When an Affair Can Be Ethical
Dear Margo: Is an affair always wrong? I am close to a man whose wife has been in a nursing home for seven years. She has had MS for 30 years (diagnosed at 25 years old) and is physically dependent for everything. Mentally, she can carry on a conversation but is very forgetful. I was her nurse for five years, but I have not taken care of her for the past two.
In those two years, I have become close with her husband. Recently, he told me he loves me, and I feel the same — for the first time in my life. I am single, and we are middle-aged people who have both been alone for many years. I don’t think he would ever divorce her, and I don’t want him to. Neither of us wants to hurt her. Are we wrong to have these feelings and to act on them, especially since I was his wife’s nurse? –RN in Love
Dear R: I do not think the way you met your love colors the situation … and, in fact, the way you met is not all that uncommon. I do not regard your relationship as an affair, in the accepted sense, but rather, a love affair. This man’s wife is sick enough to require institutional care and can in no way be a wife. There are some spouses, granted, who could not entertain the idea of a romance while a legal spouse was still alive, but I know of many more people who have done it your way. And I see nothing wrong with it. Happiness is hard enough to find. I suggest you accept yours with an open heart. –Margo, guiltlessly
Dear Margo: I moved from my parents’ house to my grandma’s due to my parents going through foreclosure. Before I moved, I entered into a verbal agreement regarding the majority of my stuff (bedroom furniture, papers, jewelry, etc.), in which I’d pay a set amount of money to help cover the storage fees and the care of my cat until I could bring my cat and my things to my grandma’s place.
Everything seemed fine until my parents separated and began divorce proceedings less than a week after I moved out. Things got hostile between the two, and in one of their battles, my mother ordered my father to move his stuff into storage. Then I received a panicky e-mail from my father letting me know that my stuff had vanished from the storage unit. I naturally jumped to the conclusion that my things were stolen.
After sending terrified texts to my mother asking where my things were, I finally got a reply from Mom stating only, “It’s safe.” She refused to elaborate. I went ballistic. I called her and demanded to know where my things were, only to have her tell me, “I can’t trust you. You’ll blab the location to your father, and I don’t trust him.” I told her I wanted an apology; she refused. We hung up, and I cried for hours, something completely out of character for me. I have not spoken to her since. Am I right for cutting off contact with her? –Yearning for Contact
Dear Yearn: Get back in touch. You clearly felt both loss and exclusion. I would try to convince her that she can, indeed, trust you — and also, you will need access to your things. Treat this episode as a blip on the radar, and re-establish the former connection with your mother. Chalk it up to the stress of her divorce. She is most likely calmer now. –Margo, restoratively
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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