Dear Prudence

Am I Wrong to Ask My Lesbian Daughter to Remove Her Wedding Ring When She Visits?

Prudie’s column for June 1.

Photo illustration of a happily married lesbian couple and a sad mother and father.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus and BananaStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

To get advice from Prudie, send questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion. Or call the Dear Prudence podcast voicemail at 401-371-DEAR (3327) to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

My daughter came out as gay eight years ago, when she was 17. Her mom reacted badly, screaming and crying about our daughter being dead, and begging her “not to be gay” and to “change her mind.” I have tried many, many times to explain to her that this is not how this works and that she needs to accept this is who our daughter is and there is nothing wrong with it, but she says this is something she just can’t accept. Obviously, her relationship with our daughter has become strained—she has never been to any home our daughter has lived in since she moved out and certainly has never met the woman our daughter started dating when she was 18. I have, and she seems like a lovely woman who loves our daughter. It has been very difficult feeling in the middle of my wife and daughter, as our daughter rarely visits as a result of this and is essentially banned from speaking about her personal life when here because her mom will become hysterical.

Our daughter revealed recently that she married her girlfriend in secret two months ago. She said she had wanted me there but didn’t trust me not to tell her mom, who would have likely responded in an extreme way and “ruined” how my daughter felt in the run-up to the wedding. I am extremely hurt by this, but that’s another issue. The issue is that our daughter revealed this news to us by means of showing up to a family event wearing her wedding ring and thus came out to our entire extended family, to whom she had previously responded evasively when they asked about her dating life. A lot of people were shocked, and my wife left the event in a state. She feels our daughter deliberately humiliated us at this event, because it was so obvious that we hadn’t known. I agree she should have found a kinder way of revealing this. Our daughter has said that she will never be taking off her ring when she visits. She said taking off her engagement ring every time she visited in the last year was “crushing” and that she does not intend to “closet herself” anymore for the sake of her mom’s feelings. My wife says she can’t bear to look at our daughter wearing the ring, as it is too painful. I don’t know what to do, as it feels we have reached a complete impasse—my wife and daughter can no longer share a room. I feel like it wouldn’t kill my daughter to not wear a ring for a couple of days twice a year when she visits, but she won’t budge on this. Am I wrong to want her to try keeping the peace this way? I have no idea how to support my daughter without ignoring my wife’s distress, and it is devastating that it seems now impossible to be in a room with both at the same time. What can I do about any of this?

—Daughter’s Secret Wedding

Yes, you’re wrong to ask your daughter to “keep the peace” with her mother by once again knuckling under her consciously histrionic homophobic fits. I’m frankly amazed that your daughter still talks to you as much as she does. She sounds like a very generous, patient woman. You are not “in the middle” of your wife and your daughter. You have chosen your wife’s side every step of the way, while also trying to claim credit for being not homophobic, merely willing to cushion and soften her homophobia. Your wife has had eight years to get used to the fact that she has a gay daughter, and so have you. Asking her to pretend not to be married is a very silly request and one that deserves to be met with laughter, scorn, and a firm nolle prosequi.

Dear Prudence,

I have spent the past seven years working toward my Ph.D. in astrophysics. It’s been a really rough road. I’ve encountered a lot of “support” from friends and family members whose encouragement to finish sometimes sounded a lot like “Why don’t you just try harder?” Now I’m in the final stages of my program, and my mental health is not doing so great in the face of writing a thesis and defending it. I’m seeing a counselor and taking antidepressants, but I don’t think I’ll be able to finish with my Ph.D. in hand. And I think I might be OK with that. But how do I tell my friends and family that I couldn’t finish? I’ve never been very secretive about my mental health struggles, but that doesn’t mean they understand that I can only push myself so far. And I’m dreading the judgment and “helpful” comments that just make me feel worse.

—Ph.Didn’t

I’m glad you’re seeing a counselor and taking antidepressants. I hope you also discuss your options and possible exit strategies both with your adviser and your graduate career development office. It’s important to make sure there’s no additional institutional support you could be receiving right now but haven’t asked for. If you’ve decided that you want to get out of astrophysics for good, then you’ll have a number of bigger questions facing you when it comes to figuring out what comes next. You may be able to leave with a master’s degree or some other qualification that will help you find fulfilling work.

I realize that’s not the main question you asked, but I think it’s much more important to figure out whether there’s more support you could be getting or what your new path might look like before worrying about what your friends and family might say. I hope you have at least one or two people in your life who can listen without immediately telling you to buck up and get over it. Assuming most of these people mean well and don’t really understand how frustrating it is to hear “just try harder,” I think it’s a matter of clarifying what you need from them. Tell them: “I appreciate where you’re coming from. I’ve seen a therapist and talked it over with my adviser. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have tried solving the problem from multiple angles, but ultimately I’ve decided that this program isn’t for me, and the best way I can start planning for my future is to quit first and then start figuring out what I want to do next.”

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

My husband and I have been together for almost two decades and we still are very much in love. Two years ago he had a serious medical issue, which has now been resolved for the most part. The only remaining issue is his flatulence. He constantly has eye-watering gas, and I find myself not wanting to be in the same room as it’s so noxious smelling. I love him, but our intimacy is shriveling up and dying because I feel like I’m always under chemical attack. He says he can’t tell when it will happen so he can’t leave the room. He’s aware of the problem, he’s tried avoiding foods, talked to his doctor, etc., but nothing is working! I’ve installed air purifiers, but they don’t act instantly and it’s hard to stay in the mood when it smells like something died under the bed. What can I do?