Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for almost 20 years, and we’ve been faithful to each other. I don’t know if you get this question often, but here goes: Can my wife give me permission to have an affair?

I met a somewhat younger woman through a friend at work, and the fireworks were immediate and amazing! My wife does not know this woman, and I don’t think that my having an affair with her would hurt our family or our children.

Still, I don’t want to have the affair clandestinely. I’m frankly not sure what my wife would say if I asked her. She seems to get away with lots of things!

If she says yes, do you think it would be okay?

Affair Bound

Affair Bound: Well, you’ve cracked the code. You’ve figured it out. Getting your wife to sign off on your infidelity is a stroke of genius. Because, as everyone knows, cheating doesn’t really cause all that much marital disruption or familial heartache, and if you have permission, then it’s not cheating. Everybody wins!

It is strange that you want not only your wife’s permission to have an affair, but also mine. But because you asked nicely, I’ll give you an honest answer: No.

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been together for 15 years. We have two young children. My marriage is a nightmare. It seems that my husband’s words and actions do not match, yet every attempt that I have made to discuss this with him has failed.

He likes to minimize, deny and twist facts to the point where I actually question my own sanity. We have spent years doing on again/off again marriage counseling (at my insistence), yet very little has improved. One of the many counselors pointed out that my husband is passive-aggressive, which was actually a relief to me because I’ve spent a lot of time believing the problem was all mine. I feel very alone and hopeless.

I don’t think he sees me as a person. He’s very manipulative — has used our children in the past as leverage to control me — yet everyone else thinks he’s wonderful.

While I still hold on to this silly notion that one day he’ll “snap out of it” and start being authentic, the hope is fading. I am a shell of the person I used to be. I know I need to leave, yet I’m afraid that if I try, he will amp up the manipulation and use our children (or my mental health situation) to try to control me.

I don’t know what to do. I have very little support — I have few friends or family in the area (we moved here to be closer to his family), I have very few financial resources (we’ve got a lot of debt and I surrendered my fabulous, well-paying job to move here) and I have next to no energy to fight this fight. Suggestions?

Destroyed

Destroyed: If your sanity is at risk, then you should make every effort to protect it. You can do this through counseling, building up supportive friendships, hobbies, exercise — and work. Making this type of effort is extremely challenging, especially when you feel like a shell of a person, but it is important for you to build up your life again. Working at a paying job will help you to reduce the household’s debt load, give you more confidence and put you in daily contact with people who might become respectful and supportive friends. All of this will help you to build yourself up again, and you won’t feel so trapped.

You should stop expecting your husband to change. I agree that ultimately you may need to leave this marriage.

Dear Amy: “Almost Out of Odor” was a teenager worried about her friend’s strong odor. Her friend could have a health problem or an infection causing this strong body odor. This happened to me, and it was a friend in high school who was kind enough to point this out.

Been There

Been There: Good point. Thank you.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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