Dear Prudence

My Fiancé Wants to Invite His Two Former Lovers to Our Wedding

Prudie’s column for April 25.

Photo collage of a woman's face and two wedding invitations, one of them ripped in half.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images Plus, nicoletaionescu/iStock/Getty Images Plus, and João Silas on Unsplash.

Dear Prudence,
My fiancé is dead set on two women he was formerly in love with attending our wedding—one of whom he confessed he still had feelings for a month before he proposed. He was infatuated with them for a very long time. They both turned him down for long-term relationships, but not before using him to cheat on their significant others. He was in love with them since high school. He is now 28. He claims that they are really good friends who only want to see him happy, but they never reach out to him to hang out. Our wedding is planned for November 2020, and we got engaged in November 2018. I am against these women attending, but should I give in and let them attend my happy day, since it would make him happy?
—Not-So-Welcome Guests

Lots of people are able to maintain platonic friendships with their exes, and I certainly don’t have an ironclad “Don’t invite anyone you’ve ever slept with to your wedding” policy. But this reads like a parody of a bad idea. You and your fiancé got engaged five months ago. Six months ago he was still in love with another woman (a woman he had been in love with for at least a decade and who cheated on her partner with him). It’s unclear to me whether he confessed these feelings to you and about her or whether he confessed to her first, got turned down, and then confessed/proposed to you afterward. Either way, I’m really glad the two of you won’t be getting married until 2020, because that gives you more than a year to spend in couples counseling together. You two need to go! A few important questions you should explore with your therapist: 1) Why did I, LW, accept a marriage proposal from someone who was in love with an ex a month before? 2) What do I believe changed in that month? 3) What kind of relationship does my fiancé plan on having with these two exes for the rest of his life? 4) Does that make me feel supported, valued, and as though I can trust him not to cheat on me? Good luck, and please don’t put down any deposits until after you’ve had your first few sessions.

Dear Prudence,
I have a disability that requires me to use a cane on bad days. On a Saturday, a co-worker left her elementary-age children in the lobby, and they proceed to openly mock me and imitate how I walk. It left me in tears. I was in a lot of pain, and it brought up bad memories of my childhood. I didn’t take it to my manager directly. I took my co-worker aside and told her what her children did. She got defensive and told me they were “good” and I was “no good” (English is her second language). I was sympathetic until she tried to grab my cane and called me a “fake.” I went to my manager. He talked to her. Since then, the children no longer imitate me but use slurs they think I can’t understand. This has gone on for several weeks. I hoped it would go away, but the kids find it funnier to yell offensive terms at me as soon as they see me get out of my car (I learned a lot). The company doesn’t allow children on the property, but the on-site managers ignore it and let the kids run outside and watch TV in the lobby. I am not sure what to do. If I record the kids and complain to the higher-ups, that will impact many of the co-workers I actually like. I don’t want to cause trouble.
—Cane Problems

You are not causing trouble. You are trying to do your job despite being harassed about your disability, and you have every reason to ask for help and support. Your co-worker grabbed your cane and accused you of faking your disability. Frankly, I’m not just worried about her children’s teasing. I’m worried that she’ll try to hurt you again. Don’t try to record them. It’s possibly illegal, could endanger your safety, and isn’t necessary, especially since you’ve already spoken to your manager about them in the past, and he offered you (some) support. Go back to your manager and tell him you’re prepared to bring this issue to HR and upper-level management because it hasn’t improved and is making it difficult for you to get your work done. Based on the fact that there’s already a company policy about not letting children in the office and that you’re protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have an excellent foundation for getting things changed. It would be a shame if other colleagues weren’t able to bring their well-behaved kids to hang out in the lobby when they have trouble getting child care, but that’s not your problem to solve, and you shouldn’t force yourself to put up with painful, humiliating harassment on a regular basis.

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Dear Prudence,
I just found out through my mother that my sister has been sexually assaulted multiple times in the past year. My mother is scared out of her mind because my sister seems to be dealing with this by drinking excessively, which has been the circumstances of each assault. My mom is worried that she is continuing to put herself in the same dangerous circumstances. I don’t know what to do. Everything feels so urgent, but really it feels like there is nothing I can do. My sister doesn’t even know that I have been told about these assaults, and I don’t want to retraumatize her by asking her to tell me about them. I am heartbroken and feel so much pain for her but don’t know what to do.
—How to Be Helpful?

I think you’re right not to ask your sister right now. I know it must be painful to know this about her and not feel like you’re able to be more helpful or present, but if she hasn’t chosen to share this information with you, it likely would only make her feel more vulnerable if you told her you knew. Although you mother’s distress and bewilderment are understandable given the circumstances, she’s not helping your sister by sharing the news of her assaults without consent. Encourage your mother to find a professional who can help her find better ways to cope. And although I can understand her desire to find the “secret key” to safety—“if only my daughter doesn’t do X or starts doing Z, I can guarantee that she’ll escape harm and predation for the rest of her life”—there is no perfect roadmap to ensuring that someone else will never try to commit sexual assault. And I hope that your sister is also able to access meaningful help and develop coping strategies that don’t undermine her long-term health and well-being, too.

