Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Should you move in with your daughter to save money? Caught husband having a sexually explicit online relationship?

DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I have had financial issues over the last few years. We are considering moving in with our daughter so we can all conserve costs. She is a working single mom to our five-year-old granddaughter and I know she could use the help, too. My friends think this is a terrible idea and that we should just rent an apartment, but we view renting as a step backward. We hope that if we live with our daughter for a year, we can save up enough money for a down payment on a small home near her and our granddaughter. Do you think we should do this, or should we rent and avoid potentially wrecking our relationship with our daughter? -- TIGHT SPOT

DEAR TIGHT SPOT: I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Plenty of other families are dealing with the same issues and have to make difficult decisions. I understand your hesitation, and I understand why your friends think moving in with your daughter could wreck your relationship. But they aren’t in your shoes — only you know what is best for your family. You and your husband could save a considerable amount of money, which would give you the leverage to buy a home, giving you the independence and security that you desire. Living with your daughter could be a truly special time, and helping to raise your granddaughter would make for some magical memories. Your daughter would also benefit, as she likely needs child care; having two built-in babysitters could cut her costs tremendously.  On the other hand, you would contend with the cramped quarters, lack of privacy, and emotional stress of feeling like a “bother” in your daughter’s life. It isn’t easy to move in with a grown child, especially when she has a child of her own. Life is chaotic and messy, and this could heighten everyone’s stress level and lead to tension or fighting. I think it’s doable. If you choose to move in with your daughter, make a family contract in which you, your husband and your daughter write down guidelines for cohabitation. You can decide collectively on which rules will stick, and use that as a template for how to get along. Writing out the necessities for a smooth transition will benefit everyone. How will you split the food and utility bills? Who cleans and who cooks? Who helps with laundry? By dividing the work, the household will run more smoothly and see a lot less in-fighting. Once you and your husband get a handle on your finances, choose a move-out date and stick to it so your daughter doesn’t feel like you are invading her space indefinitely. It may be overwhelming. But it could also be a temporary adventure and unique bonding experience for your family.

DEAR NATALIE: I caught my husband of 18 years having a sexually explicit conversation online with another woman. I was totally blindsided and humiliated. He claims that it was innocent, and that it was just a fantasy. He never had any intentions of trying to meet her, blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, he is sleeping on the couch and I am contemplating calling a divorce attorney. He is incredibly remorseful, but says that he has felt disconnected from me for some time. We have three kids, and we each have a full time job. Of course our romantic life took a backseat — but it happens! What do I do? Is this cheating? I don’t want to end my marriage, but I am just so hurt.-- SCANDAL

DEAR SCANDAL: Before you do anything drastic, let’s see if there is anything worth salvaging. Dealing with infidelity of any kind can feel as though you have lost a piece of your relationship and your footing in what you thought was solid. He crossed a line and broke your trust. But before you call a divorce attorney, call a marriage counselor. Cheating is usually a symptom of a deeper relationship issue. You both admit that your intimate life has gotten off track, and it takes two to tango. While you may have just put it on the back-burner, he internalized his frustrations instead of sharing them with you. You were on the road to becoming two ships passing in the night. But he sounds remorseful and you seem hesitant to move forward with a divorce, so take this as a chance to work at your marriage. Your romantic relationship needs to be nurtured like all the other aspects of your life. Yes, you have children. Yes, you have jobs. Relationships ebb and flow. They change, they grow, they die, they are reborn. The question is: Can you weather the seasons? Maybe it’s time to bring back date night. Can you hire a sitter once a week or every other week? Romance and intimacy are vital components to any healthy relationship, but, more importantly, the affection and attention you give one another will be the glue that holds you together. Enjoy one another, appreciate one another, and respect each other’s feelings. He disrespected your feelings, so the healing process may take some time. But putting in the work now may save you both much heartache in the future.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Always ask your new contact what follow-up method they prefer. Some people want you to email them, others may prefer a phone call. I’ve even had new contacts ask if they can message me on Instagram because that’s the platform they frequent the most. Whatever works, make sure you are both on the same page so that you don’t miss any opportunities to connect.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)