Dear Amy: I recently found out that my husband has been secretly smoking during our entire 16-year marriage.
I felt such a betrayal of trust. He is now taking medication to help him quit.
I decided to try and forgive him in order to make our marriage work.
Soon after, I found out that he had made flirting comments to a friend on Facebook.
I thought we were trying to work on our marriage! This was hurtful, and it betrayed my trust again.
He has continued to lie about things if he feels it will prevent an argument.
I have told him I need complete honesty in order to start the healing process of forgiveness and to restore the lost trust.
I have been so depressed that I decided to go into an anonymous online chat room to vent.
Well, it didn’t turn out like I thought it would.
I ended up having a sexual conversation with a stranger.
Amy, I feel so guilty. I never intended for that to happen.
After me being so upset at my husband for his lies and secrets, I am torn as to whether I should tell him. I just did the same thing! I’m scared that he will always throw this in my face as an excuse for his past mistakes and try to excuse his future mistakes by highlighting my mistake. Should I tell him? —Torn
Dear Torn: The amateur shrink in me needs to speculate: You engaged in sexual banter online to retaliate for your husband’s secrecy regarding his smoking and his Facebook flirtation (and probably other things).
You now want to avoid admitting your behavior because — the way you see it: It is your business, and you are an adult.
If your spouse doesn’t know about it, it won’t impact your marriage.
Not disclosing this is a great way to avoid an argument.
Admitting it would cause pain to him and to you, including the possibility that he will never let you forget it.
In short, you are afraid to tell him about it, because he has given you reason to doubt his ability to understand and forgive.
This might be very close to what your husband is thinking when and after he sneaks a cigarette behind the garage.
Do you now have insight into the temptation to be avoidant, when honesty may lead to a cycle of shame, blame and referendums on your marriage?
You’ve boxed yourself into a corner, and now you should come clean.
Your husband should not have to be the standard-bearer for past, current and future mistakes.
Admit your behavior, take responsibility for it and for the possibility that he will be hurt by it, assure him that this will never happen again and ask for forgiveness.
If you two are stuck in a cycle of blame, recrimination and further acting-out, you should see a marriage counselor.
Dear Amy: In recent years, I have become envious of friends who have a close relationship or any relationship with their cousins. When my grandparents were alive, I would see my cousins and uncle/aunt on holidays. After my grandparents passed away, I have only seen my cousins at their weddings over the past 15 years, because my father and his brother are not close.
I am friends with my cousins on Facebook. They have families with children, now.
They also live a few states away from me. How do I let them know I would like a relationship with them, without being intrusive? I would not mind getting on a plane to go visit them, but they also live in areas that I would not go to if not to visit them. —Cousin Wannabe
Dear Cousin: Facebook is not good for many things, but it is a great tool for connection and re-connection.
You start by liking and commenting on their posts. You could build connection by posting old photos featuring all of you (if you have them) and tagging them.
Basically, extend your kindness and convey your interest in their lives. This could lead to a better real-world connection between all of you.
Dear Amy: “Concerned Daughter” was worried because her 89-year-old, unlicensed mother was driving her car around the block.
How about this? Before Mom mows down a 9-year-old bicyclist, take the keys, sell the cars and confirm her access to friend and family chauffeurs. —Been There, Done That
Dear Been There: Many families could not pull this off successfully. But yes, this is an obvious solution.