Dear Prudence

Rich-People Problems

My co-workers make fun of trust-fund babies. They don’t know I am one.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.  Avoiding co-worker conversation.
Photo illustration by Slate.

Dear Prudence,
I am incredibly fortunate to come from a wealthy family—like 1-percent wealthy. (For what it’s worth, my first-generation parents and immigrant grandparents made all their money on their own.) I chose to work in a job that makes about 30 percent of what I otherwise could, because I feel a responsibility to give back and I really love what I do. My problem is some of my co-workers, who constantly disparage people with money and people who come from money. Even though they don’t know that I am one of those people, it’s hard for me to nod along and just let someone disparage me and my family—grouping all rich people together as evil, or mocking trust-fund recipients as lazy do-nothings, when I know it’s not true. (I’m right here in the trenches doing the same work as them.) I don’t want to say, “Hey—I’m one of those people,” but how can I deal with it when it feels like my family and I are constantly being put down?
—Co-Workers Don’t Know They’re Talking About Me

Finding a better way to deal with your feelings of discomfort when your co-workers make jokes about the superwealthy is an admirable and achievable goal! Being uncomfortable is not the same thing as being harmed, and coming from a wealthy family does not place you in a protected or marginalized class; in fact, I think it is good and healthy for you to get to experience this kind of discomfort. You say that you feel a responsibility to “give back,” but while it’s true that you might be able to get a higher-paying job elsewhere (or presumably choose not to work at all), you are in fact paid for the work that you do. That’s not volunteering or charity—you perform a job, just like everyone else you work with. You seem to believe that if your co-workers only knew that you didn’t “have to” work that they’d think more highly of you or consider your extreme wealth somehow merited by what you think of as a sacrifice. I don’t think that’s true. I’m glad you love your job, but that doesn’t make our financial system fundamentally just, nor do I believe your hardworking immigrant grandparents deserved 1-percent levels of money any more than anyone else’s hardworking immigrant grandparents who didn’t make that kind of cash. Your family is not so much more industrious or capable than other families that you could ever possibly deserve to have that much money when others have so little. It may feel irritating to be periodically reminded that your family’s wealth is made possible by other families’ poverty and not just your collective hard work, but try to bear in mind that your discomfort does not mean anyone is doing anything wrong.

Dear Prudence,
My partner and I are both in our 30s, have great jobs, and don’t want children. We’ve been dating for a little more than a year and will move in together in May. We’ve spent plenty of time together to make this decision, and I’m excited but … moving in with someone has, in the past, been the prelude to a downhill slide in my relationships. I’ve thought a lot about why and already made positive changes in this relationship, thanks to therapy. But I’m still nervous that my (amazing) partner and I won’t weather this transition. How can I get over this unfounded fear?
—Anxiously Anticipating Cohabitation

I don’t think this fear is unfounded if every other time you’ve moved in with a partner it’s precipitated a decline in your relationship. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move in together, but your goal shouldn’t be to dismiss any and all feelings of nervousness. Moving in together can increase an internal pressure to make sure everything is always “fine” because you live together now and if something goes wrong you don’t just have to break up, you have to move—and that’s usually a recipe for alienation and frustration. You’re nervous because you’re taking a step toward increased commitment, which also means increased risk; nervousness is a completely appropriate response. Let nervousness serve its intended purpose. Let it increase your self-awareness, let it focus your attention on potential pitfalls, and let it lead you to have more conversations with your partner about what does and doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t mean you’re making a mistake, but it’s also not something that you need to eliminate in order to enjoy yourself.

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Dear Prudence,
Three nights ago, I got extremely intoxicated while out with a friend and texted my husband to tell him I was crashing at her house. We spend the night playing video games with her boyfriend, their roommate, and his friend “Jack.” I eventually fell asleep and I woke up to Jack asking me if I wanted him to stop. I can only piece together small bits of what happened from then on but we certainly had sex. I feel disgusting. I have spent the past few days pretending it didn’t happen but it is slowly seeping back and I don’t know what to do. I want to tell my husband but I am terrified he will never forgive me and our lives will crumble. (We have a toddler together.)

I have conflicting emotions about what happened because while I know I put myself in that position, I’m not sure what I did to make Jack think this was OK. I had never met Jack before that night and I hope I never see him again. I am feeling too embarrassed and guilty to even tell my therapist. While I have struggled with depression my whole life and it has improved greatly over the past year or so, I am contemplating just ending it. I don’t know how I can exist after hurting the people I love most in this world.
—How to Tell Him

I’m so sorry that this happened to you, and that you’re afraid to talk to your husband and therapist because you believe that you did something wrong that would merit forgiveness. You fell asleep at a friend’s house and woke up to find a man doing something to you without your knowledge or consent. You could not possibly have done anything to make Jack think that what he did was OK. You were unconscious. He assaulted a drunk, sleeping person who thought she would be safe sleeping at a friend’s house after a pleasant evening drinking and playing video games.

While you’re experiencing suicidal feelings, please call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. A trained crisis worker there will listen to you and help get you the support you need.

You don’t have an obligation to tell your husband what happened, in the sense that you have not cheated on him—but you deserve help and support while you process this assault. If you’re not ready to talk to him or your therapist, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 and speak to someone confidentially. They can help you access local services like sexual assault forensic exams, refer you to nearby long-term support, and give you more information about local laws if you decide to report what happened to the authorities.

You deserve all the help and support in the world if you’re feeling suicidal after being sexually assaulted. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Dear Prudence,
I just ended my relationship with my partner of 10 years over the subject of having children. I want them; he doesn’t. He had told me he did, but now he tells me he only said that because he desperately wanted to make me happy. The breakup was devastating. We held each other and sobbed for hours, and both of us are unsure of how to move on with our lives. I’m fairly sure he will come back to me in a few weeks and tell me he’s reconsidering. If that happens, I shouldn’t believe him, right? People don’t change their minds about this, do they?
—Listening When Someone Tells You No

People sometimes do change their minds about children, but your ex has already admitted to telling you what you want to hear rather than what he really thinks on the subject. Moreover, if he changed his mind in a matter of weeks, I’d be extremely skeptical of the sincerity of his newfound desire to procreate. You two were together for 10 years and loved each other very much; it makes sense that part of you would want to believe him if he said he’d changed his mind. But there are two problems there: The first is that he actually hasn’t come to you and said he’s changed his mind—you’re merely sort of hoping that he does. The second is that you already know he won’t really mean it. As sad as this breakup may currently feel, it can’t possibly feel worse than a breakup halfway through a pregnancy, or raising children with a man who didn’t want them.

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Dear Prudence,
For the past two years, I have been involved with “Noah” long-distance. We were both reluctant to define our relationship—he never told me he loved me or called me his girlfriend, but he was otherwise caring and attentive. We never talked about monogamy, but neither of us slept with anyone else. Eventually I wanted something more serious. A month ago I met someone local, Ryan, who I really like, and finally ended things with Noah. Ryan’s fun, we enjoy sleeping together, and he’s brightened up my life. But now Noah has started messaging me again, telling me he was wrong and wants to get back together. We have been talking quite a bit and I feel that I do want to be with him in the long term. I have not discussed exclusivity with Ryan but right now I feel like I’m having an affair with both of them. Am I obligated to tell either about the other? Will it help to be honest, or will it just make things worse?
—A Bird in the Hand and One in the Bush

The problem in your past relationship was not communicating honestly or often enough about what the two of you wanted. I can’t imagine that employing that same strategy now is going to work better with three people. This is a great time to discuss exclusivity with Ryan—namely that you’re not prepared to give it, but that you want to keep seeing him if he’s still interested. As for Noah, I think the only way things are likely to change is if you’re clear from the start about what you want from a long-term, long-distance relationship; otherwise you may find yourself in much the same position as before.

Dear Prudence,
My sister lost her husband last year and our mother had a heart attack and nearly died. We all live far away. My sister has offered to move in with our mother but asked that she get the house and land when our mother passes. She will have to quit her job to move and may not be able to find work in our mother’s tiny rural town. I don’t see a problem with this.

Our much younger sister does. She threw a fit about our sister trying to “steal” her inheritance. She is the only one of us who got financial help from our parents when she went to college and our father bailed her idiot husband out of his failing business a decade ago. She also does not want to pay for someone to take care of our mother. She is putting incredible guilt on our mother. My sister refuses to sell her house and quit her job unless she has a guarantee. I am trying to mediate this all three states away. What the hell can I do?

Give up on trying to “mediate” this and support the sister who’s actually trying to take care of your ailing mother. Your youngest sister is unwilling to help pay for a professional caretaker and is actively trying to prevent your other sister from caring for your mother without going into debt or losing potentially years of income. It’s selfish and dangerous, and for her to pressure your mother into taking her side is unconscionable. It sounds apparent that your mother needs full-time care, and it’s perfectly reasonable for the sister who’s willing to perform that job (possibly for years) to make sure she doesn’t tank her own finances in doing so. You, your elder sister, and your mother should have a conversation in which you can agree upon the plan that prioritizes your mother’s safety and your sister’s financial security—without taking your youngest sister’s desire to inherit the family home into account.

Dear Prudence,
My son, an only child, was adopted at 14 months old. I traveled alone to get him from the other side of the globe. He’s now 22. Not since fifth grade, when he made cards and gifts at school, has he given me or his dad a gift or card. Is this normal, or selfish? He spends plenty on himself. He’s struggled with ADHD since preschool and stopped taking meds for it at age 18. How do I approach this with him? I don’t need gifts; I want occasional appreciation. His dad and I divorced two years after high school graduation. Son now lives with his dad 300 miles away. Dad seldom speaks with me (his choice, not mine) so we can’t present a unified front for our son.
—Grown Child Etiquette

It depends on the parent-child relationship! The fact that you mentioned your son’s adoption (and how far you traveled to “get” him) makes it seem as if you’re implying that he ought to give you even more gifts than a child might get for their biological parents … which suggests to me that yours might be the kind of parent-child relationship in which the child tries to maintain a healthy distance. His adoption status has nothing to do with this, and I’d encourage you not to dwell on (or even mention) the distance you traveled to finalize his adoption when you’re discussing your present relationship. If you’d like to be closer to your son, or if there’s something specific you’d like from him (like a card on your birthday), then feel free to talk to him about it, but if—as I suspect—part of you thinks he owes you more appreciation for having adopted him than he presently demonstrates, I think you need to reset your expectations.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“I don’t want to read too much into just a few details, but it seems like the LW has a number of people trying to get distance from them.”

Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss this letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.