Dear Prudence

Help! My 21-Year-Old Stepdaughter Dresses and Undresses in Front of Her Father.

Read what Prudie had to say in Part 2 of this week’s live chat.

Woman covering her eyes next to a graphic of a bra and underwear.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images Plus.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.

Q. Don’t want to be the bad guy: ​​How do I approach my 21-year-old stepdaughter about not dressing and undressing in front of her father? She also walks around the house in just a bra and panties; she says it’s OK because it’s like wearing a bathing suit. Her other sisters cover up and they’ve told her to cover up, so I know it’s not a “family norm.” My husband says he does not want to make her feel bad or ashamed and says nothing. I feel this is not healthy at all for her or my husband.

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A: Don’t approach her. This is between your husband and your stepdaughter, and if he becomes uncomfortable enough, he’ll say something to her himself.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie:

• Send questions for publication here. (Questions may be edited.)

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Q. Shaky support: How much of a relationship can realistically hinge on hoping for the best? I (30s, male) met my girlfriend “Lana” (30s, female) near the start of the pandemic, and I’m trying to gauge our relationship. She’s smart, pretty, driven, and I love and appreciate her. She’s also unfortunately saddled with a job she hates, which she’s leaving in the next few months with a better job lined up next.

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I love her, and when we’re happy, we’re legitimately happy. We’re stable, supportive, accepting of each other, and we’ve meshed well with each other’s families and friends. My concern is that we’re just not usually happy. Lana comes home miserable every day. Each night, there’s a rant about co-workers, hours, pay, or the injustice of her workplace, and while I try and listen sympathetically, it’s often the 50th or 100th time these things have come up.

I find myself dreading the 10 to 15 minutes of emotional dumping that occurs before we can get to something else. Honestly, I’ve always given friends or family all the airspace they need to talk about the troubles in their lives, but we’re running on two years now. She has more bad days than good, and therapy and antidepressants haven’t made much of a dent. (I’ve done both too, and I’m honestly pretty happy outside of this pattern.) These encounters don’t cheer her up and leave me exhausted.

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Is it realistic to think things will be better in a few months with Lana getting a less toxic job? Are we mismatched?

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A: A bad job can really make a person miserable—and miserable to be around. So a big part of me thinks you should wait it out and see how your girlfriend changes when she starts the new gig.

But I also think you may have more information about her than you’re letting on, and perhaps that’s what’s giving you some doubts about whether you’re mismatched. Maybe in addition to ranting about work, she rants about every negative customer service interaction. Maybe you’ve noticed she can’t let it go when she bumps heads with a friend. Maybe she doesn’t seem to pay attention to how you’re feeling or how her unloading is affecting you. Maybe her friends and family have made comments about how she’s always seemed to dwell on the negative. So go ahead and wait to see what changes the new job brings—a few months isn’t a long time—but in the meantime, try to be really honest with yourself about what you know about her character and your compatibility, separate from issues triggered by this particular job.

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Q. In the middle: More than 10 years ago, I was part of an internet friend group that was physically scattered but would vacation together annually. We’ve since grown apart, and I’ve only kept in touch with a few of the folks from that time period.

Someone I’ve not kept in touch with reached out recently via text. They indicated they were experiencing some “major issues” and wanted to know the physical address of another person I haven’t kept in touch with, in order to travel to their house and talk about “SOME MAJOR THINGS THEY DID WRONG,” in, I guess, an attempt to redress some wrong from years ago? I don’t have a relationship with this person texting me or the person they’re trying to get in touch with. I’m certainly not equipped to deal with what appears to be this person’s mental health episode. I don’t know where these people live, so I don’t know what resources are available locally. One deserves support; the other deserves a warning. I feel like I have a moral duty to act, but I am unclear to what extent and how. I have informed those people in my current social network who may still have ties to back then. I’m wondering if that was sufficient, or if there were other things I could have done.

