Dear Prudence

My Funny-Looking Valentine

Prudie gives advice on mismatched couples, quickie weddings, and secret affairs just in time for V-Day.

Emily Yoffe.

Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
After several years together, my fiance and I are finally getting married. A simple beach wedding is set for early spring. The trouble is, my mother is disappointed that we are not making a big deal of finally saying “I do.” Her most recent complaint is our lack of engagement pictures (or any pictures at all). She bought us picture frames and a gift certificate to be photographed so that we would not have any more excuses. What she doesn’t acknowledge is that my fiance and I look terrible together. Separately, we are fine. However, while I love my fiance with all my heart, our features just don’t complement each other. I am almost certain that I will despise any formal pictures of us. Instead of letting the gift certificate go to waste, I was planning on having pictures taken of just our kids. But I fear that my fiance will think that I am ashamed of him. How do I tell my husband-to-be that pictures of us are just not for me?

—Camera Shy

Dear Shy,
Let’s say he’s a Klingon and you’re a Romulan, believe me, no one cares that your forehead ridges might clash. Take a look at rocker Ric Ocasek and his wife, model Paulina Porizkova. All his angles are bad and all hers are good. You’d never put them together if you were making a match based on looks, yet they happily fill the same camera frame. Maybe you’ve been reluctant to mention that you’re engaged to a Cyclops, but if that’s the case, you’ve chosen him, so you must find him attractive. There is simply no way to express to your betrothed that there will never be a joint portrait of the two of you, because while you both look fine separately, together you’re a hot mess. That would make anyone think that maybe being permanently separated is the best course for you two. Your mother gave you a lovely gift, so humor her by getting some family portraits done—of all of you together, and of just you and your fiance. If the photographer, upon snapping you and your beloved, screams and clutches his eyes in pain, then I will acknowledge that you were onto something.


Dear Prudence: Trashy Sister

Dear Prudence,
I’m 27 and I recently got engaged to a wonderful man who is 34. We’re planning on getting married in September. I asked my former best friend to be my maid of honor, and she said she would. However, she also urged us to wait to get married, because we’ve been dating for only four months. I haven’t been very close to this friend for a while, and she has never met my fiance. We’ve gotten remarks about our “whirlwind romance” from other people when they find out how long we’ve been together. We’ve been serious about each other from the beginning and have spoken often about marriage. We were planning on moving in together even before he proposed. But should we hold off on the wedding to “test drive” each other more? Or should we go ahead with the wedding, knowing that all relationships have their ups and downs, and living together for another year before tying the knot isn’t going to change that?

—Whirlwind Bride

Dear Bride,
I don’t know if I’m the right or wrong person to ask, because my husband and I were married four months after we met. We, however, had a reason for our whirlwind: I was 38 and he was 41, and we wanted to have a child before my reproductive organs filled with silt. We will have our 18th anniversary this year, our daughter is 16, and we’ve never regretted our mad dash to the altar. I love reading the New York Times wedding announcements, and it’s not unusual for people to recount that after the first date they knew they had found the one. You two may be another pair who knew right away it was right. By your wedding date you will have been together almost a year, so that’s not a negligible amount of time. However, my concern about your schedule is that there is no reason for it, and that if most of your time between now and then is focused on wedding planning, then you aren’t going to be experiencing each other in a relaxed and natural way. Despite my happy experience, I think it’s generally best for a couple to be together at least a year before marriage. That gives you a chance to meet each other’s friends, spend time with each other’s families, go on vacation, and have your first fight. It’s important for couples to get beyond that initial, heady flush in which just being together is like a drug. Your letter raises a couple of concerns. That you’ve had to turn to your former best friend for bridesmaid’s duties says to me that you are feeling pressure about the wedding, and there’s no real reason to make a wedding your top priority. Another is your reference to a relationship’s up and downs. I don’t know if that means you’ve already had some downs. If so, you need to look closely at how easy it was to get back on course. If you haven’t, how you two handle a couple of flat tires on that test drive will be valuable knowledge about the long road ahead.


