Dear Amy: I am a 38-year-old (divorced) woman. I have been dating a wonderful 43-year-old man (never-married) for the past five years.
We fell in love quickly, and he spoke of me being his wife someday.
We have taken several trips over the years, but unbeknownst to me, he charged the majority of his expenses on credit cards (he makes plenty of money to not have to do this) and racked up around $30,000 in debt. He never was good with money, but is turning over a new leaf.
I just became aware of this, and we have started to make plans for the future, i.e. buying a rental property overseas (and eventually retiring there).
I have no debt, and I am wise with my spending.
I offered to help pay down his debt in order to get our future on track. The thing is, talk of marriage has ceased, and whenever it comes up, he says, "You aren’t planning on having children, so there’s no point in getting married."
I told him I am happy to help pay his debt down as long as we have a future.
I’ve stopped subtly bringing up marriage because I feel foolish. I know he wouldn’t respond well to an ultimatum. I don’t want to lose him, but don’t want to feel like he has one foot out the door.
I don’t know what kind of status he would need to feel safe, but I don’t want to be the forever-girlfriend. — Lady in Waiting
Dear Waiting: You equate marriage with having a stable future, but marriage itself does not transform people, and does not guarantee a specific outcome. You also seem to think your bailout money will be better invested if you two are married, but that is not the case. If you were married, you might end up responsible for his debts, and if he hid this debt, there could be more.
Your guy obviously does not intend to get married. Ever. You should make any big personal decisions based on that reality. He also shows poor judgment regarding his finances, and so co-investing in property seems like a bad bet.
Stop thinking about whatever "status he would need to feel safe." You are a grown woman. You’ve been to the puppet show and you’ve seen the strings. Advocate for yourself! State your own wants and needs, and then watch his behavior, and believe what you see/hear.
No matter what, regardless of your marital status, if you choose to entangle your money with his, see a lawyer, get everything in writing, and make your transaction, if not your union, legal.
Dear Amy: You have consistently advised individuals to share the "family secrets" of loved ones, explaining that it is a healing event and would be welcome by existing family members.
That is not always the case, and it is very distressing to read your recommendation.
My 90-year-old aunt was informed of a child fathered by her deceased husband.
This information has destroyed her life, her memories and her health. She held onto her husband’s ashes with instructions that when she dies, both their ashes would be scattered jointly.
She was so distraught she threw his ashes in the trash. Her family has been torn apart.
My cousins no longer speak to each other, half supporting the half-brother, and the other half supporting their mother.
Not all "family secrets" result in rainbows and flowers. Many are destructive and serve no purpose. — Secrets are to be Kept
Dear Secrets: This is heartbreaking.
I have never claimed that disclosing family secrets results in rainbows and flowers, far from it. Ideally, people would be truthful about their lives during their lives, reducing the trauma of a long-buried secret being disclosed.
When disclosure could be traumatic for an elderly family member, that person’s immediate welfare should come first. And any dramatic disclosure should be handled with sensitivity and a thorough and empathetic witnessing.
Dear Amy: I would like to add to your response to "Disappointed" whose longtime neighbor and friend "hit on" her.
She stated this is an elderly man, and that he has never behaved in this manner before. My first concern would be that perhaps he is experiencing mental changes due to dementia.
I would cautiously observe his behavior to see if there are any other unusual behaviors. If there are, a supportive discussion with his wife would be in order. I have seen this many times. — Concerned
Dear Concerned: Many readers suggested that this neighbor might be experiencing some cognitive decline.