondering” that “his behavior toward you is the equivalent of a fourth-grader punching a girl in the arm when he likes her.” If we are going to end domestic violence in this country, we have to teach people, especially our children, that hurting people is not a sign of affection. We all need to use our words. In addition, if this guy is already trying to change her, this is not a healthy relationship. Your friends accept you for who you are, flaws and all. They point out troublesome behaviors they see in you without being mean. Maybe this guy does have a crush on “Wondering.” Or maybe he’s just a jerk. Been there, done that.

Kim

DEAR KIM: I don’t consider fourth graders punching each other in the arm as “abuse,” but I take your excellent point and your interpretation of this dynamic, and I thank you for offering it.