Dear Prudence

Are There 50 Ways To Leave a Husband?

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Dear Prudie,

I know it’s not my business, but I am dying for a grandchild, and my only son and his wife seem to have no plans in that direction. They are both very career-oriented, and my son takes great pride in ballyhooing his wife’s progress at her company. My daughter-in-law is already in her 30s, and if she  can’t hear her biological clock ticking, I can. I am trying so hard not to be a buttinsky, but do you think there’s some way I can encourage them in a direction I know would be rewarding for them?

—Would-Be Grandma

Dear Would,

You must try a little harder to keep out of it. This decision has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re waiting, maybe they’re not. Prudie can think of no more personal decision than whether to have children. And there’s always the possibility that they’re trying and not having any luck. If you value a good relationship with your kids, do not bring the subject up. It may be that your daughter-in-law is one of those women who, if she wants to hear the pitter patter of little feet, will put shoes on the cat.

—Prudie, privately

Dear Prudie,

My hubby of 21 years is a “nice” guy who is just plain clueless about life, love, money, how to communicate, and how to treat a woman. I have covered for him, worked around him, done all the work for him, made excuses for him, and held him up as the head of the household to the kids. But now my arms are tired! He is a selfish oaf and I’m just plain tired. I never was “in love” with him. We married too young because we had to. (I was pregnant.) My life is half over and I’m afraid if I don’t get out now, more time will waste away and my regrets will continue to grow. We have kids ranging from 10 to teens. I have stayed “for the children,” but at some point I need to pull myself together and have some self-respect. He shows little respect for me, and the kids have picked up on that. Do I sit tight until the kids are grown, or get out now when I am only 42? And how do I get out? Is there a how-to book on this? Thanks.


Dear Kit,

Prudie supposes there are scads of books on the subject, but it might be easier for you to do it like everybody else: figure out living arrangements with Mr. Mistake, then engage a lawyer. From your description of things, Prudie will not encourage you to hang in there. And it’s been pretty well established that staying together “for the children” does them no favor. Their antennae are quite good at picking up tension, unhappiness, and a loveless atmosphere. Prudie agrees that one’s early 40s are a more propitious time to begin again than one’s 50s. Much luck to you.

—Prudie, supportively

Dearest Prudence,

My husband and his family are all very intelligent people, to the point where my siblings call them “Encyclopedia People.” The problem is that the older brother, my brother-in-law, while seemingly knowing something about everything, can’t seem to figure out how to get out of enormous debt—or his parents’ basement (he’s 30-something). His idea of a solution is to take advantage of his younger brother and his wife by asking us for loans, asking us to “float him some cash” until later, or even writing bad checks to us, knowingly, and not attempting to make amends! This is a subject avoided around our home, because though Dear Hubby knows better, he can’t seem to say no to his older sib. I, on the other hand, have a temper when it comes to this user and have told him off thoroughly enough in the past to warrant us not being spoken to by the rest of the family for weeks. To make matters worse, the brother is unemployed because he is an artist … and no one is willing to pay him the exorbitant amounts he asks. He has taken to dropping by—unannounced, in this high-tech age!—and moaning about his money troubles for hours on end. Please tell me a tactful way to get this barnacle off our backs!

—Temper in the Twin Cities

Dear Temp,

It sounds as if one of the “Encyclopedia People” is an inferior edition. You are absolutely correct in your assessment of your brother-in-law’s behavior, but familial feeling is clearly trumping your husband’s judgment. Now that you have established that grand mal rants accomplish nothing, you must arrive at a way to act in concert with your husband … to get on the same page, as the cliché has it. You need to point out, in a no-raised-voices discussion (maybe even with a counselor) that you are his partner in life; the funds are joint; he is enabling his moocher brother; and between the unannounced visits and the financial drain he is allowing The Artist  to disturb your marriage. And forget about tact. When your husband recognizes that he must deal with the situation, Prudie doubts that tact will be anywhere in the vicinity.

—Prudie, firmly 

Dear Prudence,

I have been seeing a younger co-worker socially. We’ve gone on lunch and supper dates and have spent a leisurely Saturday together. He picks me up at my home and pays for everything each time we go out, despite my offers to treat. Although we have gone out several times, nothing physical has transpired (i.e., no kissing or hugging or handholding). We enjoy each other’s company, and this weekend he’s coming to my house for a home-cooked meal. When the last date ended, I told him I had a lovely afternoon and looked forward to having him over for dinner. Then I asked him if I could kiss him good-bye, to which he provided his cheek. I do not know how to interpret him giving me his cheek in lieu of a tasteful peck on the lips. I don’t know if he’s interested in being just “buddies,” or if he actually has romantic designs on me. Knowing which direction this relationship is going will dictate how I act and dress.


Dear PLEA,

Prudie thinks you should skip the décolletage and behave as though he were a favorite, fun cousin. If you are this man’s boss, or the age difference is significant, that may account for his reserve … but a more likely explanation is that this chap is not interested. Since he is old enough to be working, and you’ve been out on multiple dates, his offering you his cheek is your answer. The ball is in your court. If you’re happy with his good company and polite escort behavior, by all means continue. If you’re looking for a romantic friend, look elsewhere.

—Prudie, realistically