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My wonderful boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly three years. This summer, we moved in together. This has brought us closer, and our relationship has flourished. We have discussed marriage, and I hope that it will be only a matter of time before we take that step. I grew up Catholic, while my boyfriend was “saved” (his words) during high school. My boyfriend’s relationship with God is something I admire, but his recent soul searching is somewhat troubling. Specifically, he has decided that premarital sex is a no-no—although we’ve been sexually active since early in our relationship. Not only do I disagree, but I find this change somewhat hurtful and offensive. I view sex as an essential expression of a loving relationship. I have said this, but all he can articulate is that he’s not sure what he feels and that he’ll continue to pray. Do I allow him to explore this new relationship with God and accept that the dynamic of our relationship has changed? Or do I attempt to convey to him why I feel differently and hope that things will go back to the way they were?
You can hope God tells your boyfriend that the two of you are free to resume carnal relations, but you’re not in a position to mediate his relationship with his savior. And you’ve already made clear that you find this abrupt reversal frustrating and insulting. Your boyfriend’s behavior sounds less like a religious awakening and more like one of those disclaimers from a credit card company that states, “Terms and conditions subject to change at any time.” I understand how even someone with strong religious convictions against premarital sex ends up indulging anyway. But it’s odd that once you moved in together, and sex was available anytime, he received a higher call that he needed to withdraw his physical affections. This makes me wonder whether the ecclesiastical reason he’s giving is his way of interpreting his inchoate fears about committing. Or perhaps there are other underlying secular reasons: interest in someone else; a feeling that domesticity is smothering; even ambivalence about his sexuality. If his explanation is that he’s not sure what he feels, you do have every right to say that given the abrupt change in your relationship, for the sake of the future you had been planning, you hope he can offer you more insight than that. In the meantime, you can give him a chaste kiss goodnight while you await further illumination or tell him that since this is so far from what you envisioned when you two shacked up, maybe you need to consider separate shacks.
I work in a small office. An otherwise lovely and sweet girl has a very annoying habit. Instead of a little laugh at the end of a sentence when she might be feeling nervous, she snorts. I can’t tell you how awful-sounding and loud this snort is! It’s like something an ill-mannered pirate would do to clear his throat. I think it’s nerves. This girl is very young, and this is her first job out of college. The snorting is noticeable to everyone. How can I politely let her know that she needs to nip it in the bud before it becomes a crazy habit that she carries through the rest of her adult life?
Keep in mind that while you may be right that her snort is just a demonstration of nerves, and with self-awareness she could get this under control, she might also have a tic. It’s a sensitive and touchy thing for an older office mate to approach a younger co-worker about such an issue. If you go ahead, it must be done in private, with gentleness and compassion. Get her alone over coffee and tell her how well she’s doing at work and how much everyone enjoys having her. Then say: “There’s a little thing you might not be aware of, and it’s something you may or may not be able to do anything about. You sometimes make a sound at the end of your sentences that distracts from what you’ve just said. If it’s a tic, don’t worry about it, because it’s a minor thing. But if it’s just a habit, if you become aware you’re doing it, that should help you to stop.” Then reiterate that she’s been a delightful addition and let it go. If she doesn’t stop, conclude that she can’t and be grateful you don’t have to go through life making that sound. And knowing there’s nothing more to be said about the snort might help you live with it.
My father is a loving family man and hard worker but has been unemployed for more than a year. When he left his previous job, it was over personal issues he had with his former employer, a vindictive and manipulative boss. While he worked for that man for more than five years and was an excellent worker, he is unable to use his former boss as a reference for fear of being bad-mouthed. My dad recently filled out an application for another job and informed me that I was his reference and that he wants me to pretend to be his former boss. While I love my father and sincerely want to help him, I’m not comfortable with this. I don’t know the first thing about his profession, and I am unsure of possible legal ramifications for playing make-believe. At the very least, I recognize that this is not the way my father raised me. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Is it OK to lie to his prospective employers?
—The Good Son
Dear Good Son,
About the worst thing you can do for your father is to perpetrate an amateurish fraud on a potential employer. What are you going to say when they ask about his duties: “Mr. Jones was a master of CLMs“? Surely this little scam will not only fail, but it will confirm whatever unflattering things the real ex-boss has to say, while adding the breaking news that your father is a con artist. I know that’s not what your father actually is. He’s a desperate man who’s facing financial ruin. But destroying his reputation will turn a financial calamity into career suicide. Tell your father you refuse to go along and that you will not respond to any calls or e-mails from companies seeking references. Your father should contact the place he has applied to and either withdraw his application or say he made an error on the reference information. Perhaps your father could give as a reference someone other than his immediate boss. If he gets as far as an interview, and the subject of his direct supervisor comes up, he can say they had disagreements about company policy and direction and that there are many others who can attest to his skill and work ethic. It’s horrible to see your father reduced to this, but tell him that no matter what, you love and admire him, and that you can’t do what he asks because it violates everything he taught you.
I am concerned about an ongoing situation involving my next-door neighbors. My wife and I moved into our apartment about six months ago. Not long after moving in, we were alarmed to hear our next-door neighbors, a married couple with whom we share a wall, shouting very loudly at each other during a heated fight. Since then, the arguments have continued with great frequency, and the language from him is so loud and abusive that we are now starting to feel as if we should call the police, especially because they have a baby, and we sometimes hear crashing sounds. But if we call the police, they will know that it was either we who called or their other next-door neighbors (there are only a few apartments in the building), and I don’t want that lunatic coming after us. When is it time to call in help?
Now is the time to call. Once, years ago, I lived below a similarly abusive husband, who regularly screamed vile things. One day, I heard the wife come home, cry out, and fall to the floor, which was followed by her hysterical sobs. I feared she had been attacked by an intruder, so I called the police. They came and left, and when I called the station to find out what happened, I was told: “It was nothing. Just a domestic.” The couple went on to have a baby and move away, and I’ve sometimes wondered about that miserable little family. Fortunately, today there’s a different attitude about “Just a domestic.” Your call doesn’t mean he’ll stop, or that she’ll leave him, but it does put them in the system and him on notice. You can call anonymously. And if you later feel in any way threatened by him, immediately make a follow-up call to the police.
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