DEAR AMY: I found out that my husband of more than 20 years has been using teenage “escorts” that he has found online. He has spent more than $20,000 and given me an STD. We have two college-age children and I am literally sick to my stomach about this. In addition to his other offenses, he is very cheap with our children and has used money that should have gone toward tuition on this horrible pursuit. This past Christmas was the absolute worst. To keep up appearances, I behaved as normally as I could; he was completely withdrawn. I assume the kids noticed this. I am definitely going to ask for a divorce. He says he wants mediation, but I am leaning toward a court battle. If we can be civil — not likely — mediation would be less expensive and more private. A court battle would put everything out in the open, and I don’t think either of us wants that. Your advice?
DEAR SAD: In order to have a court battle, you have to have a legal issue to fight about. (I am not a lawyer, and you should consult one.)
Your husband’s infidelity and giving you an STD might be legal grounds for divorce in states that have “fault” divorce, but in “no-fault” states, his actions might not matter as much as you would think. You will not be asking the court to decide on custody of the children (because of their ages). You might be able to sue him for giving you an STD.
Court battles are expensive. You say you don’t necessarily want to expose these matters publicly, and yet you seem to want some satisfaction or retaliation from what you have endured.
I suggest you try mediation to arrive at a financial settlement. If you can’t come to terms, then you might move on to court. Mainly, you need to realize that your true satisfaction will be through the choices you make on your own behalf.
Being a good and stalwart parent will bring you joy. Dropping the pretense about your marriage, and living well and authentically will be the best revenge.
DEAR AMY: I’m embarrassed. A few months ago, I began an online relationship. This man was charming and thoughtful. Just as we were about to meet, he had to fly suddenly out of the country to accept a job. When he arrived in his new country he said his phone and laptop had been stolen and I replaced them. As time went on, I foolishly sent him more money. There was always some emergency requiring my financial intervention. He even had his lawyer contact me to ask for more. Finally, my family became aware of my involvement with this man and urged me to stop. I faced the fact that I had been conned. Unfortunately, I had really fallen for this man! I’m seeking your advice in how to get over this experience where there is no closure. All communication has stopped. I understand there are a great many other people who have fallen for online cons, but what can I do to move on?
DEAR S: You’re already doing an important thing to aid your own healing. Your choice to admit and then share your story could help a lot of people who recognize themselves in your narrative. Thank you!
Your online relationship contained many red flags: The sudden need to “leave the country” right when you were about to meet; the constant emergencies and requests/demands for money; roping other people into the scheme to put you on the hook for more; your family’s recognition and concern.
You will heal from this emotional involvement the same way you would from a betrayal in real life — it will take time. Please understand that your emotions are real. You can’t easily flip a switch to turn them off.
One source where you might safely connect with others is Romancescams.org. I believe it might help you to continue to share your story, communicate with others who have been scammed, and educate potential victims on the techniques and red flags of a typical scammer.
DEAR AMY: I was happy to see that you took the expatriate “Wondering” to task when she complained about her mother saying she missed her. One burden of living far away from family is the need to recognize that other people miss you. This is not always a guilt trip.
DEAR EXPATRIATE: Sometimes the most arduous journeys are the guilt trips we send ourselves on.