Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.
My lovely wife and I are in a fairly low-stakes argument that’s getting worse now that Christmas is coming up. Years ago, we adopted a little mixed-breed pup, and she’s the love of our lives (especially because we don’t have kids and don’t plan on it). My wife has become obsessed over the last few months about getting the dog DNA tested. I think it’s a waste of money. It would be $250 to $300 for a high-quality one that will give us medical results as well, which is cool, but I don’t care enough about the dog’s heritage to drop the cash.
My wife would pay for it herself but she can’t. She’s not working right now, and I’m the breadwinner. I pay for everything (all bills, food, gas, dates, etc.) except her little stuff, like if she needs new clothes or gets coffee. It wouldn’t be wise for her to dip into her savings to pay for a dog DNA test. She’s become even more attached to the dog (didn’t think that was possible) than ever since losing her job, and I think this is just part of that weirdness. I never make her feel bad that I pay for everything, and she’s never expressed any shame as she contributes majorly around the house and with our pets, so I don’t think it has to do with that.
I feel like an asshole in part because I have some clothes items to be returned that could easily cover the cost of the test. The money isn’t the problem—I just think it’s a stupid thing to spend it on. She brings it up once every other week at this point, and I’m tired of it. Should I give in and get it for her? Or not budge because it’s the dumbest purchase ever?!
—I Don’t Want to DNA Test the Dog
Dear DNA Test,
Imagine not having money of your own and needing to ask your husband for permission to make purchases in the low hundreds. Imagine being told you’re “weird” because you’ve become attached to your pet after losing your job. You keep saying the test is a “stupid” expense, but what strikes me as really stupid, when it comes to the health of your relationship, is using your power as the breadwinner to deprive your wife of the one thing she really wants right now. You don’t have a lot of regard for what she wants, and you don’t have a lot of respect for her. If you want to stay married, do a better job hiding that. Buy the test. You can insist that you’re right here and refuse to pay, but I guarantee it won’t make either of you happy.
I was raised Mormon, my husband was raised Jewish. Neither of us are practicing or believing in the faiths we were raised with; in fact, I’m agnostic and he’s atheist. We have a baby on the way, and we’ve already decided to not raise her with religion; however, I enjoy celebrating Christmas. I’ve explained to my husband that Christmas really can be as secular as one wants, but he just doesn’t seem moved. If we celebrate, I’m forcing him to do something he’s uncomfortable about. If we don’t celebrate, he’s forcing me to give up a major holiday that I’ve always loved. It seems like a lose-lose situation.
If Christmas means nothing to him, then you should feel free to create a tradition around taking your child to celebrate with friends or family. But the larger issue here is his lack of flexibility and his willingness to make you unhappy—that’s what concerns me. As does your surprise at his anti-Christmas position. It doesn’t feel like you are operating as a team or that you understand each other well. Neither of you should be forcing the other to do anything. Ideally, you’d both want to find a compromise and wouldn’t want to see the other suffer. Before the baby takes up all your free time, get yourselves to couples therapy and see if you can get back on the right track when it comes to wanting the best for each other.
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My wife recently admitted that she is not attracted to me physically or emotionally. She says she still loves me, but finds my lack of confidence has taken the spark from how she feels about me. We rarely have sex, and physical intimacy is all but gone. Sex has always been an issue for her due to her own personal body confidence issues, but now it is compounded by lack of interest in me. I’ll admit the last two years have left me … not in the best physical shape and mentally exhausted from dealing with kids and a pandemic. I’m not the person I was when we dated, which is the comparison she drew. We still have good communication and she says she does feel like she can tell me anything. She says she still loves me and wants to work on it, but is that possible? Am I stuck? How do I get back to that state of attraction? Are my self-confidence issues fixable?
—Confidence Has Left the Building
Dear Confidence Has Left,
Only you know whether you’ll be OK in a relationship in which your partner isn’t attracted to you, whether it feels fair to be compared to the person you were when you first met, whether a marriage without physical intimacy is sustainable for you, and whether you think your wife was being honest or unnecessarily cruel when she shared her feelings. But I want to suggest that the issue here isn’t your self-confidence—it’s how your wife feels about you and treats you. And you can’t do anything to get her back to a state of attraction. At least not one that will last as you get older and inevitably face more of life’s challenges. So the question is, do you like your marriage as it is right now? If you feel unsure or not quite ready to make a decision about whether this can work, take her up on her offer to “work on it” and keep an open mind. But if you find the relationship is making you feel bad about yourself, start to think about getting out.
