Dear Prudence

I’m Not Saying She’s a Gravedigger …

My fiancee seems overly interested in my death.

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Dear Prudence,
I recently proposed marriage to my significant other of two years. She accepted my proposal, and we began planning our marriage. Earlier in our relationship, I told her that if we got married I would want a prenuptial agreement, and she agreed. However, now that the time has come for us to sign, she is refusing. I have offered to write a will that protects her in the event of my death. But she says that if I die first, she would have limited rights to contest my will and is worried my family would attempt to claim my investments. She also stated that in the event of both of our deaths, her two adult children from a previous marriage would not have rights to my investments. We are at a standstill. Is she correct in feeling that I am dishonoring the sanctity of the marriage by demanding that my investments be protected and dealt with in the manner in which I choose?

—Hitting the Brick Wall

Dear Hitting,
If you do decide to honor your fiancee’s vision of the sanctity of marriage and forgo a prenuptial agreement, you might want to consider using some of your assets to pay for a live-in food taster. All right, maybe she doesn’t actually wish the actuarial tables are overestimating your personal life expectancy, but she seems awfully invested in what she and her children are going to do with your investments once you’re gone. Paul McCartney was such a romantic that he didn’t ask Heather Mills to sign a prenuptial. Now that they’re divorcing, the fight over his estate has been entertaining the British public for months. Since you are well-off, a potential spouse has a right to expect that you would provide for her in your estate planning, as you have said you will. And two people, especially older people with property and children, should have a thorough discussion of the less romantic aspects of joining their lives: safeguarding their wealth, power of attorney, living will, etc. But your fiancee is threatening that unless you promise to leave everything you’ve built prior to meeting her to her and her children, she’s going to refuse to marry you. Since she’s been showing such an ugly side of herself during these discussions, her threat must seem more and more like a reprieve.


Dear Prudence Video: A Well-Endowed Dilemma

Dear Prudie,
I am 19 years old and doing my best to live with multiple anxiety disorders. My dad is very smart, with a type A personality and a successful, high-pressure job. I am very shy and sensitive, and cannot work in such a setting. If I did, I would get a panic attack every time I did something wrong for fear that everyone would be mad at me. The only jobs I feel comfortable doing are those with children and a few motherly adults. Right now, I have four such jobs as a preschool aide: three of them are one day a week, and the other is as often as they need me. All of the adults I work with constantly tell my parents how well I’m doing at work. Yet my dad is unhappy. All he says when I mention these accomplishments is, “That’s great, but you should be doing more. You need a full-time job that’s challenging and that you can learn valuable skills from.” Whenever I tell him how much his put-downs hurt me, he just says he wants the best for me—even though his idea of what’s best is way too much for me to handle. How do I let him know how much it hurts when he shows that he cares more about my status than my happiness?

—Can’t Measure Up

Dear Can’t,
Your father is dealing with anxiety problems, too. He wants so desperately to feel that his smart, lovely daughter is on a path that will lead to her being able to support and protect herself as she goes out into a tough world that he loses sight of how hard he is on you. It’s great that you can tell him both about the praise you get at work and that it hurts when he doesn’t seem to appreciate how others see you. Being able to assert yourself with him is good practice. And it’s not that I want to pile on, but I also think your father is making a valid point. It’s great that you feel your niche in life is working with preschoolers. But I agree with your father that you should make it a real career choice. Bouncing around in a series of part-time jobs is not going to give you the work record or the stability you need to advance in your career. Address what is holding you back from finding a full-time job and from continuing your education, so that you can thrive as a professional. I hope you are under treatment for your anxiety problems. If not, you need to look into possible medications and therapy. Cognitive therapy can be an effective treatment for panic and anxiety disorders. Don’t do it to prove something to your father. Do it so that you can give your best to the children and get the most out of your life.


Dear Prudence,
I have a question regarding etiquette for my high-school graduation. Space is limited, and graduates are given only eight tickets. I was going to invite my mother and father (they are divorced, and my father is remarried), my younger sister, and three grandparents. This leaves me two tickets. My father has bluntly informed me that since I am inviting him, I should invite his wife, too. I do not have a close relationship with her and do not consider her a member of my family. She does not fit in with my mother’s family in the least, and inviting her would mean not inviting my aunt and uncle, with whom I am much closer. I view the ceremony as a celebration of my graduation and those who helped me get there. My father and stepmother have been married for only a few years and, while she thinks we are indeed best friends, I do not view her as someone I should invite. How do I approach this with my father?
—Irritated Graduate

Dear Irritated,
Despite what I’m sure is an excellent education, some information has apparently been withheld from you: Your stepmother is part of your family. And now that you’re about to become an adult, it’s time you acted like one. You don’t even attempt to make a case against inviting your stepmother; you don’t say she always gets drunk and makes a scene, nor do you say she is verbally abusive to your family members. Your stepmother actually thinks that during the “only a few years” that she has been married to your father, her attempts to win your friendship have worked. Well, even if they haven’t, she is your father’s wife and your stepmother, and on your big day, you need to be big and graciously invite her. Since space is so restricted, maybe your family could have a small party afterward and invite the family members who couldn’t come to the ceremony. Not only will they understand, some will even be grateful they weren’t required to sit through the graduation.


Dear Prudence,
In my closet, I have about a dozen journals I kept from when I was 19 through 25 years old. During some of those years, I documented various thoughts and actions that are probably ordinary for young, single girls but can appear crude and shocking. Having been in a happy relationship for more than two years, I am no longer a diarist; I am rarely lonely enough to feel the need (and perhaps nothing that dramatic really happens to me anymore). My mother, who saw snippets of my Anaïs Nin-like musings when I was a teenager, has warned me that I need to keep that sort of writing under wraps. Do I need to burn these journals? I would be mortified if my current boyfriend, my parents, or my future children read them. Some of it might be of interest to me in the future, so I would be sad to destroy them. But I don’t have an attic to hide them away. What should I do?

—Destroy the Evidence

Dear Destroy,
I, too, kept prurient diaries in my youth that dwindled away as I realized the entries would now have to read, “Exciting news today—a two-for-one sale on my favorite toilet paper at the grocery store!” But why even consider destroying irreplaceable documents which capture a fleeting time in your life? (Mine are safely hidden in … well, I know I put them somewhere.) If yours seem too vulnerable in the closet, buy a lock box to store them in, and try to remember where you put the key. Everyone is entitled to their past and their privacy.