Dear Prudence

Sheltering in Place Has Made Me Realize My Fiancé Is Annoying

Should I postpone the wedding?

woman giving a man side-eye
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence,

My fiancé usually works 70-hour workweeks with a long commute, so we rarely see each other except on weekends, despite living together. In a strange turn of events, due to his working remotely now, I see him far more than I ever did pre-coronavirus. We are together every single day for at least a few hours at a time, although I’m still an “essential” worker in my state, so I’m not in the house all day. I’m actually realizing this man is, day-to-day, kind of annoying to be around. He has a bunch of strange mannerisms and quirks that never annoyed me when I saw him only on the weekends but are now grating on my nerves: vocal tics, facial expressions, etc. It’s gotten to the point where I’m excited to either be out of the house or have him out of the house. Is it normal to feel this way about someone you’re going to marry? Is this a reason to postpone the wedding, currently scheduled for next year? I’m worried about spending the rest of my life with someone who I can’t even spend a week straight with—but also worried that the current global anxiety is affecting my ability to objectively view the situation.

—Crowded Love

It makes a great deal of sense that you’re feeling newly irritable. Your schedule has been wildly upended, you’re classified as essential and heading into work during a time when most of us are being told to stay at home, and there’s no clear sense of when this might end. I’d be surprised if you weren’t a little annoyed and resentful! And there’s nothing at all unnerving about enjoying time alone. That doesn’t mean you should take this as an automatic sign that you don’t really love your fiancé and should call off the wedding, but it is worth paying attention to and being honest about.

Don’t open with “I’ve recently learned I hate all of your facial expressions,” but be honest about your suddenly shorter fuse and your need for some regularly scheduled alone time. Be prepared to discuss ways you can both cut each other a lot of slack during a difficult, anxiogenic season. It may very well be that the forced proximity and suddenly shrinking social circles are part of what’s causing this sudden annoyance, especially because you don’t mention anything that’s selfish or inconsiderate (like not washing the dishes or clipping his toenails on the bed), merely idiosyncratic. If you two talk extensively, give each other allowances for annoyance, and cultivate regular bouts of solitude, and a few months from now you find you’re just as irritated by him or that it’s gotten worse, then you can absolutely reevaluate just what it is that you like about him and your relationship—but don’t jump the gun just yet.

Dear Prudence,

By all accounts, I had a great dad. When I was born, he left his corporate job to be a stay-at-home father. My father did everything, but my mother complained and criticized him for being a deadbeat. This turned into her calling him “violent” and “gay.” Before long, they were in counseling, and my mother called the police for “claiming he was going to kill her.” She had us testify against him for being a “child molester.” He got a full-time job, but she got him fired. During it all, my father never wavered in his love. He tolerated my mother’s abuse and continued to take us to activities and push us academically. We learned my mother was having a long-term affair and became secretly engaged to someone else.

When Dad finally divorced her, my sister became ruthless, refusing calls and texts. I followed suit and haven’t spoken to him in four years. Though I knew my father was sad, lonely, and suffering, we kids pitted our parents against each other to obtain trips and material items. Eventually, my father gave up. My mom, on the other hand, started being a caring mother. I learned on Facebook my father met a woman and is happily helping to raise her children. It saddens me that we never provided that for him.

Now I am getting married. I want my father there. My mother will be livid. I don’t think a wedding is a place for a reunion, but I feel if he isn’t there, I would, again, have betrayed him. I know my siblings will be equally harsh and I risk being ostracized. My mother still maintains her innocence and claims he “abandoned the family for being gay.” I don’t want to get married to avoid all of this. I am also afraid that my father, rightfully so, likes his new family better. What should I do?

—Estranged Father of the Bride

Please do not invite your father to an event where his abuser will not merely be present but presumably a central figure in your wedding party. The fact that you want your father at your wedding does not outweigh the importance of his physical and emotional safety.

You admit that your mother would be “livid” if he were to attend, and you’ve established a long-standing pattern that’s continued into adulthood of condoning and often enabling her abuse, even as you privately disapprove of it. That’s not to say that you are responsible for your mother’s abuse—that’s hers, and hers alone, and you were a vulnerable and bewildered child for much of it. But you can choose, as an adult, not to help perpetuate further abuse by asking your father to attend an intimate event with someone who falsely accused him of violence and child molestation.

I believe the best, safest, most loving course of action you can commit to is to see a therapist; to stop seeing your mother; and to begin to work out what peace, forgiveness, and meaningful change might look like for you. If you are not prepared to remove your mother from your life, I do not believe reconciliation with your father will be possible for you. To ask him to resume even indirect contact with her through you would be to threaten him with continued abuse. It may be that for right now, the best thing you can offer your father is continued noninterference. I hope he is safe, peaceful, and well. Please do not threaten that safety.

