Dear Prudence

Isn’t the Pandemic a Good Excuse to Throw My Dream Destination Wedding?

My fiancé thinks we should stick to our original small, frugal event.

A small chapel and a destination beach wedding.
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Dear Prudence,

My fiancé and I were originally scheduled to get married in May. It was to be hosted in our small town, with next to no travel costs for our roughly 50 guests. We are both in grad school and pretty broke, so the wedding was going to be extremely frugal. I am now thinking that as a “consolation prize” to ourselves for having to postpone the wedding, I would like us to throw our true dream wedding, which would be considerably more expensive. The wedding would be late next year at a destination venue (likely in the Caribbean). I’d invite many more people, up to 100 extra, and recognize that not all will be able to attend. My fiancé disagrees. He thinks it’s tacky to invite people we originally hadn’t (how do we explain to someone they didn’t make the first cut but did make the second?), and he’d rather have it be in a location where a higher proportion of our guests can actually attend. The wrinkle here is that his guests are wealthier and would be the ones likely attending the destination wedding. I’d be the one taking the hit—and I’m OK with it! I’ve always wanted a destination wedding, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. What should we do?

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—Destination Wedding

I’m not quite sure what to say in response to “This devastating global pandemic seems like the perfect opportunity to upgrade our wedding into a Caribbean getaway many of our friends won’t be able to attend.” I think it’s a bad idea, and I hope I can dissuade you from it for the following reasons: You’re both broke grad students right now, and given the current job market, you will likely both be pretty close to broke grad students a year from now. (Where are you planning on getting tropical-destination wedding money in the next 12 months?) Plus, millions of Americans’ jobs have vanished in the past few weeks, so even your wealthier guests may have real trouble attending the kind of wedding you’re imagining. And, as you say, there’s really no polite way to tell someone, “Hey, you didn’t make the cut for our original wedding, but now that just about anybody can come, so can you!” I do not have a script for making such an offer sound welcoming. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that wedding venues in destinations that rely heavily on tourism are going to be up and running at full capacity a year from now. What would you do if you booked a hotel when things were looking up, then another wave of COVID cases and stay-at-home orders broke out?

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I don’t say this to promote dour austerity or self-flagellation in a crisis. I certainly understand your desire for extravagance, fantasy, and escape, and I hope you can find ways to acknowledge those desires without shame or self-recrimination. But neither should you give full rein to your most impractical impulses. Possibly going into debt for a wedding it doesn’t sound like you can afford, that many of your friends might be unable to attend, that may not be possible to host even a year from now, and that would also involve likely offending lots of people is—impractical is the gentlest word I can think of for it. Go back to the drawing board and try to find a better balance between things you want, things that are possible, and things that take the needs and feelings of others into better account. I hope when you finally are able to celebrate your wedding that it feels like a real occasion for joy.

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Help! My Husband Stopped Speaking to Me Because I Said I Liked Chick-fil-A’s Chicken.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Toni Golan-Vilella and Lizzy Marmon on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

I lost my wife about a year ago, shortly after the birth of our child. Since then, my mother has taken on many child care responsibilities, and my son has naturally bonded with her. She has, for all practical purposes, become his surrogate mother. Lately, I find myself wondering: When the time comes, how do I explain the difference between “mother” and “grandmother” to a toddler? My mother has been firm that she not be called “Ma-ma,” but I wonder if that’s a meaningful, or even possible, distinction to make? More broadly, how do I explain why he doesn’t have a “mother” when his cousins do? I realize he’s still young, but I’m not yet dating, much less involved with anyone who may become his mother, so I don’t see my domestic circumstances changing in the near future. I suspect that these questions will come up before anything changes, and it occurs to me that I haven’t got an answer for them.

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—Grandma Isn’t Ma-Ma

Making your son’s mother a semiregular topic of conversation will go a long way toward helping your family arrangement seem less difficult to explain. That’s not to say you have to discuss her at length if doing so is still difficult for you, but both you and your mother can talk to your son in occasional, age-appropriate ways about his mother (her name, what she looked like, how much she loved him) and the fact that she died. Given that your son is only about 1 now, I wouldn’t expect those conversations to last very long or for him to retain much of an impression of them. But if they continue, in a few years he should have a fairly solid grasp on who his mother was and how families deal with the death of a loved one—by missing them, talking about them, and honoring them in the rest of their lives. If you have a picture of her you’re comfortable displaying, you can show that to your son on occasion and use it as a springboard to talk about her. If you’re not up for having her picture up all the time, you might keep it in a special scrapbook or out-of-the-way part of the house and bring it out every now and again. When it comes to simply making the distinction between a mother and a grandmother, I don’t think you need to overcomplicate things, especially with your kid so young. For now, if your mother wants to correct “Ma-ma” with “Ga-ma,” that’s probably as far as you need to take it.

