Dear Prudence

Help! My Friend Called Off the Wedding—So Why Is She Still Dating Her Terrible Ex-Fiancé?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Reluctant bridesmaids: One of my best friends was getting married; the wedding was pushed back once, and then canceled. She kicked him out and took off her ring, and we were all very supportive. He suffers from alcohol abuse, and lately, Bride Friend confessed to me, she has become afraid of him when he drinks. There is a lot more at play here, but we were breathing a sigh of relief. However, Bride Friend has informed me that she and the ex-fiancé are now “dating,” and he’s still on the lease of her place. She has given him a deadline of April to clean up his act and move back in. My other friend, a fellow bridesmaid, is pregnant, expecting her first child in June. She is trying to make room in her small apartment for this incoming baby, so she and her husband are downsizing. She would like to get rid of her bridesmaid dress. I would also like to get rid of mine. But it feels like the bridesmaid dresses have become a metaphor for this whole mess. We want to donate them, for them to find happiness with someone else. I suspect if we bring this suggestion to Bride Friend, it will break her heart, and I worry that it will end the friendships. But neither my fellow bridesmaid friend nor I want to be a part of the bridal party, as their relationship feels so volatile and toxic.

A: The wedding is still canceled; there is no reason for you to keep the bridesmaid’s dresses. The real anxiety is around talking to your friend about the fact that she’s gone back to an alcoholic man who makes her afraid when she’s drinking. Have you talked to her at all about your concern? It doesn’t sound like you have since they got back together, and I think that’s the most important conversation to have before you let her know that you’re donating the dress.

Be sensitive, be gentle, but be firm. “We were really relieved when you ended the relationship, because I know you felt unsafe around him when he was drinking, and I want you to feel safe and comfortable with your partner. But I want you to know I’m here for you and that I don’t want to judge you or make you feel isolated. How are you doing right now? Are you safe? What do you do when he’s drinking, and how can I help you?” I don’t think that being invited back into the bridal party is on the immediate horizon if they’re simply dating again—although I can see why you’d be concerned about the future—so I think your first priority should be expressing concern, finding out how she’s doing, and offering support before telling her about the dress.

Mallory Ortberg

Mallory Ortberg, Slate’s Dear Prudence, is co-founder of the Toast and the author of Texts From Jane Eyre.