My husband and I have been married for 11 wonderful years. We’re also both 25, having gotten married at 14, with our parents heavily involved in arranging it, in rural Massachusetts where we’re both from. (And yes, this is legal back home.) We’ve since moved out of the state, into a city, and tried to make friends and build our careers.
It has been a nightmare. We’ve had the cops called on us twice on the day of me telling someone about it, and like four out of every five people I’ve told have advised me to run away from my “abuser,” with any insistence that I am not in fact being abused simply brushed under the rug since I’m so clearly in denial. I get it. It is not anywhere close to the norm in modern-day culture, but we really are good for each other, and I really wouldn’t have wanted to do anything differently. Only I can’t seem to convince anyone I know of this. I don’t know how to approach people or mention my marital status without instant disapproval. What should I do?
—Should I Just Lie
Dear Should I Just Lie,
I’m confused about why this story would inspire someone to call the police or worry that you are being abused. Yes, your story is extremely unconventional—and even a little disturbing—but this is indeed technically legal in Massachusetts (though that may soon change), and you were both 14. It’s not as if you were married off to a 45-year-old. Maybe you need to work on your delivery a little. Is it possible self-consciousness is making you appear ashamed or distressed while you’re explaining what happened? I think something like “We married when we were both teenagers with our parents’ permission. The story raises a lot of eyebrows, but it’s been a long time and we’ve both grown up a lot since then and we’re really happy now and wouldn’t change anything” should probably do it. Alternatively, you could just not mention the details. Very few people demand a relationship timeline from their friends. “We started dating when we were in high school, married young, and have been together ever since” should be enough to satisfy just about anyone.
I recently found a note that said one of my family members who has done a super job of avoiding me for many, many years is alive and well! Not only is she well, but she has a job. The job is in health care in an office where I used to be a patient of their doctor. Do I have the right to sue? I would never have consented to a member of my family partaking in my care.
Dear Repeatedly Misled,
I don’t want to keep you from a legal victory so, by all means, take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney. But I am about 99 percent sure this is not going to work out. And that’s OK. Spending some time dealing with and processing the pain of being avoided and ignored for so many years will leave you feeling better than a lawsuit ever could.
I moved in with a guy I had only been on seven pretty intense dates with at the beginning of the pandemic. We were locked down together the entire time, with me in a new city where I knew very few people, and we were happy. Throughout the relationship, I feel like I’ve had to drag him along to move forward, such as moving in together officially. It’s clear that I’ve always been more invested in the relationship, which of course is painful. When we met, he wasn’t over his long-term ex, but I waited for him to deal with that, which I think he did, eventually. But now, he seems very unsatisfied with the relationship, claiming that he never had the chance to choose me and just got sucked into the relationship.
I do feel that he loves me, but that he’s too much in his own head and too focused on having an ideal relationship to see what he has in front of him. I don’t think he appreciates me because he has an idealized version of someone else that he wants. Recently, he backed out on a commitment to join my family for Thanksgiving, but not before going back and forth on the issue several times until the last minute. I love him, and I know he’s still kind of getting over his previous relationship, but I’m wondering if I’m a fool to wait and see if he’ll ever fall in love with me. We’ve gone to couples therapy for a month, but he didn’t want to spend holidays with me because he thought we needed to try something different. At the moment, we’re on a break because I was so hurt by this decision. Should I be more patient or are we just doomed?
—How Long Should I Wait?
Dear How Long,
I hate to say it, but I think you’re doomed. You moved very quickly, which is fine. But it sounds like you’ve wanted more than he is able to offer from the very beginning. If you feel he’d rather be with someone else, you’re probably right. Make this break a breakup.
My brother is 19. He has chronic muscle tenseness, and it sometimes soothes him when his back is rubbed. We’re both home for the holidays and have been spending time with our parents as a family. Thrice now, in public, my mom has, at his request, begun to massage his back. Under the shirt. For several minutes. She’s done this for years, but now that he’s grown, I think it’s weird to do this in public and in private for that matter. My parents and brother get offended when I mention that museums and restaurants aren’t the best spot for a mom-and-son massage. They say I’m dirty minded and being rude. Am I a prude, or are they committing a social faux pas?