Ask Amy: Generous niece looks for ways to say “no”

Dear Amy: My aunt has fallen on hard financial times and has begun leaning on me. Although she has a daughter, two stepsons, a nephew, and the biological father of the granddaughter she is raising, I’m the only one willing to help.

Others are quite able but unwilling due to choosing not to work, refusing to pay child support, or falling out over the years.

I have agreed to directly deposit a certain amount of money into her account every month, but she consistently asks for more.

I’ve suggested she reach out to the others instead of solely relying on me, but she appears to make little effort.

I am giving her what I can without wrecking my own financial plans.

Do you have any suggestions about how to say “No” to further requests without seeming heartless?

I’m finding it difficult to refuse, but I’m feeling angry and taken advantage of, not only by my aunt, but by the others standing by and not helping.

— Nurturing Niece

Dear Niece: I assume that your concern about the child your aunt is raising is an important part of your motivation to extend ongoing generosity. I agree with your instinct to continue to protect yourself; this is vital.

You don’t mention details about your aunt’s work status or spending habits, but you should determine whether she is sending some of your funds out the door to deadbeat relatives.

One way to respond when she asks for more funds would be: “Tell me — what else are you doing to raise this money?” Be completely straightforward: “This is the limit to what I can give.”

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Help her to explore and apply for jobs and social services.

Dear Readers: As I announced previously, my final “Ask Amy” column in this space will run on June 30. (Readers will be able to find me through my newsletter and at

Until then, I’ll occasionally open my files and rerun some previously published Q&As. The following is from 2021.

Dear Amy: Is the male “midlife crisis” a real thing?

After 20 years of marriage, my “pillar of the community” husband started acting strangely.

He started dressing young, going to bars, and then quit sleeping at night.

When I found out he had an affair, I blew up and he took off with the young barfly. Our grown daughters and I are hurt and sad that our family life seems over. I thought we had a great marriage and family.

Do these men ever come home?

I can easily forgive him and go to counseling to get back on track.

We had made all kinds of retirement plans before this happened.

In addition to being a husband and father, he is my best friend, too.

— Don’t Know What to Do

Dear Don’t Know: Midlife crises are not confined to men. And while these changes can seem very sudden, this is a panicked response to the existential crisis brought on by the realization that one’s life is more than half over.

When the “crisis” moment arrives (sometimes prompted by a death in the family, a landmark birthday, children about to leave the nest, or job frustration), a person at midlife looks around, sings the old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?,” and decides that a pumped-up body, a younger partner, or a new toy in the garage will fix everything.

To quote a moment from one of my favorite movies, “Moonstruck,” the wise wife looks at her philandering husband and declares: “Cosmo, I just want you to know that — no matter what you do, you’re going to die, just like everybody else.”

Yes, sometimes people who leave in the throes of a midlife crisis do come back. Sometimes, their partner no longer wants them.

But rather than concentrate your energy on your husband’s behavior and choices, I hope you will take a long look at your own life. Deal with your grief and the profound loss and change. Yes, cope with your anger and give yourself the release of forgiving him if you can. Understand that his behavior does not negate the happiness of the 20-year family-building phase of your own life. Quoting Peggy Lee again: “If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing…” I hope you will choose to “dance” again.

Dear Amy: “Friendless” lives in a rural area, has a young child, and is looking to make friends.

She needs to head to her closest public library.

— Been There

Dear Been There: All roads worth traveling lead to the library.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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