Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

Can you give me some advice on how to deal with an ex-wife who handles her finances irresponsibly and keeps asking me to bail her out? I still consider her a friend, but feel there should be a limit to this help if she continues maxing out her credit cards. There are no children involved and we’ve been divorced for 22 years.


Dear Milked,

A lot of empathetic people become ATMs when someone learns to push the right buttons. The only one who can stop this foolishness is you.

First, you need to figure out which buttons she’s been pushing. Guilt? Perpetual do-or-die emergencies? Playing up sentimental memories? Manufacturing a sense of hope? Using the word “borrow” when she has no intention to repay you? Or maybe it is something else?

Once you know the combination she’s been using, you have to reset your mental and emotional access code so her approach no longer works.

From that point on, whenever she asks you for money, be calm and kind and simply say, “I’m sorry but I can’t help you.” She may ask for an explanation, but she isn’t entitled to one, and the more details you give her, the more insistent she may become. Since this has been going on for years, brace yourself for the possibility of a strong emotional reaction, and try not to let it bother you.

Your ex-wife maxes out her credit cards for the same reason she uses your money. It’s always handy. When people are allowed to misbehave without consequences they’re very unlikely to change.

Since you sound like you’re on close, amicable terms, your friendship should be able to survive your new economic policy. However, if she walks out of your life because you’re no longer her financier, you should be glad to let her go.

May you find fulfillment in tighter purse strings,


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