Dear Ann Cannon • My elderly father lives alone. His next door neighbor has been very helpful, checking on him every day and taking him to appointments and grocery shopping. I really appreciate this as I live more than an hour away. I visit my dad twice a week, but it would be difficult to get up there daily.
Recently, however, this neighbor has been crossing boundaries and making us uncomfortable. He opens my dad’s mail and has been asking my dad inappropriate questions about his finances. We want to think this neighbor’s intentions are pure, but feel uncomfortable with some of what’s been happening, especially since he has a key to my dad’s house and we can tell has been in the house when we’re gone to an appointment or out to lunch.
Do you have any ideas on how to keep the level of the neighbor’s involvement appropriate and to be sure I’m protecting my dad and his interests?
— My Dad’s Daughter
Dear Daughter • Wow. Alarms went off when I read your email. I’d be uncomfortable, too, if this were my dad. The neighbor in question may, in fact, be perfectly well-intentioned and completely innocent of any wrongdoing. And it’s true he’s making your life easier right now. But still. Boundaries have definitely been breached.
In order to answer your question, I reached out to a few attorneys as well as a former cop. Some of their suggestions follow, short of insisting your father move closer to you.
- Arrange for you or someone else in the family to have power of attorney.
- Take control of your father’s finances. As one attorney I spoke with said, “It’s just too easy to access an elderly person’s finances, and the neighbor may feel entitled because of the good service he has provided.” Have your father’s bills sent to you. Do his banking online. If he resists relinquishing control to you or another family member, establish joint control over his finances.
- Think about placing cameras in your father’s house to monitor what’s happening there. Then let the neighbor know in passing that you’ve done this because you worry about your father living alone.
- Run a background check on the neighbor, which may sound a little paranoid, but what can it hurt?
This is a hard situation. Here’s wishing you and your father the best.
Dear Ann Cannon • Over the past few weeks I have discovered my husband has been using dating websites and apps to chat with women. Apparently, it’s been going on, off and on, for over a year. He swears he never physically met any of them, but he did have weeks-long relationships, some involving sexting, and had made plans to meet up with them but never followed through.
I’m heartbroken because I had no idea. We have an appointment with a therapist tomorrow to try to work things out, but with yet another revelation of lying and deceit, I’m wondering if I can ever trust him again. Is it even worth trying? I still love him, but I’m so afraid that this is too big and too hard. Has anyone been cheated on and worked things out?
Dear Despairing • Oh, I am so, so sorry. I can only imagine how devastated you’re feeling right now.
OK. The short answer to your question is yes — couples can and do recover from a spouse’s betrayal if that’s what BOTH of you really want. But it will take work. Specifically, your husband needs to stop engaging in his hurtful behavior while the two of you work together to understand what led to the problem in the first place. A good therapist can help with this. She or he can also provide you with information about issues like sexual compulsivity, as well as offering suggestions for rebuilding trust, which (frankly) is going to take time.
And speaking of time — consider waiting before making any life-altering decisions while you are in the throes of “betrayal trauma.” Practicing a certain amount of patience now will ultimately be in your own best interest.
Again, I’m so sorry for your pain.