Dear Prudence

My Girlfriend Is a Celebrity

Everyone in our city knows her, and I’m not sure how to deal with her fame.

Woman in chef attire holding food, but her face is blocked out with stars
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Dear Prudence,

My girlfriend is the chef and owner of a local restaurant that’s recently become extremely popular. We’d been friends for a few years before we started dating months ago. She’s been named best chef in both the city and state, her restaurant has won awards, and she gets regular requests to compete on cooking shows. We’ve been keeping the relationship pretty quiet, and due to COVID, we don’t go out much. But we are getting more serious, and I’m not sure how to deal with her current fame. Everybody in our city knows who she is. I know that once I tell people that we’re dating, they are going to ask if I can get them free food. I still pay when I go to her restaurant, but that is really my choice. I’m also uncomfortable with publicity, so I don’t really know what to do if a magazine or TV show wants to do a joint interview or how to handle the big award events she gets invited to, once those start up again. What’s the best way to talk to other people about their requests, and what’s the best way for me to talk to her about handling her fame?

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—Local Spotlight

Your first question is, fortunately, extremely simple to answer: Tell those people you can’t get them free food. That’s it. “Can you get me free food?” “No.” If a TV show or magazine wants to interview your chef girlfriend and asks if they can interview whoever she’s dating, too—a rather unlikely prospect unless you’re also famous in your own right—tell her you’re not available, and she can decline on your behalf. I think big award events are still sufficiently far off that you have plenty of time to wait and cross that bridge when you get to it, but if you want to let her know in advance that you’re not comfortable with a lot of publicity and that you don’t plan on attending all of them with her, you can just tell her. There’s no special delicacy you need to bring to this conversation. Be honest with your partner, just as you would if she weren’t a celebrity, and tell people no if they ask you for free stuff. That’s it!

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Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have known each other for almost 20 years, and he is the love of my life. But he recently went to the doctor for low energy and trouble breathing and decided he wants to lose weight. He says he wants me to help develop a meal plan, since I took nutrition classes in college and do 90 percent of the cooking. So I developed a plan that switches foods like pasta, rice, and bread with veggie options. He hates it and does not stop complaining about my cooking, which he never did before when it was all high-carb and high-fat foods.

I can’t stand how stubborn he is when it comes to diet changes. I understand it can be hard to commit to drastic changes, but he was the one who insisted on the big change, rather than the gradual one I suggested. I don’t know what to do to support him in wanting to lose weight. I know if I leave it up to him that he will just not do it and continue his unhealthy choices, but I can’t put up with the constant battle at the dinner table.

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—Kitchen Wars

I think something important is getting lost here in the question of your husband’s weight and overall health. The issue is that your husband has recently demanded you radically change your cooking—which you already do for him 90 percent of the time!—and complains and nitpicks over your choices at every meal. This is an exercise in frustration and ingratitude, not a question of your being insufficiently supportive of his nutritional goals. Why doesn’t he take up cooking 30 percent or even 50 percent of the time? Even if he never took nutrition classes in college, he could buy a few secondhand cookbooks or set aside some time to find simple, healthy recipes online and start learning how to make the basics. He could also ask his doctor to suggest particular foods and recipes to match up to his goals, or he could make an appointment with a registered dietician. You can provide him with general support if he needs it or basic primers in how to roast potatoes or assemble a stir-fry, but this ongoing battle isn’t helping either of you, and you certainly can’t want to change his meal plan for him more than he does.

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Dear Prudence, 

Roughly three months ago, I met a girl who quickly became my girlfriend. I had practically given up on love before meeting her after a series of bad relationships. I am also a woman, and the dating pool in my area is pretty small. With her, though, I find myself wondering how I was lucky enough to find someone like her. She’s funny, independent, ambitious, and everything I hoped for in a partner. I let her know that I regularly see a therapist, and she told me she does the same. She really seemed to prioritize mental wellness. About a month in she started letting me know more about her struggles, which are extremely severe. This didn’t impact my view of her, although she expected it to. After confiding in me, she now has lengthy, unexpected breakdowns two to three times a week, if not more. This only got worse when her therapist took a monthlong hiatus while sorting out child care arrangements.

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In lieu of a therapist she leaned pretty hard on me. If I’m not physically there she’ll call me and cry over the phone. When I offer sympathy or resources, she rejects it. I was starting to feel pretty helpless, then she revealed to me that she stopped taking her medication while her therapist was away. She still refuses to take it now that they have resumed sessions. She told me she lies to her therapist and says everything’s fine. I understand things are hard for her now, but I don’t know what to do. I love her, and I care for her. Afterwards she always apologizes for pushing me away after asking for help, but it’s really starting to eat at my own mental health. I can’t keep playing therapist! I’m worried though that if I set a boundary, she’ll just bottle things up entirely and make things harder on herself. What do I do?

—Crisis Manager

You are three months into a really bad relationship. Please don’t let that first honeymoon-style month convince you that you’re just a few days away from turning a corner and getting back to “normal.” You’re dating someone who demands your full attention to manage nonstop crises, rejects the help she calls you to ask for, then pushes you away for trying to help. For your own part, you’re so anxious about the possibility of never finding someone else in your dating pool, and so disillusioned from past bad relationships, that you’re worried that setting a healthy boundary with your girlfriend will somehow harm her. This is not good—it’s not anywhere close to good, either. It doesn’t sound like you’re getting to experience much of that funny, independent, ambitious woman you spent a few weeks with. Nor does it sound like your strategy of dropping everything and desperately trying to help whenever she calls you crying is actually improving her mental health. You should break up with her, wish her the best, and set some firmer standards for how you want to be treated by your partners, especially when you’ve only known each other for a few months.

