Dear Prudence

Love Affairs That End in Lawsuits

Get “Dear Prudence” delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to


If you’re in New York, you have to return the
ring. Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania stuck steadfastly to the no-fault reasoning and decreed that the donor should always get the ring back if the engagement is broken off, regardless of who broke it off or why (Lindh v. Surman,1999 WL 1073639). Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Wisconsin have the same rule (Heiman v. Parrish, 942 P.2d 631, 636 [Kan. 1997]). The alternative rule, and still the majority approach, is that a donor who breaks off the engagement for a reason that has nothing to do with the donee’s behavior cannot recover the ring. This is the fault-based rule.

—Helpful Lawyer

Dear Help,

Prudie thanks you for the legal opinion—with citations, yet. It is very flattering to have so many lawyers as readers, seemingly all of whom checked in regarding the engagement ring. Your “alternative rule,” alas, is the wild card. Anyway, it seems sad to Prudie that what was once a love affair could end in a lawsuit, but maybe engagements, emotionally, are no different from marriages.

—Prudie, resignedly

Dear Prudence,

It was with great amusement that I read the
letterfrom G.G. about her best friend being “in love with a gay man,” for I find myself in a similar situation—but with a twist. I find myself lusting after a gay man, but he has done all the pursuing … he has told me he wants to go to bed with me, holds long, lingering eye contact, dances more than close, etc. I was shocked at his behavior at first, but now I find myself enamored of him. I just don’t know what to do. He does this with a lot of women but seems to pay more attention to me than to most. He complains that he can’t find a boyfriend but spends most of an evening chasing women! What is your opinion?

—Confused To Say the Least

Dear Con,

This man is playing an odd game. While announcing he’s gay by bemoaning the lack of eligible boyfriends, he’s into hetero flirting. This situation sounds as though he’s either a narcissistic tease, enjoys causing conjecture, or very confused … he “doesn’t know if he’s Arthur or Martha,” as the Aussies say. Remove yourself from this scenario. It is going nowhere. Start making eye contact and dancing closely with someone who is clear about who he is and what he wants.

—Prudie, flirtatiously

Dear Prudie,

I am getting married in April, and I have something of a dilemma. I have a stepfather who raised me from the age of 3, and he’s always been “Daddy” and I his little girl. On the other hand, my biological father walked away from me when I was 6 and never looked back until I was 13. Then, when I was 20, he broke off all ties to me again, and just recently have we started speaking again. I do have a love for him, but not as strong as for my stepdad—who I have asked to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. The problem is I am not sure what to do with the father. I don’t want there to be hurt feelings. I haven’t told my birth father who will be walking me down the aisle. I have discussed this with my mom, and she said it’s my day and I should do what I feel is right. I feel it is right for me to have my stepdad give me away because my father actually gave me away when I was 3. Is there any way to lighten the blow to my father so that he will be in the pews and not in the aisle?

—Thank you,

Daddy’s Little Girl

Dear Dad’s,

Prudie seconds your choice about who will walk you down the aisle. It is certainly kind of you to be concerned about how your biological father will feel. He knows as well as you do, however, that he has wandered in and out of your life, so the arrangements will come as no surprise. To make him feel welcome, tell him you are so pleased he will be present on your big day. And to you and your groom, mazel-ton, which, of course, means tons of luck.

—Prudie, matrimonially

Dear Prudence,

Here is the situation: You form a friendship over a few days, which is sustained over ensuing months by occasional e-mails—in one of which you say something critical of an organization you both know well. Your “friend” sends that part of the message only (excluding some positive sentiments about the organization) to a member of it who is a mutual friend … thereby destroying that friendship and poisoning relations with the organization. When you discover all this, through a third party, you are mortified. But what do you say to the once trusted friend? I do not wish to accuse her of betrayal openly, though that is how I feel, because stupidity, rather than malice, is a possibility. I really feel that the friendship is over. Your thoughts?  


Dear J,

With friends like this, you don’t need e-mail. It is hard to believe that stupidity was the culprit. One would have to be world-class dumb to pass on negative comments to a person who would obviously be offended … and extracting the positive sentiments makes malice quite a strong possibility. Since everybody knows what everybody knows, you might consider sending the entire message to the recipient of just the negative part. Perhaps that relationship can be salvaged. As you’ve learned the hard way, e-mails can be the composite photos of life online.

—Prudie, repairingly