Ask Ellie: Snooping not a constructive response to secrecy in a marriage

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I married a man I fell in love with online. We spent months getting to know each other because we lived thousands of miles apart. When we finally met in person, I welcomed him with an open heart.

He got a job and we bought a condo together. I’m 53, he’s 51. I thought I’d be happy forever.

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But recently, he’s become secretive. If I enter the room when he’s on his computer, he shuts it down immediately whenever I’m around. He also repeatedly changes his password.

Should I search his papers for his password to see what he’s doing? He gets angry and defensive when I ask him why he’s “hiding” his computer.

Losing Trust

Don’t jump to conclusions while you’re in the dark. He may have family or financial issues from back home that he’s unwilling to share for some reason.

However, you can’t live with suspicion, which is what he’s creating by his reactions. Say so. Tell him that if he has a problem that’s worrying him, he can share it with you so you can work it out together.

Don’t snoop. Be clear that if he’s keeping secrets from you, it’s going to harm your relationship… just as would happen if you keep secrets from him.

Say that you love him and hope to spend your life with him, but not if it’s in a state of distrust.

Dear Readers: A different response to potential parental alienation following yesterday’s column regarding the divorced mother who’s worried that her son’s getting negative messages about her from his father (May 14):

I’d like to share my experience when my marriage ended and our eight-year-old daughter began alternating between households.

I noticed that the first night she’d return to me after being with her dad, she’d frequently find something to argue about at bedtime. This would lead to her bursting into tears and her “having it out” about something or other. I tried to be patient and accepting. We always tried to work it out, have a cuddle and she’d settle down to sleep.

Eventually, I came to believe that she couldn’t share her sad feelings as easily or effectively with her dad, as with me, although they shared many good things in their relationship.

I think she needed to find her emotional balance again when she returned to my house, or perhaps she just needed to adjust to the weekly upheavals of shared custody.

In fact, I was angry with him for a long time after we separated, but I was fortunate to attend counselling for separating mothers, which reminded me that we’d be co-parents for as long as we all lived!

The important thing was not to interfere in my daughter’s relationship with her dad, but to simply support her. It was no longer about me and him.

I let her know that I respected her father and her love for him even when sometimes he didn’t understand her feelings as well as she wished, and his behaviour wasn’t always what I hoped for.

She grew up to be a resilient, loving and wise young woman, and I hope that my approach helped.

I’d say to that mother: When your son is distressed, try to be steady and loving and let him know that all his feelings are welcome in your home — even the difficult ones. Listen, speak respectfully of his father to him and allow your son to love you both.

Dear Ellie: My sister and I are very worried about my brother. They live in the United Kingdom, I’m in Canada. He’s suddenly changed from quiet and friendly to losing his memory and desperate for money. He’s a widower, alone.

Six years ago, he took out a reverse mortgage for £80,000. Last week he had only £4,000 left after selling his car. He’s been seeing a woman who befriended him and seemed in dire straits.

He gave her £3,000 for a new roof (on a rented flat), a mattress, groceries and money for medical procedures. He’s 86, she’s 62. Medical procedures in the UK are free.

We’re buying him groceries. He won’t accept that she’s scamming him. But he’s extremely worried about losing his home.

Sad and worried

Your UK-based sister needs to alert local authorities/police about this woman. Social services assistance is needed for mental health and housing support. He’s lucky to have you both. Stay connected.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Snooping and secrecy are equally harmful to the trust, and mutual support that’s necessary in a lasting marriage.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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