Dear Amy: I have known my ex-husband, "Bart," for 30 years. We were married for 18 years and divorced six years ago.

He has lost all his money and has drained all of his friendships over money. Now he's coming to me for money.

Recently he was in a small car accident. The other driver called the police because my ex was driving without insurance. He called me screaming and crying, saying he was going further down the hole. He told me I was the only one he could come to.

He expected me to pay for car insurance and to get his car out of impound. So I did.

I can't afford the emotional or financial burden this is causing me. Yet whenever I say this he makes a veiled threat of having nothing left and no reason to live. I am tormented by the manipulation.

I divorced him to get away from this craziness and now he has shown up on my doorstep. I want to close and bolt the door. Any words of wisdom?

Amy says: You are kind and compassionate, that much is obvious, but other than delaying your ex's spiral for a few weeks or months, what are you really doing for him? You describe this as "torment." When you give in to his demands, you are soothing your own anxiety and trying to tamp down the torment. But you can't.

"Bart" has trained you to comply when he emotionally manipulates you. Every time he succeeds, he feels better and you feel worse. Bart needs to be told that he has run out of options.

A social worker might be able to help him find affordable housing and some financial services and advice. He could start with the local Office for the Aging. Pass along the phone number — do not do the work for him.

If you are at risk of emotional and financial exhaustion, then — yes — close and bolt the door, and block him from contacting you. Taking care of yourself means that you may have to say a firm "No. Not this time. I'm done."

Trust your instincts

Dear Amy: I'm a widow and retired.

I keep myself busy with physical activities, volunteering and helping family and friends. I'm in great health and do not look my chronological age.

My issue is dating. I've had some nice men around my age take me out, but I declined the second date, knowing they are not who I want to be with or who I would introduce to my grown children.

At my age, I don't want to waste my time or theirs.

My last date, who was a little rough around the edges, talked a great talk, stated all the things we had in common (which were a lot), and why we were a good fit for lifetime companions.

I felt he came on too strong, and seeing a couple of minor red flags scared me off, so I followed my gut instinct and declined his second date.

Now I'm thinking that I was too hasty. Should I contact him to pursue this relationship, or should I move on? This has been nagging at me. I could be out dancing instead of writing this!

Amy says: Too often, women ignore their own instincts, and then later wonder why they didn't pay attention to their own good sense.

You shouldn't conflate this rational choice you've made with having impossible standards. Trust your instincts!

True — oversharing and coming on too strong are also common "rookie" behaviors for people re-entering the dating scene. Keep all of this in mind, and if you decide to pursue this for a second date (not lifetime companionship), tread cautiously.

Send Ask Amy questions to Amy Dickinson at

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