Dear Prudence,
A few months ago, I got engaged to a wonderful woman. Last fall, after reading a Slate story on Facebook’s hidden “other messages” inbox, I checked mine. There were several messages, one of them from the wife of my fiancee’s co-worker. The woman wrote that her husband is a serial cheater and that my fiancee initiated an affair with her husband a couple of years ago. The wife said she confronted my fiancee about the affair and was angry that she didn’t accept responsibility. She said my fiancee was a selfish, lying, terrible person, and that I shouldn’t share this email with her (although she asked me to confront her over the affair). It’s possible the story is true; I don’t really care—this all happened before my fiancee and I met. I decided to ignore the vile message, but then I started thinking that this woman is a loose cannon and I don’t want her spreading stories. My fiancee has a high-pressure, high-profile job at which she excels. If I reveal this message to her, it will be mortifying and stressful. Should I just forget about it?

—Wishing I’d Never Heard of the Other Inbox

Dear Wishing,
If your fiancee did not have an affair with her co-worker, she should know that his paranoid wife thinks she did. If she did have the affair, she should know that his vindictive wife is out there spreading word of it. (And I’m going to guess that if it did happen, it probably began at the initiation of the compulsive cheater.) In either case, while the letter would be disturbing, a woman accustomed to a “high-pressure, high-profile job” should be able to handle a nasty email from a colleague’s wife. You should make clear that you’re not presenting it to her to find out the story—whatever happened predated your relationship, and you’re not prying—but that she should know this woman is out there. You should apologize for sitting on this for so long, but say you were torn about what to do. It’s sweet to want to protect your beloved from some of life’s unpleasantness, but this woman’s ranting could affect your fiancee’s career. Being able to say to her, “Here’s something you need to know about” will demonstrate just how much you trust and respect her.


Dear Prudie:
A few months ago, I began seeing a woman who recently had gone back to work after being unemployed for several months. Her new job pays far less than her previous position and although she’s surviving, she’s strapped financially. This obviously weighs on her. I’m financially stable and would be willing to help her if necessary in an emergency. I would like her to know that so that she doesn’t worry. We like each other, but I’m wondering if it would be appropriate for me to make such an offer so early in the relationship. Would it sound like some sort of quid pro quo (we’re already intimate, so that shouldn’t be an issue), or as though I’m trying to buy her emotionally? Could it be taken the wrong way?

—Asking for Trouble

Dear Asking,
It’s very thoughtful of you to want to help, but this relationship is too new for it to bear the burden of one of you owing the other money. That still leaves lots of room for you to be sensitive to her situation. You can say that given that she’s rebuilding her depleted resources, you’d like to be old-fashioned and pick up the tab for your dates. Let’s hope she occasionally offers to cook you a spaghetti dinner or suggests going for hikes or to free concerts. As this relationship continues, you should check in with her about her financial struggles. Only when you feel you’re part of a stable, committed couple would it make sense for you to offer to make a loan if you know that would ease a burden she’s under, through no fault of her own. For someone who’s been out of work, finding herself employed and having a great guy to share Valentine’s Day with has got to make her feel 2012 is off to a remarkable start.


Discuss this column with Emily Yoffe on her Facebook page.

More Dear Prudence Columns

Un-Bridal Passion: I had sex with a friend who’s getting married. Should I bow out of his wedding party?” Posted May 19, 2011.
Losing My Religion: Prudie advises a formerly devout man wrestling with the revelation that he’s no longer a believer.” Posted May 12, 2011.
The Mother Lode: Dear Prudence offers Mother’s Day advice regarding a swearing granny, a distant daughter, and a combative wife.” Posted May 5, 2011.
I’m Not a Child Bride: People think my husband is a pervert because I look like a kid. How can we explain?” Posted April 28, 2011.

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

Mom Loved Fluffy More Than Me: Dear Prudence advises a reader whose late mother preferred the company of her cat to that of her children—in a live chat at” Posted May 16, 2011.
Pregnant Widow: Dear Prudence advises a woman who discovered she’s pregnant after the sudden death of her husband—during a live chat at” Posted May 9, 2011.
The Bridesmaid Wore White: Dear Prudence advises a bride whose attendant threatens to upstage her—during a live chat at” Posted May 2, 2011.
The Redheaded Stepchild: Dear Prudence advises a mom-to-be who doesn’t want her husband’s older kid underfoot when the baby arrives—during a live chat at” Posted April 25, 2011.