Dear Prudence

Help! I Caught My Sister’s Fiancé Cheating. I Might Not Tell Her.

It’s more complicated than it seems.

A woman chews on her fingernails in front of an illustration of a wedding cake.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

This question seems like it has a simple answer, but bear with me—I think it’s more complicated than it seems. I caught my sister’s fiancé cheating on her, two months before their wedding. Do I tell her or not?

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Thing is, I love my sister to bits but she makes bad romantic decisions at an Olympic level. Her fiancé has cheated on her before, left her, stolen money, come back, wrecked her credit, wrecked her car—every time she says she’s through with him, and every time she takes him right back. So I am kinda torn. Do I spill the beans because sis deserves the chance to ditch this guy before tying herself to him irrevocably? Or do I hold my peace, since experience demonstrates, it will cause a lot of distress but not actually change anything?

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I just feel like it is cruel to ruin her big day for her, when nothing else he has done has put her off.

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I’m of two minds about this one! Have you ever had a conversation with your sister about her choices around this guy writ large? Do you feel able to attend her wedding and support her, even if you think she’s making a mistake? If you two have discussed him before, you’ve made your concerns clear, and you still want to show up for her on her wedding day, then I think it makes sense not to bring it up—you’re not providing her with any new information and the less involved you get in the inner workings of their relationship, the better. You can set a boundary if she wants to come and complain about him to you, saying, “I don’t think you deserve to be treated this way. If you ever decide you’re ready to leave, then I’ll help you in any way I can. But I don’t want to discuss the same bad behavior I’ve come to expect from him.”

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But if you’ve kept quiet, then I think it’s worth, at least once, telling her you think she’s making a mistake (that she’s apparently made many times before). Whatever choice you make, it sounds like your sister is committed to staying in a painful pattern for at least a little while longer. That’s sad, and I hope you can find a way to keep a bearable distance while also hoping she someday sees the light. —Danny M. Lavery

From: “Help! My Sister’s Fiancé Is Cheating on Her. Here’s Why I Might Not Tell Her.” (Aug. 22, 2017)

Dear Prudence,

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My young niece requires a liver transplant. It turns out that her mom—my SIL—and my husband are a match. We’ve done a lot of research into it and I feel incredibly uneasy about my husband being a live donor, due to the various risks and impact on his health. My SIL has stated she “can’t” donate because it means she can’t breastfeed her 1-year-old son or look after the other two kids immediately after the operation. My husband has always been the type of person who gives more than he can, willingly and without thinking. So without any contemplation, he readily agreed. If my SIL wasn’t a match either I would absolutely support him being a donor. But it seems that being a donor is too difficult and inconvenient for my SIL, yet she wants my husband to take all the risks. I told my SIL if she were to go through the operation I would take time off work to look after her and her children. Yet she stubbornly insists on my husband. Since I protested so strongly, my husband says he will go ahead only if I agree, and now my SIL is extremely angry and hostile toward me. Am I a terrible person or is my SIL being selfish?

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Making a decision about organ donation is not something that should be done without thinking. Since your husband is contemplating this, he should sit down with an expert counselor who can outline the risks and the benefits—knowing one has saved a life has to be a pretty profound thing. Your sister-in-law should also get her own counselor who can lay out her risks and recovery process. Obviously, if she were to be the donor she would need an enormous amount of help caring for the children while she heals. But it sounds as if she has the family around to do it. (Weaning a 1-year-old is a trivial consideration in the context of what’s a stake here.) You need to do some major backing off. Of course your husband’s health is a concern for you, and a legitimate one. And yes it’s fine if you feel he was pressured into this and you want him to give it deeper consideration. But ultimately you must recognize he is an adult and this is not your decision to make. I’m sure time is an issue here, but all of you need to cool off, step back, and agree that you will act like rational adults. Once your husband and sister talk to transplant advisers, your family should hire a social worker with expertise in this subject and all of you, calmly and generously, should air things out to help you make the best decision for your niece and the entire family. —Emily Yoffe

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From: “Help! Can I Stop My Husband From Donating His Liver to His Niece?” (Jan. 15, 2013)

Dear Prudence,

There’s a young woman, “April,” in my social circle. We’re not close, but we were involved in the same community volunteer project for a couple of years. A wife and mother of two small children, April is 26 years old but acts much younger. She’s not vicious but very self-absorbed and demanding. She talks way too much (always about herself) and has a big sense of entitlement, and when she had kids, no one else could match the experience. Recently she got a late-stage cancer diagnosis and has been unabashed in demanding—not requesting—assistance from everyone. The reality is that her prognosis isn’t good, and she really does need help with meals and child care. But she’s not very well-liked, and—surprise—very few people are stepping up to the plate.

