Dear Prudence

My Wife Used Our Savings to Bail Her Family Out of a Pyramid Scheme

That’s $30,000, gone.

Woman yelling at man who looks frustrated
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To get advice from Prudie, send questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion. Or call the Dear Prudence podcast voicemail at 401-371-DEAR (3327) to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

I work full time but took a second part-time job to save money so my wife and I can remodel our house. It’s small and cramped, and our three kids share a single room, so we really need more space. My wife runs a side business out of our home. My wife’s parents support her sister financially because she refuses to work, and they often pressure my wife for money. We’d previously agreed that my wife could give them as much of her own income as she likes, but that the rest of our income is for our own needs.

You can probably guess what happened next: My sister-in-law stole her parents’ credit card to buy into a pyramid scheme and bought thousands of dollars’ worth of useless junk. They asked my wife to bail them out because they didn’t want to press charges against her sister for identity theft, so she emptied out the account where we’d been saving money to remodel our house. That’s $30,000, gone. Her parents “promise” they’ll pay us back, but I know we’ll never see that money again. Furious doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. My wife says she’s sorry but that they’re her parents. I quit my second job and told my wife she would have to figure out how to pay for the remodel. I also said that if she gives her parents another penny, I would leave. She cries and tells me I’m being unfair. For almost two years I worked around the clock to save money for another room for our kids. I missed holidays and weekends. Housing prices are outrageous in our neighborhood. I can’t figure out how to move forward from here. I love my wife, but I don’t know if I can ever trust her again.

—Sucker-Punched

This is a devastating betrayal, and I don’t wonder that you’re furious at your wife. Your wife’s violation of your trust was not a small one, and it hurt not only you as her partner but all three of your children. I’m glad you quit your second job and aren’t forcing yourself to fix the mess your wife and her relatives created. If you haven’t already set up an individual account that your wife can’t touch, please do so. It’s a necessary bit of financial independence that might make rebuilding trust easier. But given that you’re already talking about leaving if she ever sends her parents money again (which seems likely), it’s probably a good idea to speak to a divorce lawyer. You don’t have to commit to filing just to schedule a phone call, and it will be useful to learn what legal recourse you may have, if any, toward recovering some of your money. The answer may be simply “It’s gone forever,” but it can’t hurt to ask.

I’m not so sure how you can rebuild trust if your wife’s apology for stealing $30,000 included the justification “but they’re my parents” and she’s already accusing you of treating her unfairly. But if you’re interested in trying to rebuild trust before considering divorce, consider seeking out a couples counselor with experience treating couples dealing with financial mismanagement and betrayal. Regardless of what you do, remind yourself of the following: You can’t trust someone who refuses to acknowledge what they did wrong and who’s not committed to behaving differently in the future.

Help! My Husband Hates My Cooking.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Soleil Ho on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

I am an angry feminist who previously thought I was gay, and I have fallen (hard) in love with a straight, white, GOP-voting evangelical male. He is the most expressive person I’ve even been with when it comes to telling me all the things about me that he loves and respects. He is fun and funny and sweet and tender, and the physical/sexual chemistry is like nothing I’ve ever felt with a man. It is intoxicating and addictive, but am I doomed to fail because of our different social values?

—Nervous From Jump

I think you knew when you wrote this that I can’t possibly promise you that you and your boyfriend will never break up. It sounds like you want to think of your various social positions as grounding rather than disruptive: “If an angry, previously gay feminist like me could fall for this guy, then it must be real love, the kind that lasts till the stars turn cold.” You are free to date anyone you please, and it’s an unqualified good thing that your boyfriend respects you, loves you, and treats you well. The question facing you right now is not “Do I have to give up this intoxicating sexual chemistry because an advice columnist disapproves of our relationship?” but “How do my boyfriend and I talk about our different values?”

It’s great that he’s fun and funny and sweet and tender, and it’s great that you’re having excellent sex. But those are all things you have in common (or at least things you agree on), so they don’t have much bearing on your significant differences. How have you two talked about your different religious beliefs? How does he understand your sexuality? Are you feeling pressure, either internally or externally, to distance yourself from past relationships with women or your current ties to other queer people? Is he as expressive when he talks to you about his political commitments as he is when he’s telling you how much he loves you? Does he think you’re going to hell? It’s not that his sweetness or sense of humor are worthless. They’re real, and they matter! But they’re irrelevant to the question of “Do we share compatible values?” or even “When we disagree over something meaningful, are we both able to listen respectfully and find a livable compromise?” The most important thing to ask yourself is what failure might look like to you. Does it mean breaking up over oppositional, sincerely held beliefs? Or does it mean ignoring your differences, sanding down the edges of your personality, and looking the other way in order to keep the peace?

Dear Prudence,

“Sarah” is an acquaintance I met through a mutual friend, “Abby.” I try to keep my distance because Sarah always seems to be in one sort of crisis or another. A few weeks ago, Sarah’s 20-year-old son, “Chris,” landed in the hospital after setting off illegal fireworks. His injuries weren’t life-threatening, but he does need follow-up care, and Abby recently texted me a link to a donation page Sarah had created to crowdfund his medical bills. I’m lucky to still have a job right now, but I don’t make a lot of money, and I’m trying to save all I can to help support my parents, who have lost most of their income since the pandemic. Later she followed up with, “Anything you can contribute would be great. They’re really going through a lot right now.” I said I couldn’t send money because I needed to help my parents, but that I’d be happy to send over meals or drive Chris to some of his medical appointments. Abby’s response was, “Wow. I don’t think it’s asking that much to throw something Sarah’s way.”

I reiterated that I had no cash to spare but that I was willing to help in other ways. She said, “You can’t.” That was five days ago, and she hasn’t texted me since. We used to text every day, sometimes about substantive issues, and sometimes just goofing around. After a few days of silence I sent her a “just saying hello” text, but she didn’t respond. What should I do? Try again? Wait for her to say something? Just assume I’ve lost a 15-year friendship over this?

—Closed-Wallet Policy

Don’t let a 15-year friendship fizzle out without at least trying to have a substantive follow-up conversation. Give Abby a call and ask her what’s bothering her. Is she really angry with you for volunteering to drive someone to a medical appointment? For having limited income and choosing to support your parents financially when they’re struggling? Either there’s something else going on that she’s not sharing, or she’s overwhelmed with pandemic-related stress that she inappropriately took out on you, or she has wildly unrealistic expectations of her friends. Whatever’s going on, you deserve to ask for a straight answer and to learn whether there’s an opportunity to resolve this sudden chilliness.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

Our 15-month-old son is generally a fun and easy kid. The only major problem is one for which his dad and I are basically to blame. We’ve ended up being accidental cosleepers and don’t know how to get ourselves out of it. We don’t have any theoretical or developmental problems with cosleeping, but we have all sorts of personal problems with it: being pushed off the bed; waking up every time he moves; being kicked in the stomach (his dad) or literally becoming our son’s pillow (me); and not being able to actually snuggle as adults.

We’ve halfheartedly tried some extinction methods, but we can’t seem to get them right, and his crying makes my head hurt so much. I know part of the problem is his crib, which still contains a rock-hard infant mattress. How can we remedy this situation before we wake up with a 12-year-old sleeping between us?