Dear Amy: My significant other (of 20 years) has had what I consider an emotional affair with a girl he met online a couple months ago, playing an online spaceship game.

He swears that it is nothing, and I'm blowing things out of proportion, and she's "just a friend."

I happened to use his phone as a flashlight one night recently, and it was left open, revealing a "chat" session between them.

He lied to her about buying things for me (although he is unemployed) and told her he loved her.

Those words bother me greatly, and he continues to say it is nothing.

He has broken plans with me to play other (exclusive) games with her, and if I join his group of friends to play, he shares inside jokes with her while I'm there and he ignores me.

I am trying to decide if this should be a dealbreaker, as he refuses to see my side or see that it hurts me to hear that "I love you" is apparently a meaningless phrase to him, that I thought was used for me and his very longtime friends.

How can I approach this subject with him so he hears my concerns, or should I just end things now and cut my losses?

— Confused and Hurt

Confused and Hurt: At the risk of being obvious, I wonder if playing online “spaceship” games is the best use of your (unemployed) guy’s time.

I don’t think his online friendship is necessarily a dealbreaker for your impressively long relationship, but it might be one more symptom of a larger problem between you. If your guy is depressed and foundering, he is vulnerable and looking for other ports in his personal storm.

This is about being too immature or self-involved to recognize how his behavior affects and hurts his partner’s feelings.

You’ve staked out your positions, but for your relationship to survive, you both should regroup and discuss ways to come together.

Dear Amy: My brother's daughter has decided to marry an ex-convict who has spent nearly half of his life in prison for rape, assault, destruction of property and other crimes.

She is a grown woman in her 40s and has never been married. My brother and sister-in-law haven't said much about it, and I'm not sure what their feelings are.

In the meantime, my son and his fiance are planning their wedding and have stated quite adamantly that they will not invite him to the wedding — nor will they attend any family gathering at which he is present.

I'm not sure how to handle this. It will most certainly affect our relationship with my brother and will probably put an end to our holiday dinners.

On one hand, I believe that my wife and I could probably at least tolerate him, but on the other hand I will not go against my son's wishes.

Your advice would be most appreciated.

— Terribly Troubled

Terribly Troubled: Your son is an adult. He is making adult-size decisions about the people he wants to have relationships with, and whom he would like to avoid. This is not only his right but also his responsibility.

“I will not go against my son’s wishes” implies that he might have a say in whatever choices you and your wife make.

Your son’s choice will have a major bearing on your own life only if you give him the power to control your relationships, as well as his own.

I can absolutely understand any person’s choice to avoid spending time with a felon convicted of violent crimes.

I can also imagine people who are perhaps a little more seasoned (you and your wife), deciding to wait and see before making a snap judgment about someone they’ve never met.

In the future, when it comes to family gatherings, your son is going to have to make inquiries to see if this man will be present and then make his own choice.

He and his fiance have every right to control the guest list for their wedding, however, and you should not interfere.

Dear Amy: In the question from "Upset and Embarrassed," the writer — a nurse — mentioned that her co-workers had bullied her as a "lunch lady."

Amy, thank you for taking the opportunity to defend and offer respect to lunch ladies! We work in the school, interact with students when we can, and — most important — we feed children.

— Lunch Lady

Lunch Lady: My brief tribute to “lunch ladies” was well earned, and completely sincere. Thank you for what you do.

2021 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency