Dear Prudence

Keeping an Eye on Her

My daughter is a freshman in college. My wife insists on tracking her location at all times.

A young woman looks concerned while her mother, in the background, looks an an app.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

Dear Prudence,
My daughter is a freshman in college out of state and my wife insists on using an app called Life360 to track her whereabouts at all times. My daughter resents this, and I personally think it’s an invasion of privacy. I didn’t want my parents to know my every move when I was 19, and I respect her feeling the same way. My wife says she shouldn’t be doing anything she needs to hide. It has become a huge source of conflict, and I can’t get my wife to see that it’s time to let it go. Am I missing something here?
—Surveillance Regrets

No, you don’t seem to be missing anything. Your wife’s desire to constantly monitor and control your daughter is not a good one, and it’s only going to result in greater estrangement down the line. “Doing something you need to hide” and “not wanting your mother to track your every movement” are not the same thing. Your wife is alienating your child (not to mention her husband), massively overstepping her boundaries, and creating extra and unnecessary work for herself. If your daughter hasn’t already, encourage her to delete the app. The two of you should also find some time to talk together before speaking with your wife again, whether she’s ready to cut this particular apron string or not.

Dear Prudence,
I was in a relationship with a man who has many good qualities but one that really hurt our relationship: his attention to other women, in particular an old friend. He is friends with her husband, who travels often. They talk and text day and night.
For a year I thought nothing of this until I discovered her on social media gushing about him like a boyfriend, on a date at his apartment I was unaware of. I felt like the post had crossed a boundary. I demanded to meet her, explaining that it was uncomfortable for me to have another woman emotionally dependent on my fiancé. He refused. He explained she has “issues,” she’s crazy, and the meeting would be uncomfortable. He accused me of being jealous.

A year later, he became more disengaged from our relationship. He was always on his phone and grew anxious whenever I picked up his cell. We barely saw each other. One night, he accidentally sent a text to me that was clearly part of some banter between them. I blew up. I demanded to meet her and said that he could not have a relationship with another woman I don’t know.

He stopped speaking to me and ghosted out of our relationship after two and a half years. I’m heartbroken to lose this man, but the emotional toll of being with someone so checked out was draining. I miss him and wish I hadn’t blown up. We had life plans together! I’m afraid I might have done the wrong thing. Their relationship was platonic. Should I have tried to ignore it, or is the fact that he dumped me all I need to know?
—Pining Over Ex

I think you already know the answer to this question. You did try to ignore it, for well over a year, and the net result was that you felt drained, ignored, and heartbroken. I’m not sure why you think their relationship was platonic (I’d bet dollars to doughnuts they were sleeping together this whole time), but whether or not they so much as kissed, the result was the same. He spent so much time and energy on his other girlfriend that he had none left for you. They could have slept together a thousand times or not even once, and it still would have ruined your relationship, because your boyfriend chose to prioritize his relationship with her over his relationship with you. The fact that he dismissed her as “crazy” and riddled with vague “issues” rather than let the two of you meet one another doesn’t speak especially well of him, either (it also raises the question of why he was spending so much time with her if he truly thought so little of her). If you hadn’t blown up at him, you’d be right back where you were—with a disengaged partner sitting across the table from you, looking at his phone. You’d be just as sad as you are now, but with less hope for a better future. As painful as this breakup feels right now, I don’t think the day is far off when you call it the best thing that ever happened to you.

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Dear Prudence,
I have two kids. My oldest, a middle-schooler, is transgender and has been living as a boy since kindergarten. My youngest, who is in elementary school, was adopted into our family after my oldest transitioned. We never sat her down to explain her brother’s gender identity to her, and I don’t believe they have discussed it among themselves. I don’t know if or when to talk to her about this. I have let my son take the lead on who he wants to tell outside the family, but what about inside the family?
—Daughter in the Dark

I think it’s fine to let your son take the lead here again. He may not have a strong sense just yet of when or how he’d like to start talking to his younger sister, but go ahead and check in with him about what he’d like that conversation to look like, particularly whether he’d like to initiate it or have you get things started. Ask him what he’d be comfortable with and how you can be most helpful during this process. Trans Youth Equality has a page of recommended books and other resources for talking to school-aged kids, although you may already be familiar with them. My guess is that this will be a fairly easy, brief conversation, and won’t require much of an adjustment on anyone’s part, but it will make you feel a lot better to check in with your son first.