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What is my obligation here? My sense of compassion makes me want to step up, especially to help her children, but I’d rather not spend that much time around her, and I know that once I start dropping off meals or picking up kids from day care, she’ll demand that it be a regular service.

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I’m impressed with your compassion toward someone you dislike, and I think your inclination to care for her kids despite how difficult their mother may be is commendable. If you have a general sense of what she needs, you might try approaching her with a specific offer of something you consider manageable: “I’ve got time on Wednesday afternoons between 3 and 5, and I’d be happy to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for you. Does that work?” If she starts pushing for more and you genuinely can’t spare the time, go ahead and say, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to ask someone else.” But don’t let the fear of being asked to do more keep you from doing anything. —D.L.

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From: “Help! A Very Demanding, Self-Absorbed Acquaintance Has Cancer. Should I Help Her?” (July 24, 2017)

Dear Prudence,

My innocent, sweet, kind, funny, outgoing, well-adjusted almost-13-year-old boy attended a sleepover with two other boys around the same age. These boys have a friendly, innocent, sweet dog. As a group, they covered their nipples in peanut butter and had the dog lick it off. He shared this with me in an “It was so funny!” kind of way. I am a solo mom and was completely freaked. I said “Don’t do that again, babe.” He asked, “Why not?” I scrambled around. “I just don’t think it’s a nice thing to do to the dog.” He said, “But Fido LOVES peanut butter!” I said something about it being kind of a sexual thing and I don’t think he should do it anymore and he seemed confused and embarrassed. I am not sure how I should have handled it. Thoughts?

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Taking the tack that this yummy nipple treat was Fido abuse was bound to get a stunned reaction from your son. I’m sure he could assert that Fido was not in any way coerced into licking the peanut butter. There has been a well-noted societal shift in the last generation toward parents being way more involved in their children’s lives, and children feeling able to tell way more to their parents. But this episode makes me think there was something to be said for the era in which parents were off at cocktail parties oblivious to what their children were up to. What happened with Fido sounds indeed like crazy, innocent, hilarious fun. A good time was had by all, especially Fido. Your son wasn’t reporting to you because he felt somehow violated, but because he wanted to share what a good time he had. I think you overreacted and put an unnecessarily dark gloss on this. But this is a good opening for you to have a discussion about coercion and sexual exploration. Say you’ve been thinking over what he told you, and you feel your reaction wasn’t right and you can see that he just had a silly and hilarious episode and you’re glad he told you. Tell him you reacted the way you did because he’s getting older and sexual exploration is part of getting older—and it’s been on your mind. Acknowledge that this is an awkward subject for parents and kids to discuss. Tell him you want him always to feel safe, and have his boundaries respected and to have him respect those of others. Then reiterate that you’re glad he had so much fun at his sleepover. —E.Y.

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From: “Help! My 12-Year-Old Son Had a Dog Lick Peanut Butter Off His Chest.” (March 17, 2015)

More from Dear Prudence

I was raised by my grandparents in Appalachia. There was an outdoor toilet, and hunting and food stamps made up a huge percentage of our meals. I have eaten squirrel and know how to sew, knit, can, and garden by sheer necessity. I got a scholarship to school and ended up very gay and very politically blue.

My long-term lover was born in California to very upscale gay parents. She has never wanted for anything in her life, and I consider her one of the best people I know. She has been trying to go vegan for a while now. I don’t mind the dietary restrictions, but we keep arguing over ethics. I find them holier-than-thou and rooted in a smug, classist outlook. She thinks eating meat is murder.

We have been getting serious until this, and we both want kids. It is a big deal to me to be able to teach my children how to hunt, fish, and survive off the land. My grandparents died a few years ago, and I want their legacy to live on.

I don’t think marriage counseling is going to solve this, but I really do love her. Do you think we can resolve this problem?

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