Dear Prudence

Keep It Clean

My roommate wants me to stop showering with my boyfriend—because it makes him think about us having sex.

Person berating roommate and her boyfriend in the shower.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Skyler King on Unsplash and Thinkstock.

Dear Prudence,
My male roommate recently demanded I stop taking showers with my boyfriend—because, he said, he “didn’t like imagining what we do in there.” We don’t make a mess or noise; we’re very careful to not be that couple. I told my roommate I thought he shouldn’t imagine those things, and that that was more an issue on his end, but he insisted he couldn’t control his thoughts. This isn’t the first time this dude has demanded something I’ve considered unreasonable. He makes it a habit to ask us (his two female roommates) to meet his needs, but never does what we ask (whether it’s clean up his messes or remember to turn off the stove). Now I feel uncomfortable knowing he imagines me having sex. I also wonder when he will stop policing my activity based on his own imagination. What do I do? Do I bend (again) to his wishes? Do I ignore it and continue on?
—Bathroom Time with Boyfriend

There are some things you can and should ignore here, and a request to stop taking showers with your boyfriend is definitely one of them. Assuming you two aren’t ostentatiously getting up from the dinner table and disappearing into the bathroom for an hour at a time, occasionally taking a shower together is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But don’t ignore the fact that your roommate has asked you to take responsibility for his thoughts about you and your sex life. That’s wildly inappropriate and several orders of magnitude worse than the already-bad roommate behavior he’s displayed, like refusing to clean up after himself or casually leaving open flames on the stove for other people to discover and hastily turn off. Tell your roommate “No,” and that you’re not going to discuss your sex life (or what he imagines your sex life to be like) with him again, and start looking for another roommate when your lease is up.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“Take up a hobby! Learn to bake bread or something!”

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

Dear Prudence,
A few weeks ago, my partner “Coriander” was facing eviction, which they didn’t tell me about until the day the eviction was taking place. We worked with the leasing office and got an extra two weeks to pay the (already late) rent. I offered to lend Coriander some money, because they’d recently been fired, and they accepted. Later, I asked Coriander what their plan was for next month’s rent (which was due 10 days after the overdue rent). We got into an argument, and Coriander finally admitted they didn’t have any new jobs lined up and did not plan to apply for the job I had essentially secured for them at my company because it “wasn’t their passion.” I said I wasn’t going to help them if they weren’t going to meet me halfway, and took the loan off the table until they could come up with a plan to pay future installments of the rent.

Coriander ignored me for a few days. This morning, they texted and said someone helped them cover the rent after I “bailed on them.” They accused me of completely taking the offer away, and I told them that their perception of the situation was false. I had said I needed to see a plan of action from them before moving forward; instead of making a plan, they got someone else to give them cash. Was I wrong for restructuring my offer? I have never been the type to go back on my word, but I was tired of doing all the heavy lifting in my partner’s life only for them to not do the bare minimum. For what it’s worth, I’ve made a promise to myself not to offer Coriander any more financial help and to let them figure out their life exactly how they see fit, which is something they’ve asked me to do before.
—Never Takes Blame

I think you should have asked questions about your partner’s plans for paying the rent before you made your offer. Generally, before one offers to lend or give someone else money, one should think through what conditions might lead one to withdraw said offer. That said, it sounds like this last-minute almost eviction is not the first sign of trouble in your relationship, and that you’ve been repeatedly stymied in your attempts to manage your partner’s financial life on their behalf (and against their will, it sounds like). I think your promise to stop interfering financially is a good one—if you can keep it. Coriander doesn’t seem to share your values when it comes to seeking employment or paying for their apartment. This doesn’t necessarily mean the two of you can’t make a relationship work, but it does mean it’s all the more important for you to take a step back when their choices lead them into difficult financial situations, especially when they’ve asked you to.