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Dear Prudence,

I share a two-bedroom apartment with another couple. “Ben” has his little sister “Kiki” sleeping on the couch because of shelter-in-place measures. She can’t fly home. His girlfriend is overseas, and Ben works in an essential service, so it’s just Kiki and me in the house. She is very irritating. She has taken over the living room and thrown her stuff everywhere. She has burst into my room twice to use my private bath because she was “going to piss” herself and couldn’t wait until her brother was done. I lock my door now and stay in my room. I make meals at home and freeze them for the week ahead. Ben and his sister live off takeout or junk food.

Recently, I was baking cookies. Kiki started whining like a toddler—kicking her feet up and down the couch and raising her voice, saying, “I am sooo hungry. I am starving. I want a cookie.” I told her to cut it out. Kiki doubled down and started to chant “Cookie, cookie, cookie.” I picked up my phone and started to record her tantrum. She started to curse me out for recording her. I told her I was sending the video to her parents. Kiki stomped off to Ben’s room. I sent it off to Ben and his mom saying, “This is what I live with day after day. Please deal with her.”

The next day, Kiki had cleaned up the living room and stayed in Ben’s room. I got a long apology text from Ben’s mother, and she sent me a grand to cover Kiki’s household expenses and share of the rent. Now Ben is upset with me for involving his parents. I told him I asked him to deal with Kiki for weeks and nothing happened. I get that we can’t throw her out, but she is 19. If she were 9, her behavior would be considered childish. It has now been days. Kiki doesn’t speak to me and hides in Ben’s room. I have actually been able to watch a movie in my living room. It is nice. But what can I do moving forward?

—Unlivable Living Room

My first advice, the advice I offer most strenuously, is not to record anyone in order to send embarrassing footage to their parents. I recognize that you were under provocation—Kiki sounds like a terrible houseguest, and I’d be driven to distraction if I had to share a living room with her too. But there are certain standards it’s important to uphold regardless, and Kiki’s likely going to continue to offer you provocation for as long as you have to live together. You’re going to have to find a way to live up to those standards. Commit to not recording her, not destroying her things, not getting into a screaming match, and so on. Your good behavior cannot depend on hers.

You also can come up with a plan for how you’ll draw a boundary or end a conversation with her once it becomes unproductive, even if that just means taking a walk or going back to your room, since your options are limited while you shelter in place. Continue to lock your door when you’re alone in your room, ignore any future requests or demands for you to make food for her, and keep your eyes open for possible new living arrangements once your lease is up. Enjoy the newfound peace in your living room. Engage with her as little as possible, and consider her silent treatment an unexpected gift and not something you have to fix. Mutual nonantagonism until she can return home is the goal here, not shared understanding and unlikely friendship.

Help! I Think I’m Afraid of My Friend.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Alyssa Furukawa on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

I have been with my current job for three years. In August, upper management shuffled teams around, and I was given a new supervisor. We clashed immediately because she felt that my work wasn’t up to snuff. I was frustrated because my former supervisor had never complained about my work, and I was feeling micromanaged. I recently had my employee review, and my former supervisor said that my work had always been full of errors—that I had never done it correctly. Apparently, he would quietly correct my mistakes and not tell me. I have been doing my job incorrectly for the past three years.

I am incredibly embarrassed by this and worry his inaction has ruined my career at this company, as I’m caught in an endless cycle of catch-up. I’m putting in extra hours on evenings and weekends to get my work done as thoroughly and as error-free as possible. I feel like I can’t advance, and I’m dangerously close to burnout. Should I confront him about this? I feel that his inaction has derailed my career at this company. I don’t want to rock the boat, but I also don’t want this to happen to anyone else

—Torpedoed by Management

You’re doing the right thing already: You’re working with your new supervisor to correct the mistakes of the past three years and retrain yourself to do your job properly. That’s important, necessary work that requires your full attention. If you haven’t yet, request a follow-up meeting with your new supervisor so you can fill her in on your progress, give her a sense of how much time it’s taking you to update your processes, and ask for additional training or resources if you need it. Your frustration and anger make so much sense—your last manager did you and himself such a disservice—but don’t direct them at your new supervisor, who’s doing the right thing and your best ally at the moment.

I can understand, too, your desire to speak to your old manager about how his actions have made your job doubly difficult now, but I worry that any confrontation would be fruitless and possibly even counterproductive, that you’d gain a reputation as someone who’s not only prone to errors but blames others for their own mistakes. That would be unfair, but your company doesn’t strike me as an especially fair or well-run organization, and I think the odds of anything productive coming out of a conversation with him are vanishingly small. Focus on your relationship with your supervisor now and reestablishing yourself with the work you’ve been hired to do. Make it clear to her that your priority isn’t trying to relitigate past mistakes but getting up to speed on how to do your job correctly now. If you feel like you can no longer see a future at this company, then start updating your résumé and looking for work elsewhere. That’s likely the best long-term response to this deeply frustrating situation. Good luck!