As for what you can do right now, I can think of a few things—none of them perfect, I’m afraid, but this is the kind of situation that can force one into close contact with one’s own powerlessness. You can call your sister more often (not so often that it’s obvious you’re fishing for information), express how much you care for her, ask her how she’s doing, and offer her real opportunities for connection and solidarity. You can, if she decides to share any of this with you herself, offer her confidentiality, love, affirmation, and support. And you can ask her what she needs and take her at her word.

Dear Prudence,
I started dating my now-wife when we were teenagers. She had multiple childhood traumas and would later be diagnosed with PTSD. From the first week of our dating, she pressured and coerced me into getting engaged and getting her pregnant. I was raised in a very religious, sheltered household and didn’t have the faculties to deal with the psychological abuse. I used a friend’s credit card to buy her a ring (I had no money or savings) and then got her pregnant within six months of our first date. We stayed together, and after 20 years she finally got treatment for her PTSD and now lives as a healthy person. She has accepted responsibility for the manipulation she put me through and for selfishly derailing my dreams. Despite the rough start, we have built a family and life together and enjoy financial success.

The issue is that she wants a new engagement ring that is more reflective of our current standard of living. Even though I have made peace with the abuse, I spent two decades of life having to work twice as hard to get an education, support her and the kids, and build a career, all while she stayed at home and made minimal contributions because of her PTSD. The thought of presenting her with a new ring brings back horrible memories of the manipulation, suicide threats, and ultimatums of our first weeks together, and I want nothing to do with it. She hints at a new ring fairly frequently, and I don’t know how to explain that, while I love her, this isn’t a way that I am willing to express that love. How can I either get over this or else express to her how I feel without crushing her?
—Ring Upgrade

If your wife has accepted responsibility for the ways in which she’s harmed you, then it’s important for you to share these recurring feelings of anguish and anxiety with her. You say you’ve made peace with her past abuse, and I don’t mean to discount that, but having achieved a degree of hard-fought acceptance over a painful past doesn’t mean that you have to feel completely serene 24/7. Your wife has received treatment for her PTSD, and it seems to have benefited her immensely. I’m wondering whether you’ve given yourself the same opportunity and space to seek professional help for your own residual distress. I don’t mean to suggest that you need to get yourself a PTSD diagnosis too, but the past is clearly still weighing on you in a way that makes your life more difficult today. And I certainly think you ought to tell your wife that asking for an upgraded ring has brought back painful memories for you of how pressured, isolated, and frightened you were during the early days of your relationship and that she needs to stop asking you for one. Your financial focus right now should be on finding a good therapist who can help you work through your own history with trauma. You have every right to take space, express your pain and anger, think about what you need in your relationship now to feel safe and respected, and say no when your wife asks you to buy her something.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“I am pretty sure the ADA has something to say about that.”

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

Dear Prudence,
My dad recently died, and my siblings and I are in the middle of planning his memorial. My dad’s sister and her husband are devout Christians and would each like to speak at the memorial. They have hinted that part of their speeches will include some religious content. My dad was not religious—he was even mildly anti–organized religion, and their religious zeal was an ongoing source of conflict—but had his own brand of private spirituality. My siblings and I are similarly religiously unaffiliated. How can we respectfully ask (or tell) them to keep their beliefs about the afterlife and any other Christian content to themselves?
—Respecting Dad’s Wishes

Depending on how many other people will be speaking at the funeral, it may help to give them a time limit: “Dad was loved by a lot of people, so we’re asking everyone to speak for less than five minutes to make sure everyone gets a chance to say a few words about him.” You can also offer them specific instructions disguised as a general policy so they don’t feel singled out but still get the message that this isn’t the time to start an altar call: “We’re asking everyone who gives a eulogy to share something memorable from Dad’s life and, in keeping with his wishes, not to discuss religion. Let me know if you have any questions.” It may very well be that they try to push back at this point, and you’ll have to be more explicit about the conditions under which they’ll be allowed to speak at the funeral, but at least you’ll have worded the initial request calmly and respectfully.

Dear Prudence,
I’m a 22-year-old woman and the first-born of six. I lived at home all through undergrad, and this will be the first year I’ve lived away from home for more than a few months. I’m fine with it—it was time for me to have some independence—but it’s been difficult for my parents, especially since I’m the first child to leave on good terms (two of my brothers no longer speak to my parents, and it’s been hard for them). I want to visit home for Mother’s Day as a surprise for my mom, but I also love my dad and would want to visit for Father’s Day as well, and I can’t afford two trips in as many months. How do I pick? Is there a way to split the difference and do both? I don’t want either of my parents to feel like I care for them less.
—Picking Favorites

How extraordinarily thoughtful! It’s fine to pick one day and celebrate the other (either late or early) while you’re in town. If either of your parents felt slighted by a surprise visit home, then the answer would be for them to reassess their expectations, not for you to save up for more last-minute tickets. Pick whichever weekend has the cheaper tickets, double-check that your parents will be in town during your trip, and have a wonderful time.

Classic Prudie

“My girlfriend of six months has worn the same bra every day now for two weeks. I really wonder: Is this a normal thing for most women or a psychological issue? I feel it is a matter of hygiene, abnormal behavior, and also really gross.”