Dear Prudence

Tainted Valentine

Someone told my boyfriend I was stealing from him—and he believed it.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year now, and I thought it was going well. I thought we were utterly trusting of each other. A few days ago, he sat me down and began to apologize profusely, and informed me that he had been suspecting me of stealing money from him. He explained that for some months he had been noticing increments of his cash was missing, and that his best friend Corey had told him the culprit was probably me. I was floored! Then he caught Corey in the act of sliding a wad of bills from my boyfriend’s emergency stash, and the truth was out. My boyfriend said he wasn’t sure about what Corey had been saying, but that he’d been subtly steering me away from situations where I’d have access to his cash, and that he’d mentioned several times that he thought he’d had more money in his wallet just to gauge my reaction. I didn’t notice at all! He apologized his heart out for not trusting me. I’m really hurt and now I’m wondering how I can trust him, knowing that he didn’t trust me?

—Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Dear Guilty,
I have a Valentine’s Day gift suggestion for you! Wrap up a copy of Othello, and then you and your beloved together watch this tale of murderous manipulation and betrayal. It’s a recurring theme in Shakespeare for an evildoer to whisper lies to one character about someone that character loves and trusts. The person hearing the lies then believes the manipulator, and tragedy is soon to follow. I know it would make the plays shorter and not necessarily better, but I find myself wanting to call out something like, “Othello, just say to Desdemona, ‘Des, honey, Iago told me thou art having an affair. What’s up with that?’ ” It is indeed too bad that upon hearing these vile lies from your boyfriend’s own Iago, he didn’t come to you immediately. He could have explained that Corey had told him something awful he found impossible to believe, and he had to let you know. Together you might have easily figured out what was really going on. Yes, it’s bad that he was so willing to doubt you. But give him some credit for baring his easily-deceived soul—even if an arguably wiser course would have been to keep silent about what a sap he’d been. His apology is abject and sincere. Of course you are hurt and shaken, and getting over this is going to take time. You two need to talk about this, but not dwell on it. If you want this relationship to go on, all he can do is slowly regain your trust.


Dear Prudence,
I am a mid-30s lady in a relationship that is the definition of “good enough.” My guy is a loving, supportive, committed dude who wants a future and children with me. I just don’t feel a spark with him. I do have tremendous affection for him as a wonderful, lovable person. I want the best for him, I respect him deeply, we work together as a couple companionably and effectively. We would have a great life together based on good communication and shared values. But I feel a bit lonely now and again and rely on my best friends for the zing that isn’t there in my relationship. I very much want children and there are no guarantees about finding another gem to have them with in my short child-bearing window. Is that connection, that passion, a thing of pop culture? Is what we have enough to make a marriage? 

—Decision Time

Dear Decision,
Let’s see, what you’ve got with your man is affection, communication, love, respect, shared values, support, and a belief he would be a great husband and father. How could you possibly build a marriage on that? You don’t define “spark,” but since you don’t specifically say your diamond is a lump of coal in bed, I don’t think you’re talking about sexual incompatibility. But you do find a kind of fizzy connection with your friends that you don’t have with your significant other. Sure, it’s spectacular when one’s spouse is able to be that singular person for you. But you’ve already solved the problem of recognizing that sometimes one person can’t be everything, and that for you, friends provide a delightful sense of connection that doesn’t endanger your central relationship. Since you want children, I’m betting that if you have them with your Mr. Wonderful, not only will they bring zing to your life, you will look around and be ever so grateful you’re raising them with such a rock-solid partner.


Dear Prudence,
I’m an ugly man in my mid-20s. I try to date but my response rates are very poor and my dates never turn into anything. I’ve been on one second date in my entire life. I have done almost everything within my power to make myself desirable, but I am still alone. I developed talents by learning to play a couple of instruments, I became fit and cleaned up my diet, I have a successful career, I cook, and I dress very well. All good things and I don’t regret them; however, I am still remarkably unsuccessful at dating. I feel mostly happy with my life, but I physically ache for the love and affection that comes with being in a romantic relationship. I am able to afford plastic surgery. Should I spend money on it? Should I work to accept that I am one of those people who will never be with someone and focus more on my mostly wonderful life? Should I keep picking myself up and trying over and over again and deal with the despondency and depression that comes with the endless rejection? 

—No Second Date

Dear No,
I wish you’d clarified what you mean by ugly. If you have an actual facial deformity, by all means turn to the medical profession to solve a medical problem. But if you’re just disappointed by what you see in the mirror, so what if you’re not Channing Tatum? There are plenty of women who would go for the guys on this list of “actors who aren’t very attractive” (I’m winking at you, Paul Giamatti). A man who is happy in his career, who is seeking a committed relationship (and who cooks and can serenade), should have had many second dates. I doubt the problem is your looks, so going under the knife for cosmetic reasons will just leave you a lonely, different-looking version of yourself. So you need to figure out what’s really going wrong. I suggest you start by asking your friends. This goes under the “please be brutally honest” category. Tell them you are doing something to turn off women, and you don’t know what it is, but they might. I’m also going to suggest you see a therapist for a kind of social evaluation. It may be, for example, that you fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Sometimes people who consistently fail to connect interpersonally are missing and misreading social cues. Whatever the cause of your dating distress, if there’s something diagnosable going on, it will be a relief to find out what, learn more, and get help. You are good at evaluating yourself and making changes. I am confident that with more information, you can apply this skill to looking for a partner who will understand and appreciate you—and find you beautiful in your own way.


Dear Prudie,
I’m married to a wonderful, beautiful, smart, funny woman. The only issue is that she doesn’t seem to know that she is all of those things, and so much more. I try to go out of my way to make her feel special, to compliment her without being phony, and convey my feelings about how perfect she is for me. But she shrugs it off, or gives a perfunctory “thanks.” She’ll say things like “I don’t know why you love me,” or “What do you even see in me?” Apparently, I don’t have the right answers, because no matter my attempt at an honest or heartfelt response, she keeps on asking some variation of those questions. The problem is after years of her asking me why I married her, I find that I’m asking myself asking the same question. This isn’t something worth ending a marriage over, but I either need to get a better answer or find a way for her to stop asking the question. 

—Guy Without All the Answers

Dear Guy,
Oh, the dreariness of having to prop up your perfect spouse with a constant stream of reassurance so she can tell you how wrong you are. In addition to being all the things you describe, she’s also persuasive, because you are finally coming around to her view that she’s not worth being with. Your dynamic is that she feels terrible, you slop her with meaningless compliments, and she rejects them. Forget telling how fabulous she is. That kind of blanket bucking-up is annoying and counterproductive. Next time she asks, “What do you even see in me?” offer a change up by replying, “Can I get back to you on that?” When the questions keep coming, refuse to engage in this two-step. Tell her no matter what you reply, she’s never satisfied, so you want to stop. This adjustment in your behavior should pull her up short and even spark some actually productive discussion. If she continues to see your role as filling the bottomless hole in her sense of self, you need to explain that you can’t do that. Suggest that talking this out with someone who’s trained (and paid) to answer her questions might finally free her from needing to ask them.


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