DEAR NATALIE: I recently discovered that my business partner has been stealing from me for years. I found out because my son-in-law – who is also an accountant – offered to handle my taxes this year. I admit that I don’t keep as good of a record of everything as I should. He quickly realized that my partner – who has access to all of the accounts – was skimming money off the top. I never noticed because while I look regularly, I don’t do a deep dive very often. He was just taking a little at a time, randomly, so that’s partly why I didn’t catch on. I confronted him. He didn’t even act apologetic. He said he would do it when I “annoyed him.” This guy has known me for 20 years. I was shocked that he would do this to me since we’ve been friends for so long. My son-in-law said I should terminate our partnership immediately. I have mixed feelings. I don’t want to lose our friendship, but I know that what he did was wrong. Am I crazy for just trusting him and moving forward? –BAD PARTNER
DEAR BAD PARTNER: You know that old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me"? You may be living that shortly if you don’t pull it together. Your friend of 20 years stole from you. Doesn’t matter why. Doesn’t matter how much. He stole from you. Are you willing to move beyond this and put nothing in place so that it doesn’t happen again? I wonder what this says about your sense of self-worth. Do you think so little of yourself that you'd allow someone to walk all over you, laugh in your face about it, and not even promise to stop stealing from you? Sit with that for a moment. If you don’t want to dissolve the business, at the very least, you need to remove his access to the accounts. Your son-in-law can set up payroll if that’s not in place, but he should not have direct access to funds anymore. I would also ask yourself how he would respond if the shoe was on the other foot. Would he be so conciliatory? Would he be showing such quick forgiveness? And why are you?
DEAR NATALIE: My kids are in their early 20s and have been estranged from me and their stepmother for about five years. During my divorce from their mother, there was a lot of negativity spewed at me – they were truly manipulated by their mother to turn on me. It's been incredibly hurtful and upsetting. I didn't see my kids much when they were teens because of their mother, but I have always financially supported them. I have an 11-year-old daughter with my second wife, and the three of us are happy. My older kids still won’t speak to me, but they are finally starting to speak to their sister via text and FaceTime. She wants to invite them for Christmas, but my wife is worried that they won’t show. She doesn’t want our daughter to be hurt, and she feels they owe me an apology for cutting me out of their lives. I think we should just see what happens. I think if they show up at Christmas, there could be a chance for reconciliation, and I don’t want to ruin that. My wife feels like there needs to be a conversation prior to Christmas. She doesn’t want a bunch of drama. What do you think we should do? — DAD WANTS PEACE
DEAR DAD WANTS PEACE: While I empathize with your wife in this situation and recognize that she is just looking out for you, she needs to let this unfold naturally. If the kids are willing to come around for the holidays, let’s see what happens. If you start with an apology, they may let their guard down and share what has been on their minds. If you demand a “sit down” discussion before the holiday, they may shut down. Your youngest daughter is the one with the most to lose right now. She is also the one least equipped to handle all of this emotional turmoil. So for her sake, tread lightly. It sounds as though there is a lot of pent-up emotional trauma on both sides. Instead of trying to unpack that the first time you are back together, just have some fun together. Keep it light, and work towards a reconciliation one text, one visit, one dinner at a time. I wish you the best!
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