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Dear Prudence,
My husband is a “talking head.” He never stops “explaining” things, regardless of whether anyone has demonstrated interest, and will grab onto a subject—almost always something negative—and go on and on in a loop until I stop him. I try to do this with patience and concern for his feelings, but really it’s becoming exhausting. Is this a mental illness?
—My Obnoxious Husband

I think the most important point to make here is that I am profoundly unqualified to tell you whether a particular trait of your husband’s is a mental illness. I’m not a mental health expert, I have no medical training, and I’ve never met him. I make all manner of judgment calls in this job without having met anyone who writes to me and without having any specific training, but determining whether a perfect stranger has a mental illness that may require professional treatment is something I’m neither prepared nor qualified to do.

If this behavior is a sudden, profound departure from your husband’s typical mode of being, then it might be worth pushing him to get a physical exam and to visit a mental health professional. But if your husband is simply boorish, a bad listener, a self-appointed expert in everything, and bad at recognizing the symptoms of boredom in his captive audiences, that’s not in and of itself a sign of mental illness—that’s a sign that he’s, well, boorish, a bad listener, a self-appointed expert in everything, and bad at recognizing the symptoms of boredom in his captive audiences. If you’re exhausted, then you’ll have to tell him so and ask him to work harder to correct his own behavior. If he doesn’t, that’s not necessarily a sign that he’s unwell and needs help—it may just mean he’s uninterested in changing.

Dear Prudence,
We have a house in a rural area where for years we had only one option for broadband internet that was slow and unreliable. Not long ago, the local phone monopoly ran fiber to our area, but we and our immediate neighbors were shut out because one neighbor would not grant an easement to run 20 feet of cable under a strip of his land that borders the road. We all pleaded with him and offered to compensate him, to no avail. (He’s been unreasonable about other property issues in the past.) My husband and I managed to set up a private network for our neighbors, at considerable expense, without the easement. Shortly thereafter, the old broadband option shut down. Now the cantankerous neighbor has asked if he can hook up to our private network. I say no way. My husband says the guy’s a harmless old coot, and there’s no point in punishing him. Another neighbor suggested we should let him on if he agrees to pay us the entire cost of setting up the network, since it was his intransigence that made us incur the cost. Your thoughts?
—Wireless In The Woods

Oh, this is The Absolute Dream for someone who nurses grudges or entertains fantasies of revenge. This is The Count of Monte Cristo for petty neighborhood retribution. What delightful power you must be feeling! It would be awfully big of you to allow him to share your network, and it would enable you to feel deliciously magnanimous for days on end. It would also be perfectly reasonable of you to say “No,” since he’d declined to join with all of you previously, and leave it at that.

The only option I think you shouldn’t indulge in is “Sure … if you’re willing to pay all of our setup costs, since it was your fault we had to do this in the first place.” As satisfying as that might be in your fantasies, there’s no real chance he’d take you up on it. I think you know that, which means the only reason you’d say it is for the satisfaction of making him feel embarrassed. He doesn’t sound like the type to feel embarrassed, so you wouldn’t get the satisfaction. Either let him join or don’t, but don’t waste your own time by making an offer you know is going to get refused.

Dear Prudence,
I don’t often use ride-sharing apps or take cabs, but when I do, I normally sit in the passenger seat. Should I sit in the back instead? Is there a universally polite option?
—Passing Through

Generally speaking, sitting in the passenger seat signals to the driver that you’re interested in talking or being more sociable, while sitting in the back signals that you’d prefer not to talk beyond, “Where are we headed?” and basic pleasantries. Either option is fine—sitting in the back isn’t rude, and sitting in the front isn’t invasive—so just bear that rule in mind when it comes to deciding where to sit.

Classic Prudie

“My husband Mike’s best friend Luke is dying of cancer. He was diagnosed 18 months ago, and he quickly became dependent on his wife Lucy’s care. Mike often pitched in too, spending the occasional night at their house and acting as a father figure to Lucy and Luke’s three young kids. I just found out that for the past year, Lucy and Mike have been having an affair. After Luke passes, Mike will divorce me and marry her. I’m devastated and torn about what to do.”