Dear Prudence

My Boyfriend’s Best Friend Is Urging Him Not to Marry Me

I think the next step is an ultimatum.

Man and woman with engagement ring loosely holding hands.
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Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I have been together for nine years and engaged for four. I had to beg him to propose, but he seemed happy about it. But any time I bring up wedding planning, he brushes me off and says we’ll talk about it later. (He’s been doing this for four years.) Now he’s saying he doesn’t see the point in getting married because we’ve been together for so long. I’m dying to get married. I’ve tried to express this, and he says he understands but he’s just not ready. I think the next step is an ultimatum, because I’m pretty sure he’ll choose marriage over breaking up (this is how he proposed). Part of the problem is that his best friend, Matt, is constantly in his ear telling him not to marry me so they can stay bachelors. Another issue is that I rely on my boyfriend financially. I would be homeless if I left him, and I don’t want to work. Do I stick around and wait for him to decide he wants to get married, or do I force him to get rid of Matt and take me to the altar?

—Stuck, Again

You would also be homeless if your boyfriend left you, which is worth considering before committing to this relationship as a career plan. Moreover, I cannot advise you to deliver an ultimatum you’re neither able nor willing to carry out. Being “pretty sure” your boyfriend won’t break up with you over a second ultimatum doesn’t seem like a solid bet. What if he does break up with you? Even if you two do get married, how will you support yourself if you get divorced? If he dies young? If he gets sick or injured and is unable to keep working? What’s your contingency plan if things don’t go the way you expect, bearing in mind that life very rarely goes according to your blueprint (including this relationship, which has not gone according to plan for the past few years)? At the very least, you should have a savings account in your own name that will cover transit to get you to family or friends should you need to find another place to stay on short notice. I’d also encourage you to look for part-time or freelance work so you can start building a more robust cushion—not because you’re planning on dumping your boyfriend tomorrow, but because you should know that you can keep a roof over your head no matter how your romantic relationship is doing.

As for your question about Matt—I’m not quite sure how you propose to force your boyfriend to get rid of him, especially since you’ve spent the last four years trying to maintain an engagement your erstwhile fiancé now seems to consider over. He’s managed to bargain you down from “fine, we’re engaged” to “it’s too late to get married, and I’m not ready, so let’s downgrade back to dating” without any real consequences, so I’m not optimistic about your chances. You and I may simply have different priorities, and you certainly don’t have to conduct your personal life according to my values, but I wonder what you’re getting out of this relationship, with a man who finds your goals exasperating, who’s happy to let you “beg” for an engagement only to announce years later that he doesn’t really feel like getting married after all, whose goodwill you rely on in order to support yourself financially, and who discusses with his best friend how great it is not to be married. What’s in this for you?

Help! My Relatives Call Every Day to Beg Me to Save My Abusive Dad’s Life.

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

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Dear Prudence,

My husband comes from an extended family of racist right-wingers, although he has switched political parties since being with me. Historically, I have bitten my tongue for the sake of family harmony, but I feel it’s my duty to confront racism when I see it. His grandparents and parents keep posting ignorant, racist things to social media. I asked my husband if I could respond, and he requested I refrain (again for the sake of family harmony). I feel like if I’m not supporting the solution, I’m part of the problem, but I also want to respect my husband’s wishes. What should I do?

—Racist Peace Isn’t Peaceful

Your husband’s wishes are for you to keep your mouth shut when his relatives publish racist screeds because he doesn’t want to quarrel with them about their racism. He would like to make their expressions of racism more convenient and comfortable, and he wants you to either pretend to agree with them or not to have seen them in the first place, in order to achieve that goal. Such wishes do not merit your respect, and I cannot advise you to keep honoring them. You can love your husband very much and be honest about how wrong he is in this matter. Just because the racists in question happen to be your husband’s relatives doesn’t mean you should defer to him or let him take the lead. When they say or do something racist, whether in person or through social media, challenge it. If that makes your husband uncomfortable, so much the better. He is entirely too comfortable with racism, and it will do him a world of good to be discomfited.

Dear Prudence,

I was recently assigned a project at work while in the midst of another project and had a hard time managing both. It was not, I will admit, my best work. But we were on track to finish in time when, at the end of an already hostile meeting, the client thought the call had ended and said about me to her co-worker, “She’s a fucking asshole.” He responded jokingly, “You guys are gonna fight.” I said, “FYI, I can still hear you,” and hung up. After that, she sent a series of emails to both my company and hers claiming that I refused to do my job.

The problem is this is a client and not a co-worker. The harassment continues even today.  She apologized for “making anyone feel bad, and for what some might have interpreted as jarring.” I told my boss I considered this both slander and harassment. She said she’s handling it with the client. I have created a filter so that I don’t have to see the emails anymore because they were affecting me emotionally. I had to schedule a meeting with my therapist to process. I told my boss it’s affecting my productivity. I’m not sure what else to do. I’m not allowed to talk to this client anymore. She’s not going to apologize, and she continues to slander me and has now possibly moved on to doing so to other clients of mine. I have been at this job for 10 years, and I have certainly had unhappy clients before, but no one has ever been this malicious. Any advice? I’ve tried to find other jobs in the past, but I need to work from home because of a disability, and this job gives me that option.  But emotionally I can’t continue to be harassed by this person and accused of failing to do my job.

—Not an Asshole

I’m not sure I agree with your definition of harassment. If your former client were still emailing you after you’d already left the project, saying over and over again that you were a lousy employee, I might have a different answer. Or if those emails you’ve had to filter aren’t simply a back-and-forth between your co-workers and this client as they finish this project but an ongoing series of insults about your competence and your character, then you have the right to ask your boss to intervene. But if you consider a one-time, half-hearted (and, yes, insincere) apology like “I’m sorry for making anyone feel bad” to be both slander and harassment, I think you’re going to have a hard time getting anyone else to share those definitions.

You say this woman has “possibly moved on” to complaining about you to other clients, which makes me wonder if you know this for sure or merely suspect it. And if what she’s saying is that she doesn’t like you and had a bad time working with you (you say you didn’t give her your best work and that tensions ran high during your meetings), that’s not slander, just her opinion and experience. It may be frustrating, and you certainly don’t have to like it or agree with it, but I think the best way to move on is to do just that. Focus on your other projects, continue to speak to your therapist about it, and keep your distance from this woman. If she’s still contacting you directly to berate you even after you’ve stopped speaking to her, or if you know her to be exaggerating or lying about your work, then you can ask your boss (or HR if your boss is too conflict-avoidant) to intervene, but beyond that, your options are limited.

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