Infidelity causes tension on home front

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Amy Dickinson answers a reader whose family thinks her tone of voice is nasty and off-putting.

Dear Amy: After 20 years of marriage and four beautiful kids (the oldest is 14) I found out that my stay-at-home wife has been having an emotional and physical affair with a recently divorced man who is a friend of the family. They were seeing each other even when he was living with his wife, and it has been going on for nearly two years.

My wife does not want a divorce just yet (she would like to wait until the kids are a little older) but continues to communicate with and "see" him when she can.

He left his wife and three girls to live with his elderly parents.

Our home has been in turmoil ever since I found out (yelling and screaming), and her family thinks I am crazy for staying with her, but things are starting to calm down now somewhat.

I am in therapy and on medication to deal with all this.

Is it better for the kids if we stay together, or should we go our separate ways now?

I come from a broken home, and I did not like it. And I know my kids want us to stay together.

— Sad Dad

Dear Dad: Parents often find this revelation surprising or upsetting, but I think it's important to realize that your young children do not care deeply about your personal happiness. Nor should they have to.

You are a child of divorce (me too), and your own insight should tell you that your children treasure their own happiness — even if they can't really define or pursue it on their own.

No matter what drama you and your wife are dealing with, you must do everything possible to shield your children from it (in the moment) and the fallout (afterward).

It is definitely possible for you to recover from this and even repair your marriage, but not while your wife is communicating with her lover. Until you and she receive some clarity, your household will remain in a state of tension and turmoil — and that's not good for anyone.

This situation sounds almost unbearably painful, and if you and your wife cannot live together peacefully, you might want to ask her to leave the household for a short time so you can all catch your breath and weigh your options.

Dear Amy: My teenage son just received a gift check from a relative for his birthday for a very small amount — $25. The aunt who sent the check is a single woman (no kids) and a doctor!

My wife and I tried to explain to our son that some people are simply cheap and there is not much we can do about it.

I decided to ask your opinion to see if I should say something to this aunt, send the check back to her or cash it.

I don't want to sound spoiled, but the children always complain to me and it's not worth the aggravation!

— AG

Dear AG: You don't sound spoiled – you are spoiled. Not surprisingly, your children are too.

In the future, you should feel free to have your son endorse his birthday check over to me. I'll put this amount to good use, donating it to one of my favorite causes: The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, which provides musical instruments to school music programs (mhopus.org). They'll happily receive a $25 donation.

Furthermore, I will then thank your son's aunt for her generosity (which may bring on a coronary — she might want to have an ambulance standing by).

Otherwise, I suggest you contact this aunt to tell her that your children are simply not worthy recipients of the time, trouble and money she expends.

Dear Amy: The letter from "Mrs. Two Last Names" really singed my britches. She offered to hyphenate her name with her fiance's, but he declared that her using any portion of her surname called her commitment into question.

She should suggest a different surname that they both can change to — then both parties can show how committed they are to the new marriage.

— Solution

Dear Solution: I like your idea and wish I had suggested it.

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