Dear Amy: My husband of 45 years recently came to me with a proposal. He wants to deepen a friendship with a single woman 20 years younger.

He says she lifts his spirits, is creative, and is a great mom to her children. Their conversations are lively and interesting, and he finds that he wants to be around her more often.

I was flabbergasted and hurt to the core. To me, this is an emotional affair. Because of my reaction, he has labeled me as lacking self-esteem and accuses me of not trusting him.

Am I overreacting to this proposal?

Amy says: If it's a true "proposal," then you get to say, "No deal. I reject your proposal." But I don't think this is a proposal. I think this is an announcement.

You've left out any context, but when you responded to this by revealing your own vulnerability, your husband chose to gaslight you.

In addition to highlighting this other woman's great qualities, he is by implication drawing a contrast to you. The way your husband is reframing this, your insecurity and lack of trust is driving him to this other relationship.

Like everyone else, married people need friendships. But the way to engage in a friendship with someone designed to threaten your partner (younger, single, lively, spirit-lifting) is to bring the new friend around and offer to share said friend with you, at least to the extent where it is obvious that this friendship will not threaten your marriage.

This new person sounds quite captivating. You should invite her to dinner to see what the fuss is all about. Wouldn't it be wonderful if she could lift all of your spirits?

You and your husband could benefit from some professional counseling, which would help each of you to describe what about this particular episode is so important, from your individual and opposing perspectives.

Too much anger

Dear Amy: I am in my early 60s. I have three older siblings. I grew up in a house with a lot of arguing and fighting. I dreaded dinnertime. I couldn't wait to get out on my own.

Fast-forward to the past several years where at extended family gatherings my brother and sister feel the need to dominate every conversation with inane comments. Interactions that start out as conversations end up in arguments.

I no longer can stand to be at these gatherings with my brother and sister. Sometimes I fake an illness to get out of them.

I made up an excuse to get out of a recent gathering at my brother's house, and my brother gave me a guilt trip, saying that I don't want to be with family. He's not wrong, but I don't want to admit it. I need help dealing with this.

Amy says: The youngest sibling in any family tends to witness a lot. This can lead to a tendency toward peace-making, people-pleasing, or — in your case — a lot of anxiety.

I urge you to find ways to recognize that your feelings and reactions are completely valid.

If faking an illness or making up an excuse helped you to keep your distance from these overwhelming family gatherings, then I'd say to keep doing it. But you also make yourself available for an all-expenses-paid guilt trip.

You are in your 60s. Perhaps it's time for you to state your feelings, in an honest and non-confrontational way. If your brother accuses you: "You don't want to be with family!" You respond, "That's true, because I feel anxious and upset when people bicker."

If you do decide to attend, always give yourself an escape hatch.

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