Dear Prudence

To Confess or Not To Confess

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Dear Prudence,
I have been in a monogamous relationship and living with a man for the past three years. He is separated but still legally married to someone else. About a month ago, he decided he wanted to give his marriage another try. Though he had many doubts, he decided one Sunday morning to move out of our house. That was absolutely the longest, hardest day of my life. He said he might come back that night (he had not yet moved out all of his things) but he did not. Prudie, I took that to mean he was gone. I was so devastated I turned to someone else … a close friend who just happened to be staying with us and who’s always been attracted to me, and vice versa. On Monday we had passionate sex. That’s all it was, though, sex. Trouble is, my boyfriend decided that being back with his wife was not what he wanted. He wanted to come back home, and I allowed him to. He told me he and his wife were not intimate, and he was happy to say he had a clear conscience. But I do not. What should I do? Do I risk telling him what happened, or do I keep it to myself? I don’t want to hurt him.

—Hiding the Truth

Dear Hide,
Prudie’s derrière is a little uncomfortable because she is sitting on the fence about this one. One could make a case for letting your highly emotional one-night stand be a secret freebie. Sometimes confessing is better for the confessor than the “confessee” and just makes unnecessary trouble. However, the guilty secret might be a nightmare for you, not to mention there’s the fairness factor, for health reasons, if you did not practice safe sex. There are two schools of thought about fessing up: Honesty is the best policy, and you take your lumps … if there are lumps to be taken, or you don’t risk everything but make a vow to play it straight from here on in. In other words, forgive yourself. You need to think about all this. Between the time you wrote to Prudie and are reading this advice, you should have gained some clearer idea about how you’ve been feeling about keeping your errant night to yourself. If you decide to reveal the regrettable encounter, the way it happened is the way to tell it: You were distraught and accepted the wrong kind of comfort. Should this be your choice, it’s a safe bet the house guest will not be welcomed back.

—Prudie, pensively

Dear Prudie,
My husband recently began “chatting.” At first he was spending 40 hours a week on this, until I said either fewer days, fewer hours per day, or no phone service. We had to opt for no phone service. We have been through his locking the door to chat and keeping secret notebooks with e-mail addresses. He has cut back to 15-20 hours a week; however, this has him on pins and needles much of the time when he’s not online. We have been together almost 20 years. By his own admission he is chatting with women. “Men only chat about sports,” he claims. Today I found a disk which contains some, shall we say, “not for family viewing” pictures on it. He says he collects pictures because of his interest in Web design, though I would have to question what kind of Web designing he is interested in. I can’t handle much more of this. I am crushed to think that a machine with who knows what on the other end is able to come between us. What should I do now? Money is an issue, and I have two children to raise—but I need my sanity to do it. He won’t talk this through, nor will he agree to counseling. I do not want to be carried off by the man in a little white coat.


Dear Lone,
You had to do without a working phone so he could try to get away from the Internet?! He is addicted, just as surely as if he were downing a quart of vodka a day. You say he will not discuss it or go for counseling and that money is an issue. Then give him an ultimatum: Either he does go for counseling (and there are free mental health services available) or you live in the same house—but that’s it. You will not cook for him or look after him, and there will certainly be no bedroom activity. If he can’t act like a husband and father, he will not be treated as one. Prudie would suggest to you that sometimes when people feel they can’t afford something, the reality is they can’t afford not to try to find a way. His behavior, weakness, whatever it is, is shameful, and he is a fool not to recognize that this is no way to live.

—Prudie, absolutely

I feel simply awful. I’m recently married to a pip of a fellow, but fear I said yes too quickly. Evidence supporting this theory is that I suffered horrific episodes of temper the month before my marriage and have now taken to spraying my new husband with a torrent of nagging comments and my male friends (including some former crushes) with a fire hose of longing and emotional demands they shouldn’t have to, and don’t want to, deal with. I love my new hubby, my parents adore him—but I feel trapped. Am I as horrid as I feel?

—Never Ready To Be a Newlywed

Dear Nev,
You are having a mini-breakdown, my dear … and you’re not horrid, just a little immature. Your take on the subject is probably correct: You were not quite ready to be Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady. And there may have been a subtle undertone of your parents “encouraging” you. The good news is that you love your hubby while acknowledging that you’re not at your best. The thing to do, and perhaps with help from someone with an M.D. or a Ph.D., is deal with the romantic version of buyer’s remorse. The nagging comments and demands have to stop, of course, lest your put-upon pip of a fellow decides that he made a mistake. If there are particular things you feel you’re missing by marrying when you did, try to find a way to bring them back into your life. This, of course, does not include the former crushes. With some work and good will, you will grow into your marriage.

—Prudie, diligently

Dear Prudence,
Our new neighbors have an 11-year-old daughter who is going to drive me crazy. Unfortunately, she seems somewhat mentally handicapped. She steals, cusses like a sailor, and is generally obnoxious. I think her parents are happy/relieved that she is playing with my children, and they never bother to check on her. I am always the one who has to do it—and I won’t leave this child alone with my children. Where does compassion end—and should I put up with her antics because she is (I think) handicapped?

—Tired of It Already

Dear Ti,
You have two options. You can not permit your children to play with the neighbor, or you can tell the girl’s parents that the objectionable behavior is not acceptable. Inform them that either they take more control of the situation and share the monitoring duties, or your children won’t be able to play with her. Cursing and stealing do not have to do with retardation, and tolerating these traits is not compassion in Prudie’s book.

—Prudie, firmly