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Dear Prudence,

My wife and I are both bi women and have been happily married for two years, together for nine. I love her, and we have always trusted each other absolutely. But I have a weird feeling about her friendship with her colleague “James.” They’re both teachers, and just before the schools closed, they had completed the same specialist training course, which meant they spent a lot of time together. Now we’re all working from home.

I only used to hear about James occasionally and was under the impression that they were casual friends. Now, he calls and chats with her online every other day, sometimes calling two or three days in a row, and just seems to be a far bigger figure in her life than I’d thought. She seems to love their calls and laughs a lot when they talk. Normally she’s pretty disconnected from her phone; in fact, I’ve never seen her answer the phone as reliably as she does when he calls. James lives with his girlfriend and seems to have a strong social network already, so it’s not like he’s isolated or in particular need of cheering up. I’ve never heard anything particularly flirty between them, and I don’t know if my weird feeling is justified. Do I sound like I’m experiencing irrational jealousy over a nonissue, here, or is this something that should bother me? I feel as though I should know they’re just good friends and that my wife would never cheat on me, but my stomach clenches every time he calls. I’d never snoop through her phone, obviously. But something about the relationship is just setting off alarm bells I didn’t even think I had, and I don’t know what to do.

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—I Think I Trust My Wife

You seem to be suffering under the misapprehension that either your wife is behaving badly and therefore your insecurity and discomfort are justified or your wife is behaving appropriately and you’re controlling and irrational and have no right to bring up your fears with her. But that’s not at all the case! You don’t have to justify or excuse anything in order to talk about this with your wife: “For the last few weeks I’ve been nervous, insecure, and jealous about your friendship with James. I feel self-conscious about bringing this up because I’m worried it will seem accusatory, and that’s not the case. I used to think you and James were only loosely connected, but now it seems like you’re fairly close, and part of what’s been challenging about that for me is the sense that we’re usually on the same page about the important friendships in each other’s lives.”

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Release yourself from the expectation that feelings have to be justified in order to be discussed or respected or tended. You’re not asking your wife to like James less or to apologize for enjoying his company, or accusing her of cheating on you. You’re inviting her to know more about your vulnerabilities and to reconnect, which is part of the project of marriage and partnership. It’s possible to talk about fears and insecurities nondefensively and without assigning blame. I think you have reason to hope your wife will be willing to do so and that the two of you will be able to find ways to discuss fraught friendships not with the intent of restricting each other’s freedoms but of honoring each other’s feelings.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

My husband and I have been together for 12 years, married for approximately the last three. I am a gay Asian male who came out in my late 20s (I just turned 45) who struggles with self-confidence and being comfortable as a loud and proud homosexual. My husband is an alpha gay white male (he’ll be 55 in a few months), very confident (seemingly), vocal, and aggressive. He recently confessed to being unfaithful and also to contracting HSV-2 (genital herpes) from his adulterous encounter(s?). I was completely devastated when I learned the truth, only to be completely disappointed on top of the devastation when he admitted that he was diagnosed with his affliction approximately six months ago. Never meet your heroes. In my case, never marry them, either.

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It’s been three weeks since he confessed, and I am still very upset and not at a place that I can speak civilly to him yet. He occupies the bedroom and sequesters himself there, while I sleep on the couch and take over the living room and kitchen. I am seeking counseling—I met with two therapists‚ but I haven’t found the right fit just yet. I am so empty and conflicted about what to do going forward. I got tested for all STDs, and the results have been negative thus far. I just get hung up on the fact that he knowingly put my health at risk by initiating intimacy even after his HSV-2 diagnosis. Any advice on how I can proceed to piece my life and my broken marriage back together again, please? Or should I circle my wagons and try to salvage my dignity by kicking him to the curb and become a sad cliché, gay divorcée?

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