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“Start taking long, angry walks or journaling or doing push-ups or all of the above.”
Danny Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence,

After my parents divorced six years ago, my dad moved away to a city that is a 45-minute flight away. My sister and I have fairly close relationships with our parents, and she had her first kid in June. Our dad now comes into town one weekend a month and stays with either my sister or me. During that time, the expectation is that someone is with him all the time—doing planned activities, making meals, talking, etc. It’s intense and exhausting. My sister and I usually try to tag-team the visits—we’ll do dinner at her place on Friday, I’ll take him a half day on Saturday, she’ll take the other half, and so on.

Our dad never contributes to these visits. He arrives with no plan or ideas for activities. He does not contribute to cooking any meals or doing any cleanup, though he will occasionally buy groceries or dinner if we order in. He does not help with the baby. My sister and I both have pretty busy lives. We love our dad and understand that these visits are really important to him both as an opportunity to see us and his grandson, but losing the better part of a weekend every month is becoming untenable . How do we start a conversation about managing the frequency or intensity of these visits without making our dad feel like an unwanted burden? Or are we being unreasonable?

—Too-Frequent Guest

For now, this will be a theoretical answer, given the unlikelihood of regular visits resuming anytime soon, but it’s still worth preparing for the future. You say your dad expects to be fed and entertained the entire time he visits, yet you worry you’re being unreasonable. You and your sister are equally entitled to share in, and help create, those visiting expectations. This includes being honest, loving, respectful, and direct if your schedules, needs, and desires come into conflict with your father’s. You and your sister can tell him: “Dad, we’re not able to host you next month. We both already have plans.” “Dad, we’d love to have you stay with one of us that weekend, but we’ll both be out most of Saturday afternoon, and you’ll be on your own for dinner.” “Dad, can you give me a hand with [the baby or running errands or getting lunch] while I’m [working or getting lunch with a friend or taking the car to the shop]?”

It doesn’t sound like you’ve ever said “no” to your father when he makes plans on your behalf, and the fact that your first concern is that he’ll feel like an “unwanted burden” if you don’t let him dictate your schedule suggests that you’re taking on way too much responsibility for your father’s feelings. If your father feels like an unwanted burden because his children occasionally tell him he can’t visit every month, has to help out with child care or wash a few dishes after dinner, and needs to entertain himself for a few hours, the problem is not with the requests themselves, but with his unreasonable emotional response to such low-level asks. Make yourself responsible for telling your father “no” politely but firmly when you can’t accommodate him and let him be responsible for his own self-esteem.

Dear Prudence,

I am a 22-year-old woman currently living with my mom, her boyfriend “Jack,” and my brother in a county that’s been told to shelter in place. My brother “Drew” is immunocompromised. Yesterday, I texted my mom and Jack that I was going to volunteer at our community food bank, which is rapidly losing its mostly retired volunteers. I wore gloves and tried not to come too close to clients we were delivering groceries to, but it wasn’t possible to maintain 6 feet of distance from fellow volunteers. I loved helping our clients and taking action. When I got home, Mom, Jack, and I discussed that I didn’t really open my decision to family consideration and that I was inviting risk by spending so much time around others. But we’re also Jewish, and we value repairing the world, so they did appreciate the work I was trying to do. In addition, going to care for vulnerable community members is allowed under our shelter-in-place order. Is it worth helping our community if I might catch the virus and get my brother sick? Is there any compromise I might be able to make?

—Safe Volunteering

You need to seek further guidance on multiple fronts. If you’re able as a family to call or email your brother’s doctors to discuss his particular risk, please do. Your city may also have a nonemergency number you can call that’s designed to help with this sort of inquiry, or you may have access (sometimes through insurance) to a nurse helpline. If your local food bank hasn’t already come up with specific safety protocols and rules about who ought to volunteer and who ought to stay home, try calling or checking out the websites of other major cities’ food banks, some of which have publicized their volunteer guidelines.

It can be difficult to weigh potential risk to a loved one against the potential to do good for others who may already be in crisis—and feeling useful in times of trouble is a very understandable desire. But your safest bet may be to ask your friends if anyone who either lives alone or in a household where no one is at high risk would be willing to take over your shift for you. That way you’ll know the food bank hasn’t lost out on volunteer labor, and you won’t have to worry about risking your brother’s health.

Classic Prudie

I recently got engaged to my wonderful fiancé. Immediately after announcing the engagement to our families, my future SIL sat me down for a serious chat. She says she is currently saving up for breast implants and doesn’t want us to marry until she gets them done. She told me she wants to have one family wedding album where she looks perfect and will be heartbroken if I got married against her wishes. The trouble is, my fiancé says we should hold off the wedding for this reason, too. He knows his sister will cause so much trouble and doesn’t want to deal with the family drama. He thinks since we live together there is no hurry for marriage, anyway. I know how much he detests conflict and it’s true we are pretty much living as a married couple, but I feel like this is so wrong to postpone the wedding. He says the other option is to pay for his sister’s breast implant ourselves! Am I crazy for marrying into this family?