Dear Prudence,
A few days ago, I made a joke Tinder account with friends, with a fake age, job, etc., but all the pictures were my own. I really hit it off with a guy, and he was still interested after I told him my real information. The thing is, he’s 23 and I’m 17. Is there any hope for a relationship?
—Conflicted

“We met when I created a fake Tinder account. After learning that I was underage and six years younger than him, he decided he’d still be interested in going out with me.” It doesn’t sound like an excellent foundation for a relationship, does it? If that’s not a story you can imagine yourself telling friends and family and feeling excited about, then I think you should listen to your gut, move on, and try to meet people who know your real age from the start and are closer to it than this guy is.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“This is why adults need to have boundaries, because teenagers are not good at setting them!”

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

Dear Prudence,
Once a year my husband and I attend an auction to raise money for our school. It’s a really fun time. We take a party bus to the event and then postgame at someone’s house. Most couples agree in advance who will be the designated driver at the end of the night. This year the couple whose house we ended up at offered to host anyone who needed to sleep over. Everyone’s trying to make this a fun and safe night.

Last year, I ended up driving a few couples home (which I don’t mind doing). One of the couples, while unable to competently put their shoes on, argued with me for a full hour before grudgingly allowing me to drive them home. They were stumbling and swaying, and kept insisting it was fine and they didn’t live far, but I refused to budge. This year I again witnessed both of them get super drunk. I tried to keep an eye on them, but at one point they slipped out without anyone noticing. I am livid that they did this. They had the opportunity to spend the night, and neither one should have been behind the wheel. I feel that they snuck away on purpose, because they knew we would have objected. I can understand things accidentally getting out of control once, but I find it hard to believe that they’re only making this terrible choice one night a year, and it only takes one night to cause irreparable harm. Is there anything I can do or say to these friends that might actually get through to them?
—Frustrated Designated Driver

Talk to them when they’re both sober and you’re not on your way to another one of these parties. “Last year, I had a really difficult time talking you two out of driving home drunk after the fundraiser. This year, I realized that you two slipped out and drove home without saying goodbye after getting really drunk, even though the hosts had offered to put anyone up who needed to spend the night. I’m concerned about this pattern. We work hard to offer a lot of options at those events, and I don’t want to see either of you get a DUI or end up hurting someone. Can we talk about this and make sure it won’t happen again?”

Dear Prudence,
When I started dating my husband, he had two kids from his previous marriage. They are good kids and only lived an hour from us, so we spent a lot of time with them. He was a great, devoted father to them. Unfortunately, work required us to move. After we moved, we had a child together. My husband does a lot for our child, but over the years his contact with his other kids has really waned. I encourage him to call them more, but he just doesn’t. Anytime they visit, I coordinate the bulk of their trip with their mother. They do both have their own cellphones so contacting them would be fairly easy. Should I just start calling them myself? I want my child to have a sibling relationship with them, and my husband just doesn’t seem to care.
—Distant Dad

It’s sad that your husband has drifted away from his older children now that he’s had one with you. Hopefully you can encourage him to re-establish ties with them, but in the meantime you can certainly stay in touch with them yourself and try to foster a warm, friendly relationship between them and your own child. If you have a good rapport with the kids yourself (and it sounds like you do), then you can call periodically and catch up, hear about how they’re doing in school, and stay up to date on their interests and activities. It’s troubling, however, that your husband not only seems to have lost interest in his other children but also seems indifferent to whether his child with you ever gets to know them. That would certainly give one pause! If so far the only conversation you two have had on the subject is “Hey, you should call your kids more often” followed by “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get around to it,” then it may be time for a more serious talk about what you’ve observed over the last few years, and the concerns it elicits in you for the future. He may bristle at this (no one, presumably, enjoys being told they’re in danger of turning into a deadbeat dad), but someone ought to remind him of the role only he can play in his children’s lives, and how much they need him.

Classic Prudie

“I have been with my husband for 10 years, but we have always been mismatched sexually. I love him and want to stay together both for his sake and our child’s. However, I need more than half-hearted sex once a year, after begging and prancing around in expensive lingerie for months. A good friend and I have serious chemistry, and we have discussed the idea of a mutually beneficial, strictly sexual relationship. I considered discussing this with my husband, but I think he would react badly. I realize there’s a possibility of harming those I love, but I believe it is minimal. Am I crazy?”

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