Dear Prudence

Sex, Lies, and Banishments

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Dear Prudence,
My husband left me very suddenly and is now living with another woman. We had our normal loving early morning rituals, and while I was at work, he cleaned out the house. I always say there’s nothing like making love in the morning and getting screwed in the afternoon. I am coping with the realities and legalities. What I’m having a problem with is the questions that keep coming up. Example: “Where’s the rest of the family today?” Which leaves me struggling for a quick answer that approaches the truth. Is there a quiet way to let my office know that we’re separated and I do not wish to discuss it? Or is it better to say nothing and let the news reach people by osmosis, which does seem to work in offices? To gain sympathy for his inexplicable desertion, he has been telling people he caught me in bed with another woman or, alternately, that my lesbian lover has been living with us while we relegated him to the basement! (“You poor man.”) Other than laughing uproariously or bursting into tears, how can I respond when I hear this story (again)? A few words, please.


Dear Flab,
How about these few words? “Cowardly bastard.” Even Prudie is flabbergasted by the tale of the lesbian and the basement. As to what to say when people ask where this skunk, I mean, your husband is, simply tell them, “We have parted.” Ask someone you feel close to at work to inform the others that your marriage is being dissolved and you would prefer not to discuss details. Should anyone be so crass as to bring up the Sapphic situation or what’s-his-name bunking in the basement, Prudie likes your idea of laughing uproariously. Or if you’re not in the mood to guffaw, you might try raising your eyebrows so high it will seem like you have bangs. As to your mentioning that he “cleaned out the house,” should he have spirited away things other than his personal effects, your lawyer can ask a judge for their return. Once the shock of the ambush wears off, my dear, Prudie is certain you will feel relief that you are free of this grief-burger of a husband, to use Maureen Dowd’s apt phrase. If Sir Galahad wishes to remarry in a hurry, you might want to slow down the divorce until you are well-compensated. And Prudie will wager that any guy who can pull a stunt like this will wind up doing something equally shabby to the babe he is with now. As my own dear mother is fond of saying … time wounds all heels, and he’ll get his.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudence,
My husband is 39 and not able to perform as a husband due to the fact that he is disabled. He had a couple of strokes that rendered him unable to perform sexually, or walk, or act like the rest of the world. He tells me that because of this, I should go out and have an affair. I really do miss making love and being touched. I miss the feel of a man touching me and allowing myself to touch back. My husband and I have tried unsuccessfully many times, and he ends up getting very frustrated. Tell me how I should handle things and if having an affair is a good idea. Thank you for taking time for me.

—Quite Confused

Dear Quite,
If it’s OK with your husband, it’s OK with Prudie. This situation is all about interpretation and is a very personal matter. If you believe your husband is sincere in his permission, then you have a kind of moral clearance to proceed, if you choose to. What you need to think through, however, is whether his offer comes from a sincere place, or whether he is feeling that his disability has made this an unsatisfactory marriage for you, and making this offer is an unconscious request for you to confirm your commitment. Also, if you were to begin an affair, be prepared for unexpected consequences. Suffice it to say your life could be turned upside down. This was the subject of a film called Breaking the Waves—and the outcome was messy, to say the least. Should you go this route, though, Prudie hopes that you would not poach a friend’s husband.

—Prudie, thoughtfully

Dear Prudie,
I was married for 14 years, and my husband moved out over two and a half years ago. I am disabled, and he was the wage-earner. I did not have the funds to file for divorce. I was faithful throughout the relationship and continued to be for two years after he left. My problem is that last summer I became close friends with my son’s friend. He is 25. We have always been a source of support for each other. He is a nice-looking young man and has many girlfriends. What his girlfriends do not understand is that he is not a commitment kind of man. Last December we had sex for the first time. I really beat myself up over this. We talked about it, and I stressed that if my sons found out, they would be devastated. We have had sex five times in the last six months. I care a lot about him, and I know that he cares for me, but love is not the issue. I think it is just a passing thing. I could try to break this off, but we have talked about it, and his response is, “We are adults, and they never need to find out.” My feelings are that I enjoy the closeness. We live in a small town, and I don’t want to hear what I have been doing (or not doing). We both know this relationship will not go anywhere, but for now we like being together. Do I continue to live a lie to my children? Do I break it off and feel lonely? Or do I come clean? He gave, not loaned me the money to file for a divorce. If funds are low, he always chips in. I really do not know what to do.


Dear Stump,
Well, here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. As you outline the situation, Prudie sees nothing wrong with it. We’re all grown-ups here. You are not planning to turn this into a formal or permanent relationship, and you’re not kidding yourself about where it’s going. It would be good if your boys did not find out about it, but the fact of the relationship does not make your life “a lie.” You owe your children no explanation about your private life. Because of the small-town factor, as well as your sons’ sensibilities, it would probably be more comfortable if you two could keep your liaison quiet. But the important thing to remember is that neither of you is doing anything wrong … no one is cheating on anyone. Your discomfort comes from the fact that your respective ages are a bit outside the norm, but this kind of thing happens all the time.

—Prudie, progressively

Dear Prudence,
I can’t believe I am writing to you (no offense), but obviously my life is a mess if I’m seeking advice from a complete stranger. Where do I begin? For starters, I’m 28 years old, unhappily married for almost five years, and have three children … my oldest is from another relationship when I was younger, but my two youngest are with my husband. I’ve left many times due to my husband’s verbal abuse and poor treatment of my oldest daughter, his stepdaughter. I repeatedly came back to try and “work things out” because of all the promises he made to change. Needless to say, after counselors and numerous “second chances,” things are still the same. I am terrified to divorce because I’m a stay-at-home mom trying to finish my college degree. I know these sound like excuses, but I really have no “backbone” or self-confidence in myself or my abilities. The other twist is that I’ve recently entered into an affair with a 21-year-old man. I wasn’t planning on this and never cheated before, but he treats me with respect, love, kindness, and above all makes me feel wanted. I really am in love with him and vice versa. He doesn’t tell me to leave my husband; he says that’s a decision I have to make for myself and my children. He supports my hopes and dreams and he
listens to me without passing judgment. So, my problem is that I haven’t gotten a divorce yet because of a sense of guilt and the fear that my children will suffer from a broken home. I am so confused and depressed. I know the right thing to do, but I can’t seem to take the necessary steps to do it.

Living in Purgatory

Dear Liv,
In the scheme of things (and the actuarial tables) you have much of your life ahead of you. It is nice that your young friend will likely stick around, but he should not be the reason for leaving your marriage. The reason to leave is a husband who clearly differentiates between his natural children and step- and is abusive, in the bargain. You do children no favor by holding things together when the tension is thick and the marriage is empty. What you call the “poor treatment” of the oldest child should be a strong incentive to act, and unloading an abusive partner need elicit no feelings of guilt. If you divorce, your current husband will have some financial obligation to you and his children. You would undoubtedly improve your life if you undid this mistake.

—Prudence, forwardly