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Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. I am a stay-at-home dad who has been married to an amazing woman for nine years. We have three beautiful children.

Recently and impulsively, I checked her text messages. I never do this, but I was curious. I found that she was having a conversation with a man that I felt crossed the line. The subject matter was personal and sexual. It seemed to be one-sided and initiated by my wife. The man responded with short answers.

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She told me that he was a co-worker and that they have been talking and communicating via text for months.

She stressed that she never cheated on me, but only vented her frustrations to him and on two occasions it veered into the inappropriate stuff I saw. She said she wanted to talk to someone who was “neutral.”

We are going through financial issues and may lose our house, and she feels that I have not done enough to help out. I agree with this but I told her I had concerns that she was so open about this personal matter with him.

After a long, long talk, she agreed to stop all communication with him and to communicate her feelings to me. I agreed not to go through her phone again.

Recently I was getting a contact number from her phone and noticed that she still has his number in her phone, only now it is listed under another person’s name.

I confronted my wife again and she said she wanted to save his number just in case she needed it and didn’t want me to get upset so she changed the name it was listed under. She said she has not communicated with him since breaking it off.

How concerned should I be? Have I overreacted? My wife is angry at me, because she believes I have violated her privacy. Is she right?

A. You have violated your wife’s privacy. She has also violated yours. Her choice to share intimacies and marital frustrations with another man places him toward the center of your relationship. This isn’t fair to you. You diving into her phone without permission is pretty sad, even if it turned out to be justified.

I understand your wife’s impulse to discuss your problems with a “neutral” person, but in her case that neutral party should be a trained marriage counselor — and the conversation should include you.

Q. My sister estranged herself from our family 10 years ago. She is 61 and the second of five children.

We have had no contact with her since 2004 and have been respectful of her wishes to not have any communication “until she is ready.” This is breaking my heart, and has been hard on my mother and siblings.

My mother will soon be 90 and her health is frail. I’m afraid my mother will never see this daughter ever again.

Any thoughts on what to do?

We were always a close family, and this middle child was a favorite of my siblings and me.

A. Estrangements sometimes start impulsively but then can calcify into a sort of familywide paralysis. I know how heartbreaking this is.

You have absolutely nothing to lose by reaching out to this sibling now. I suggest contacting her by e-mail or letter, and choosing your words wisely. Tell your sister that you miss her. Do not cast blame or assign guilt. Let her know that your mother is ailing and ask her if she would get in touch with you to catch up, with no strings attached.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.

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