DEAR AMY: My marriage of nearly 40 years has been crumbling for a couple of years now, primarily due to my frustration with my husband's negative attitude toward life. (I tend to be joyful.) Now that we are both retired and home, it has hit the proverbial fan. "Barney" is on his phone a lot. He keeps it glued to his side. I wondered what he was up to, so I checked our phone bill (not his phone) and discovered he has been texting a woman he knew from high school at least 350 times a month, sometimes over 30 times a day for the past two years. I think this has a lot to do with our problems. I confronted him and he popped a cork, furious that I checked the phone bill for his text usage. He says I've "broken his trust." I told him this is indicative of an emotional affair, and he swears that since they don't talk about anything sexual, I am wrong. All this time I've been wondering why he doesn't talk to me (and blames me for not talking to him), and he is texting this woman. Can this be an emotional affair if they only talk about their day-to-day activities? I say yes, he says no. I welcome your opinion. He reads your column daily.
Untexted in Texas
DEAR UNTEXTED: Perhaps you have a friend that you text dozens of times a day, but I doubt it.
If you did have a friend that you texted continuously for two years (while at the same time not communicating with your husband), he would very rightly wonder what in the Sam Hill was going on.
You did not violate his privacy by checking the phone bill. Presumably, it's your phone bill, too. While he might consider the contents of his texts private, the details contained on the bill are not.
Also, I wish "Barney" had been paying closer attention to this space over the years. Emotional affairs are different from sexual affairs. Emotional affairs grow when people share intimacies (sometimes about their partners), while excluding their partners. These relationships are every bit as insidious and destructive to a marriage as a sexual relationship.
Barney's anger about your discovery is a "tell." If it was no big deal, then he would show you his text thread, and revel in his innocence.
He could handle this — and recommit to your relationship — by coming clean about this friendship and being emotionally honest with you about it.
DEAR AMY: This past January, my fiancee allowed her daughter's boyfriend, "Thomas" to live with her until he finds a new place. It is now five months later, and we have heard nothing about him moving out. We have learned that he owes $3,500 to his previous landlord, owes money to a bank for loan repayment, and owes the IRS over $10,000 in back taxes. My fiancee and I have purchased a home and are moving there in two months. Her daughter is coming with us and I am under some pressure to allow him, too. He only has a part-time job, and seems to enjoy smoking pot in his free time. This is unacceptable. I told him I want him having a full-time job (doing whatever) and $450 in rent per month. Honestly, I really want him gone, but I do not want to upset my future stepdaughter. What should I do?
DEAR BUSTED: Here's what you shouldn't do: Lay down a lot of specific expectations and demands. Why? Because if the IRS doesn't faze "Thomas," you certainly won’t.
If he owes a previous landlord a substantial sum, why would you even consider becoming his landlord? He has a history of running up debt and bailing.
Don't get tied up financially with this very bad bet. You and your fiancee are moving into a new home. This is the ideal time to say, "We're moving — but Thomas, you're not."
Yes, your future stepdaughter (and possibly her mother) will likely pressure you. But cohabiting with this guy will ultimately be worse for your relationship (with him, and with each other) than delivering the tough love now.
DEAR AMY: I want to echo others who have pointed out why liquor stores are considered "essential" businesses. Anyone who lives with an alcoholic knows that sudden withdrawal is a nightmare and potentially dangerous.
Been There, Recovered
DEAR RECOVERED: Thank you so much for emphasizing this point. I'm sorry I missed it when I responded to this query.