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Ask Amy: Couple can’t cope with feelings of guilt
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Ask Amy: Couple can’t cope with feelings of guilt

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Dear Amy: My life with my (not yet divorced) live-in boyfriend of four years has deteriorated. We are both in our 60s.

He is experiencing ongoing stress and guilt from having an affair with me while he was with his wife. Work stress, physical problems and the ongoing pandemic have all contributed to his heavy drinking.

When he is drunk, he then blames me for “stealing him from his wife.”

When he rallies, he apologizes, but it happens again.

How do we both get rid of the guilt?

He knows he should be in therapy, but can’t seem to fit it in.

We want to stay together, but at times it feels really hard. Thoughts? K

Dear K: Feeling guilty when you’ve behaved badly is appropriate. You and your guy conducted an extramarital affair and are now living together, despite the fact that he is still married. The guilt attached to these choices means that you two are thinking and feeling people who have behaved regrettably, but don’t want to feel the discomfort attached to the consequences. Poor you.

The way to get rid of the guilt is to take responsibility for the behavior, apologize to anyone you’ve hurt, and hope that others will find a way to forgive you.

Your guy has transformed his own guilt into feeling sorry for himself and then blaming you for his behavior. That’s what toddlers do.

He needs treatment, counseling, and to make some big decisions about perhaps conducting his life differently. Anyone who has time to wallow and cry in his cups but can’t seem to “fit in” therapy obviously needs to re-adjust his priorities.

The next time he gets drunk and blames you for “stealing him from his wife,” I suggest that you offer to return him to her.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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