Dear Prudence

A Family Member Told Me About Their Secret Affair

Now they’re villainizing me for not supporting them.

Woman with speech bubble, left, and woman with head in hands, right
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by  insta_photos/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

A few years ago, someone in my family told me about their ongoing love affair ad nauseum with another human other than their spouse. There has also been talk and some planning of divorcing their spouse. I was even asked to assist with housing, support, and care of children after the separation and divorce, if necessary. My knowledge of all of this has made family gatherings extremely uncomfortable for me because the family member’s parents, siblings, spouse, and parents are usually in attendance—all unaware of the affair, plans for divorce, and double life. Meanwhile, my family member carries on life as “normal.”

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I recently tried to talk to the family member about my awkward position in all of this and how uncomfortable it was being around everyone, especially their in-laws. I was hoping to reach some level of understanding of the emotional toll it has taken on me and our relationship. Instead, the entire scenario was turned on me, and I was a bad person for not being accepting of this knowledge: I should have been grateful that I was the one they confided in, what else were they supposed to do, etc. Currently, the entire extended family has picked up on something being wrong between us. Among the continual denial and deflection, and apparently name-calling, I have now been villainized by the family member. How would you handle this scenario going forward?

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—Now That I Know, I’m Sorry I Know

Dear Sorry I Know,

You can’t unknow this, and there’s nothing your relative can do to fix the awkwardness you feel. I don’t think you deserve to be villainized, but it also seems unrealistic to ask someone who’s in the process of turning her own life upside down to focus on the emotional toll it’s all taking on you.  Hopefully you can make it through family events without too much discomfort by remembering that you don’t have to do anything with the information you have. Enjoy the food. Think about the kind of connection you want to have with the family members who are blissfully unaware of all of this, and turn your attention to making memories with them. Interact with the children, who don’t care about any of this.

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Going forward, remember the line “I don’t like to keep secrets, so it’s better if you don’t tell me,” and use it whenever you get the feeling someone is going to share something like this.

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve been married to my husband, “Joe,” for nearly 15 years. We have two tweenage kids. After years of individual therapy and several attempts at couples counseling, I’ve decided I want a divorce. I told him in January (after more than a year of knowing that divorce was inevitable, but COVID got in the way). He asked for a second chance, and I reluctantly gave in.

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Now I’m ready to tell him it’s not working and start the divorce process, but decided to wait until a better time, like when the kids are at camp this summer. That way, we can start the divorce process (putting the house up for sale, etc.) and he can come to terms with the decision. Unfortunately, Joe is planning a long family vacation later this summer, which would be after I had planned to tell him (again) I want to divorce. Should I push back my divorce timeline until after the vacation? Or should I tell him when I had originally planned to? If I do that, then I suppose we could still go on vacation, but we’d be newly separated and it may be confusing for the kids. Or we could just cancel it all, or he could take the kids himself. I’ve been waiting so long that extending an extra month or so is doable, but it’s getting harder to continually delay my opportunity for happiness and a more joyful life.

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— Waiting for D-Day

Dear Waiting,

Just do it. There will always be something—a vacation, someone’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day—in the way. And the process takes forever. Get the ball rolling and give him time to come to terms with it while the kids are at camp, and depending on how he takes it and how you’re both feeling, you can make a decision about whether and how the trip should happen and when to tell the kids. If you think you two are going to be civil (fingers crossed), it might be nice to do the vacation together to show them that you don’t hate each other and you’re still going to parent as a team.

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Dear Prudence,

I have a coworker who posts a lot on social media, especially for work-related information. Often it is to inform customers of new products and engage with them. It is not his job or responsibility to post on social media—there is another person who is responsible for this work. In addition to actual work-related posts, he has also posts on internal disagreements. Examples like he’s “in a daily battle with [department] standing up for what’s right.” Sometimes this is directed at me or other colleagues and teams. He usually posts after conversations where there is disagreement. In the past, I found working with this colleague is always adversarial. And don’t feel comfortable broaching this topic with him. I told my manager, who has spoken to his manager, but that hasn’t changed this coworker’s posts. It’s demoralizing when internal disagreements are aired publicly. What should I do?
— Collaboration Has Gone Too Far

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Dear Too Far,

What he’s doing is inappropriate, but you’ve done all you can. Just unfollow him.

Dear Prudence,

It turns out that my daughter is going to be the groom at her wedding, and the presumed groom is going to be the bride. I feel like I should warn our guests, many of whom would not understand this and might choose not to attend. I’ve drafted several messages, but I can’t find a good way to explain this. I also don’t want it to be hurtful to my daughter if it gets back to her. Can you help me compose this message?

— Father of the “Groom”

Dear Father,

Write this:

Dear Guests: I wanted to let you know that my daughter is going to be the groom at her wedding and her husband is going to be the bride. I know this is unusual, and I didn’t want you to be surprised. Please let me know if you have any questions. And if, given this information, you decide you don’t want to attend, please let me know.

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Then tear it up or delete it immediately!

It’s their wedding, and if they want people to have a preview, they can put it on the wedding website. The guests may be confused, but nobody ever died from being confused. They’ll be fine. If anyone turns around and leaves when they see what’s going on, that will be great information for your daughter and her fiancé to have about who they want in their life as they begin this new chapter.

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The best thing you can do between now and the wedding is to try to accept and stop feeling embarrassed about this choice. Maybe your daughter can tell you a little bit more about what it means to her and her fiancé and how they’d like you to discuss it. That way you can educate anyone who approaches you at the wedding. If you don’t get any more detail from her, simply use the line, “This is new to me too, but all I care about is their happiness, and I know you feel the same.” As the father of the bride, your first priority should be to support your daughter and make sure she has the best wedding day possible. Do that instead of worrying so much about what other people think.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

I have a dilemma. I’m a married woman, and my husband and I have a great relationship. I’m the one who pretty much takes care of everything outside the bedroom, so I prefer my husband to be more dominant and take charge in the bedroom. However, he tends to be a considerate lover, which means he asks a lot of questions like, “Are you OK?”; “Does this feel good or right?”; “Am I hurting you? Other than the occasional “you’re on my hair!” moment, which I am vocal about, the other questions are totally unnecessary. I’ve reassured him before, during, and after that he’s doing great, and I have brought up several times that I find the questions distracting, especially when I’m in the middle of an orgasm and they take from the moment. How do I start nudging him to be a little more dominant and to stop asking questions?

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