Dear Prudence

Help! My Boyfriend Knowingly Put Himself and Others in Danger.

In We’re Prudence, Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. The answer is available only for Slate Plus members.

A steering wheel, and a woman saying something while pointing her finger.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Victor Metelskiy/Getty Images Plus and George Marks/Retrofile RF.

Every Thursday on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. She’ll post her final thoughts on the matter on Fridays. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:

Dear Prudence,

I (a woman) am in a relationship with a guy, both in our 40s. We don’t yet live together but things have been going great despite the pandemic.

A couple of weeks ago, he told me that he felt awful with a migraine and it was the worst he had ever had. He was taking as many meds as he was permitted and still the next morning felt terrible. He was scheduled to go on a 90-minute drive for a non-essential errand (a delivery of a washer-dryer arriving at his buddy’s house that he said he would assist with). I said, “for the love of God, don’t go. Ask your friend if the delivery can be postponed, or maybe a neighbor would help him instead?” He said no, took more meds up to the limit, and drove, still with his migraine pounding. His vision had been compromised the day before, but he said that element had improved.

It’s two weeks later and I’m still enraged that he would risk himself and others, that he wouldn’t accept that driving under the influence of prescribed medication is probably illegal, and all for a non-essential trip. This won’t leave my mind and I am now thinking it’s a dealbreaker, which I would be very sad about. He doesn’t see the problem and says I am overreacting. Am I? If not, what should I do?

— Nervous Nancy

Dear Nervous,

If you feel like something is a dealbreaker, it can be a dealbreaker. You get to decide what you’re comfortable with with the person you’re dating, and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. A relationship is supposed to make your life happier, and if it makes you feel appalled and stressed and offended, it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do for you. And if you lose respect for your partner, that’s hard to come back from. I feel sure about that.

What I was less sure about was how I would personally view your boyfriend’s choices here. I was a little torn because I don’t know as much about driving on prescription medication as I do about drunk driving (which would be a definite dealbreaker). So I asked readers to weigh in.

There were some questions—including from migraine sufferers—about what specifically he was taking and its effect on him. Reading them, I realized that while you said it was a prescription med, you didn’t actually say that it was prescription med that came with a warning about driving or that would make getting behind the wheel dangerous or illegal.

Sorry but I think she’s overreacting! My migraine meds probably say this too and I take them and function normally all the time. Chronic pain keeping you from doing what you want is already hard enough, I think she should trust him to know his own body — @hannahcrileyy

Is she sure the meds impair him? My migraine meds don’t. But as with anything, an open conversation about why it upset her and getting on the same page about risks and what matters seems like the way to go. – @Akmattos

Yes! One of the hardest things with chronic migraine is that it takes your ability to live a normal life & just do the things you had planned! My drugs have some warnings re: “may cause dizziness… use care” but after all these years I know how they affect me. — @Kat_Maybird

hmm my migraine meds don’t have a Do Not Drive warning, even at max dose? Curious to know what he was taking. “Under the influence of prescribed medication” seems like kind of a strange framing since prescriptions meds don’t necessarily impair. Wish there was more detail. — @Millicentsomer

This made me wonder if you should check into what exactly he was on, its official warnings, and its effect on him—things you could find out by reading up on your own and having a conversation with him about his migraines in a less heated moment. This could potentially clear things up.

But ultimately, this might not even be about the medication. I thought @NYCJessa and @LaureyWood made great points here:

Clearly she loves him very much, because she is concerned for his well-being. The problem is not necessarily with his actions, but with him blowing off her concerns. If he is willing to talk with her about what happened instead of just dismissing her, then it isn’t a dealbreaker. — @NYCJessa

The critical thing here is that she begged him not to drive, explained why, and suggested options–but he went ahead and did it anyway. If he routinely blows past her (legitimate!) concerns, that’s the dealbreaker. — @LaureyWood

So whatever the label on the bottle says, give some serious thought to how this interaction made you feel and whether he’s someone who can work with you on showing more respect and concern for each other when you disagree.

Classic Prudie

My friend and her husband drink heavily. I don’t remember the last time I saw either of them sober. At a recent event, they were both drunk to the point that they couldn’t walk straight and were slurring their words. They thought they were going to drive home and became enraged when a friend took their keys. Another friend eventually offered to take them home, and they were verbally abusive to this friend the entire ride. Here’s the kicker: They have two small children who were with them at the time. At one point, the little boy said (very sadly), “Mommy, I think you had too much to drink again.”

I’ve witnessed my friend drinking to excess in her car at the kids’ sporting events. Others in our group have said that they drink to intoxication nearly every day and drive drunk on a regular basis. I’m terrified they’re going to hurt their kids or someone else. What is my responsibility here?