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Help! I’m Worried My Wife’s Pot Smoking Is a Bad Influence on Our Kids.

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

Subscribe to the Dear Prudence Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dear Prudence,

I worked for my husband’s marketing company for five years. It was only him, myself, and one other person. Six months ago we bought a house, and his business grew exponentially. After a lot of discussion, it was agreed that I would scale back my work for him, as I can do it at home while handling numerous repairs, deliveries, etc. What I do is very integral in the running of this business. Three months ago, due to the volume of work needing to be done, he hired five new people, all young and full of energy and ideas. Technically I’m still part of the company, but I am excluded from every luncheon, meeting, and team-building function. I am terribly hurt and feel left out yet still am expected to do my job and interact with these employees. My husband is furious that I feel this way and does not understand. Apparently I am “bothering him” with my complaining and bringing him down. I feel like I just need to quit altogether and find a new job. Any advice?

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—Left in the Dust

I think you should quit and find a new job! Your boss is treating you terribly. The fact that your boss also happens to be your husband is probably going to make for some strained dinner-table conversations, but it shouldn’t hold you back from quitting a lousy job where you’re being marginalized and underappreciated. (Especially because if you don’t quit, I suspect dinner-table conversation is going to become strained even faster.) You’re not obligated to work for your partner forever, especially when the arrangement is no longer working for you, and you have every right to give him your notice and look for something else that suits you.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“You’re in a really bad relationship that was preceded by a nice three weeks.”
Danny Lavery and New Republic staff writer Jo Livingstone discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

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Dear Prudence,

I’m a gay man and an only child whose parents both died while I was in college. I didn’t start exploring my sexuality until after they were gone, so I never was able to come out to them, but we were pretty tightknit. I loved them very much. Although I have some extended family, we’re not particularly close. I have a few close friends, but that’s about it, and I’ve gone through almost a decade on my own. I’m in my 30s now, with a string of failed relationships behind me, and I feel like one of the biggest problems has been my lack of a family.

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No one, especially around my age, wants to think about their parents’ deaths. I try to be upfront, and this has repeatedly led to relationships where my partner avoids the subject completely, never asking me about my childhood or showing interest in knowing what kind of people my parents were. I’ve asked questions about their families and gotten all kinds of stories and anecdotes, but the questions are never reciprocated. My partners’ avoidance has rubbed off on me too: I’ve found myself avoiding thinking about my past before college as a whole, as the memories feel more melancholic than good. This is a part of my history and who I am, but sometimes I feel like I should just give up and not try to talk about it. It just brings people down, and frankly I can’t blame them. This avoidance and having no one to exist in relation to has strained my sense of identity. Do you have any advice on how to approach this topic in relationships? Or just advice for people who have lost their family in general?

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—Orphaned Feelings

I’m a little surprised you don’t know more gay people who are estranged from their families! I realize times have changed, but surely there are still a few of us around, making catty jokes about withholding or homophobic parents at inopportune moments. I realize it’s a very different kind of loss, but I’d encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for queers who haven’t been reconciled into the family bosom (or who have lost one or both parents themselves), even if you don’t decide to date or even befriend all of them.

It also sounds like you’ve had especially thoughtless partners in the past, and I hope your future dates can all clear the fairly low bar of “displaying general interest about your early life” as you’re getting to know each other. It is possible that some of your exes were simply so afraid of saying something insensitive or painful that they steered clear of the topic altogether. This wouldn’t make their avoidance any less hurtful, but you could let your dates know that you want to be asked about your family in return, that you want to be able to talk about your losses, and that it’s not an off-limits subject.

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Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate

Dear Prudence,

My ex-husband and I have been divorced for about 10 years and were separated for several years before that. He and I get along OK, which is probably why our kids—who are in their 30s—can’t seem to let go of the four of us spending holidays together. I realize it would be a hassle for them to do two Christmases each year, but jeez! I managed to keep the ex out of Mother’s Day, and he let me out of Father’s Day, but we still did all the birthdays, and we’re still doing Thanksgiving and Christmas. Is this weird? I feel like it is. How and when should I tell them flat-out that this is not happening next year? They are not otherwise clingy or dependent. They have been self-supporting since college, they live on their own, and they have healthy relationships with people their age.

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—Actually Divorced

If you and your husband get along OK, and you’ve maintained this tradition for a decade, I’m not surprised that your otherwise independent kids have assumed you’re fine with the way things are. So you don’t have to give them a dose of tough love, or get exasperated, so much as tell them straightforwardly what you told me. If your ex feels the same way and you think it will help, you two can deliver the news jointly, or at least coordinate two versions of the same conversation. You’re entitled to stop doing this, even if your kids chafe a little at first. Just tell them what you’re prepared to do next year, let them have whatever reactions they need to, and move into your new, ex-free holiday traditions with full confidence.

Classic Prudie

I am 29 and have been with my new guy for about two months. It started out great—he’s attentive, considerate, and funny. Last month, when things were getting serious, he told me that his ex-wife is six months pregnant with his child—conceived when they “celebrated” their divorce becoming legal. She chose to keep the child, and he’s supportive (tension about infertility was one of the reasons they split in the first place). I’ve met his ex a few times when she’s picked him up at my place for doctors appointments—and she seems very nice and open. My question: I’ve been having nightmares about my boyfriend’s future child calling me a “home-wrecker” for not letting his parents be together. I’m not worried they are going to get together again, but I certainly don’t want to come between them if they want to pursue that option. Thoughts?

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