Dear Abbey, or, Dear Philip Levine
Philip Levine is guest "ethicist" in this NY Times Magazine column.
Here's a taste:
I’m married and recently had an emotional affair. As a result of the frequent phone contact with my paramour, I went way over my minute usage allowance. My wife and I have a shared plan, and the bill is automatically paid from her checking account. That overage brought attention to these conversations. My wife insists I reimburse her for this portion of the bill. She is the primary breadwinner, and I am the primary caretaker of our son; my small income comes from my unemployment insurance. While I freely admit the emotional affair was a breach on a number of levels, am I responsible for reimbursing her? NAME WITHHELD
How long has it been since I heard the word “paramour” used seriously? I’m afraid I do not welcome it back, nor can I imagine why your wife welcomed you back after your “emotional affair.” You strike me as someone with a limited capacity for empathy, so let’s have a little exercise: Imagine the reverse were true. You are the breadwinner and your wife has charged her phone calls to her “paramour” to you. If that exercise in empathy changes nothing, then I believe you are both linguistically and ethically challenged. Paying back the money — money that you charged to your wife in order to prolong or enrich your betrayal — is the least you can do, but since you hesitate to do even that, I fear you are incapable of doing more. That you have to ask if you owe repayment to your wife suggests you need much more than advice from an ethicist, if, in fact, that is what I am at this moment. You need to see a shaman who can change who you are, and your wife needs to see a lawyer.
Zing! And, there's more. Go here.