Dear Prudence

Oedipus Wrecks

My husband divulges too much of our personal life to his mother.

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Dear Prudence,

I have been married for eight years and have often been shocked when my husband says private things publicly. He thinks it’s no big deal, though he did stop for a while. He e-mails his mother from work about our sex life—and he tells her everything—and she responds back. This has gone on for some time, and even though the counselor (who he handpicked, himself) told him I am a private person and things like this embarrass me, he continues. What is the deal?

—At My Wits’ End

Dear At,

The deal is that your husband and his mother have an unhealthy attachment that manifests itself in discussing topics not appropriate for a man and his mother. And sorry, his handpicked therapist is a sandwich shy of a picnic. The reason your sex life should not be fodder for your mother-in-law is NOT that you’re a private person, but that you’re a married woman whose sex life is nobody’s business. A grown man who discusses marital intimacies with his mother is judgment-free and developmentally damaged. Prudie suggests that YOU choose a therapist who can get it across to blabbermouth that he needs to find new subjects to chat about with his mother—and the reasons why. What is going on now is deplorable. To borrow a course of action from Lysistrata, until this matter is settled to your satisfaction, perhaps you should not give him anything to talk about.

—Prudie, strategically

Dear Prudie,

My boyfriend and I have been a couple for five months and are very much in love. He is wonderful, attractive, and the sweetest man I’ve ever dated. He takes care of my car problems, flat tires, anything I need, and I help him in his business, make him dinner, anything he needs. We see each other every day. He is the man of my dreams. My problem is that I’m ready to talk marriage, and he doesn’t seem to be. He is 10 years older than me and has been married twice before, both times to women who turned out NOT to be nice people and about whom he had misgivings even before tying the knot. I’ve never been married before, and I do take it very seriously. My bringing up the subject has been a killer of other relationships in the past, and this one I don’t want to kill. Subsequently, I’m afraid to bring it up. We share the same religion and believe that premarital sex is wrong. (Yes, I am a 30-year-old “V” word.) I have no wish to break my promise to God but don’t feel I can hold on much longer. I vacillate between two camps: thinking I need to back off and prepare to date other people, or the idea that, OK, being his girlfriend is definitely better than being any other man’s wife, so maybe I can live like this for, say, the next 20 years, or however long it takes. Please advise.

—Permanent Girlfriend?

Dear Perm,

Alas, not everyone shares the directive on Prudie’s powder room towels: “Eat, drink, and remarry.” Your boyfriend is certainly not the only one to be burned by divorce who vows never to marry again. If marriage is essential for you, perhaps issue an ultimatum—but be prepared to be turned down. If you truly believe that being this man’s girlfriend is “better than being another man’s wife,” then stick around and hope that one day you might get your wish. Should you choose the however-long-it-takes option, however, you both might decide to renegotiate your deal with God.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

I recently reunited with my first love over the Internet. He lost his wife to cancer a little over a year ago. We have seen each other a few times (we live several hours apart), and things are basically great. Here’s the problem. He was very much in love with his wife and believes he is “cheating” on her with me; he doesn’t want me to meet his 20-year-old daughter since he promised her he would never get involved with anyone else. Should I give him some time with this or give him an ultimatum? I know we’re not doing anything wrong, and I don’t like the fact that he thinks of me as “the other woman.”

Thank you very much,

—Not a Mistress

Dear Not,

Ah yes, the lingering ghost of a much-loved wife. Obviously, it is too soon, for this man, to entertain the idea of “replacing” the woman in his life. And the pledge to the daughter—a 20-year-old, no less—was a mistake, let’s hope, made in a grief-stricken moment. Now is definitely not the time for an ultimatum. The answer would likely be au revoir. The good news is that widowers who enjoyed a wonderful marriage make excellent husbands. Dr. Pussycat is such a man. Which brings us to the bad news: One’s timing must be just right. The best thing to do, for now, is stay in the picture without pushing for anything. Be there for him more as a friend than a girlfriend. The “other woman” aura will fade with time, and then he will think that romance was HIS idea. Another approach would be to take a timeout while he works through his sorrow … but that has risk. For some reason, the minute these guys have accepted their loss, they seem to get married to the next woman they lay eyes on. Good luck.

—Prudie, chancily

Dear Prudie,

I am a college student, and I was dating a guy from my hometown this summer while I was there. We are still going out. Here is my problem. I am a serious Christian, and I have always dreamed of raising a Christian family. The guy I am going out with brought to my attention a few weeks ago that the reason he seemed to always have something to do on Wednesdays and Sundays is because he isn’t a Christian and didn’t feel comfortable in a big group of people who were. I like him so much, and the only thing keeping me from thinking about being with him for the rest of my life is the fact that he isn’t Christian. I have prayed about it for three weeks or so, but I just don’t know what to do. So should I grin and bear it and see how it turns out or just call it off and be friends?

—Far Away From My Dreams in More Ways Than One

Dear Far,

There are times when grinning and bearing it is a good solution when there are differences. Marriage, however, is not one of those times, particularly when the differences involves religious belief. For some couples, faith is not important to either person … or the less-interested party can go along with the observant partner with comparative comfort. In your situation, however, you say you are devout and this boyfriend is uncomfortable in the “big group” that is your congregation. This would pretty much preclude having a Christian family. You would almost certainly be better off ending the relationship sooner rather than later, and Prudie thinks you are smart to have given this situation credence at this time.

—Prudie, approvingly