Dear Prudence

I’ve Developed a Crush on My New Mom-Friend

I feel like I’m being unfaithful to my spouse.

Woman with hearts over her eyes
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ranta Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

I moved to a new state to be with my now-wife. We are both women and have never really had close friends here. It’s a very tightknit community, and people are very kind, but it hasn’t been that easy to break through. This year, I had a baby and ended up connecting with a group of new moms. I love my wife, but I feel like I was really missing having close friends, and I’ve been so happy to find some. The problem is that I’ve gotten very close with one friend in particular, “Rachel,” and suddenly I am feeling like I have a crush on her! I don’t know if this is just a new friend crush or what. I’ve never had a serious crush while I’ve been married. Now I feel like I’m being unfaithful to my wife in some way and I have to stop being friends with Rachel. But she’s the best friend I’ve had in years, and I really don’t want to! I don’t know what to do.

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—Pink Cloud

Let’s not assign your crush a specific motivation. It’s impossible to know whether you’d have developed a crush on Rachel if you’d already had a lot of close friends in the area, but I’m not convinced that crushes arise as a result of friendship scarcity. That’s not to say that isolation or loneliness can never contribute to the strength of feeling one develops for someone new. They certainly can! But I doubt you’ll resolve your crush by convincing yourself it’s just because you were so eager for new friends you briefly forgot the difference between friendship and romance. You’ve made some new friends, which is an unalloyed good, and you’ve also developed a crush on someone else for the first time since you got married, which is not a sin or an indicator that you’ve stopped loving your wife. It may feel uncomfortable, and you may be unsure how (or whether) to discuss this with your wife, but you are not being unfaithful. If you find yourself constantly seeking out reasons to be alone with Rachel in ways you want to hide from your wife, or emotionally withdrawing from your marriage, that’s another matter entirely. But simply having a crush on someone is not wrong or bad or something to be ashamed of. It’s a feeling, no more and no less.

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Have you and your wife ever discussed crushes with each other in the past? Can you imagine having such a conversation now? You don’t have to bring it up as a shameful confession or because you want to change the nature of your relationship. It is possible to cultivate a non-shameful relationship to crushes without abandoning monogamy or disregarding your partner’s feelings. That’s not to say that you’re obligated to share every errant fantasy with your wife either, merely that it is an option, and a possibly freeing one at that. If you find that the crush only builds with time and makes a deeper friendship too painful, you may decide to scale back, but not all crushes reach such heights, and I don’t want to encourage you to problematize this when you’re finally feeling connection and support after a long time without friends. Go easy on yourself when you can.

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

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Dear Prudence,

My parents have always been “magical thinkers” and have sunk deeper into conspiracies in recent years. My brothers and I have chosen an avoidance strategy. But their fringe ideas are now having a practical impact. My wife is due to give birth in months, and they’ve stated they will refuse the COVID vaccine even if they can’t fly to be with us. I dodged the topic when it first came up, but on reflection, I know I need to draw a line. I won’t allow them near my child unvaccinated. Even before this, I worried about the toxic ideas and substances (they’ve snuck “supplements” into food they’ve served us) they might give the kid. I know my parents love me—they just don’t know how to. I love them too, but have been long alienated by their beliefs. How do I try to reach them?

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—Conspiracies Over Children

Let this serve as a reminder that avoidance strategies at best postpone the inevitable, but all too often they seem to make the inevitable much worse and more prolonged than it has to be. I also think you should let go of the fantasy that you’ll be able to “reach” your parents after years or even decades of unchallenged saturation in conspiracy theories. That’s extremely unlikely, and you should set your sights lower than hoping you’ll persuade your parents to abandon their beliefs in time to get vaccinated and safely travel to see you.

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Instead, focus on drawing that line: “I’m sorry, but you can’t see the baby until you’ve been vaccinated. I hope you change your minds.” That’s an achievable goal. Even if your parents rage against that restriction, they can’t force you to unbend. There’s been a great deal written lately on how best to talk to someone deeply committed to conspiracy theories without alienating them, and it’s possible that you may be able to find sufficient common ground that slow, reasonable growth and openness become newly possible. But you may not, and even if you do, nothing’s going to change overnight. Hold the line about seeing your baby first, and worry about reaching your parents second. Since this will be the first time you’ve tried to have an honest discussion with them about their beliefs, you should expect resistance and conflict. There’s a reason you’ve avoided it for so long.

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Dear Prudence,

My 15-year-old daughter has been asking for a new dog for three years. I finally agreed, with the caveat and her promise that she will take care of it. I told her that I already have enough on my plate and that if she didn’t keep her word, we would find it a new home. We’ve had him for one week, and we find she’s slightly allergic to him (we have an older 3-pound dog that she’s not allergic to), so she says she can’t hold him or attend to him in the morning before her allergy pill kicks in. Then the pee accidents make her gag, so she can’t clean those. She’s not playing with him and not holding him much but claims to love him already and would be devastated if I gave him away. I was aware that I’d have to do a little caretaking, and kids are notorious for not following through with the age-old promise of “I’ll take care of it!” but her seeming love/aversion is really concerning. Should I cut bait now and put him back on the market while he’s still a 9-week-old puppy, or give her a few more weeks to adjust and see if she alters her behavior and actions? Am I jumping the gun or just seeing the writing on the wall?

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—Puppy Promise

Giving them both a little more time to adjust seems kind, but be as specific as you can. A few weeks might be too open-ended, but a particular date (say, two weeks from now) will at least help provide you with clarity when feelings are running high. I’m sure your daughter does love this puppy, even if that love doesn’t necessarily translate into excitement over cleaning up after him. But this isn’t a test of whether she cares about the dog. It’s about whether you can actually provide him with a stable, supportive home, and if that’s not possible, it would be better to rehome him. You might also want to schedule an appointment with an allergist to see if there are any additional treatments your daughter requires in the short term, since some allergic responses can get more serious over time, and you’ll want to be on the lookout for a sudden escalation in symptoms. If you do end up having to find another home for the dog, I’m sure your daughter will be sad, but better to let her go through that sadness than keep a dog you can’t properly care for just so she feels good. Contact the shelter or breeder you got him from first, since they often can help find new owners or temporary foster homes in cases like yours.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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.

More Advice From How to Do It

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