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A: I think you’ve done enough, but it would be even better if you could dig up the contact information of the person you think may be at risk here (that shouldn’t be too hard between mutual friends and social media) and give them a warning that someone who claims to be experiencing major issues is planning to confront them in person.

Q. Hurt and confused: About five months ago, my husband and I had a fairly large fight. He’s an alcoholic and since that night has stopped drinking. It started because he was drinking and he said some pretty nasty things to me. Of course, as you do in these situations, I argued and pleaded with him and then at some point just gave up. He went out and continued drinking and I stayed at home and wallowed in my misery. I then had a text from a friend showing him cozied up at the bar with a girl that I know is his friend—except it was a little too cozy to be considered just friendly. In spite of my better judgment, I went to the bar and drug him out by his collar. I can’t say I was very nice. The next day he quit drinking. I told him I was uncomfortable with his friendship with this girl given the situation, but I never asked him to give it up.

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Fast forward five months. This girl posts some things on Facebook that are slightly concerning, and her profile picture is a picture of my husband and his sons on our wedding day. I asked him calmly to talk to her about taking it down. He says he did. It’s still there. I confronted her about it and said, given the situation and supposed misunderstanding, I would appreciate it if she took it down. I can’t say it was all rainbows and sunshine, but I was more tactful than would be expected. I was met with nothing but hostility and that it was her “family” and she could do whatever she wanted. I told my husband I was not comfortable with the friendship, but going forward he needed to be transparent in his interactions with her. He acknowledges that he understands and that’s what’s going to happen.

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A month goes by and I find out he’s been texting and talking to her and deleting the messages because he knows it would upset me. Really? What would have given you that impression? It was then that I told him that he needed to cut off communication. He did, to the best of my knowledge, but not willingly. He’s mad at me because of this. He still claims they’re just friends and can’t understand why I’m so upset. I don’t believe there is a physical relationship between them, but there’s obviously an emotional one, which is almost harder. I trusted him to be transparent, to take into consideration my feelings, and instead it’s like he’s had no regard for me. I gave him ample opportunity to prove this was nothing to worry about and he did the exact opposite and made it worse. And now I’m the bad guy.

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We’ve just started seeing a counselor and that’s good, but the fact is, I’m so angry and hurt that I don’t know how to move forward even with counseling. I sat there and listened to him try and gloss it over like it’s no big deal. And it hurt all over again. I don’t even know why I’m writing to you, other than maybe I need another perspective.

A: I am happy to offer another perspective—well, actually, probably the same perspective you have in your honest moments: Drinking wasn’t your husband’s only issue. And he’s not treating this relationship with the care that you are. He’s not honest. And he doesn’t have the regard for you that you have for him. His doing something that hurts you and then making you the bad guy is not loving, and it’s not fair. Also: I can almost guarantee they’re still in touch. Don’t let him make you feel like you’re being unreasonable here.

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Q. Re: Don’t want to be the bad guy: If I were you, I’d stay out of this. When I moved in with my girlfriend and her daughters, I told my girlfriend that her kids already have two good parents and are old enough (all teens) to not need constant parenting, so I gave her a list of conditions in which I would step in if she weren’t in the room:

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1. One of them is being a real dick to me or a sibling

2. One of them tries to stick a fork in a light socket

Other than that, I consider my job to be hanging out, being pleasant, and ratting on any gross misbehavior their mom doesn’t notice. I understand being uncomfortable with this general state of undress, but it’s your husband’s business to manage.

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A: LOL. This is great and I agree.

Q. Re: Shaky support: I feel for you because I can understand the situation you find yourself in. While it’s true that part of being a good partner to those we’re in a relationship with means at least occasionally serving as a passive sounding board for their gripes, the way you describe this situation makes it seems like it goes far beyond a typical “piss and moan” session to blow off steam. Even though you say it only lasts 10 to 15 minutes, it seems to be a daily occurrence and your response seems to also imply that even outside of when she is actively complaining about her job, it creates a general negative attitude in both herself as well as you that bleeds into other aspects of your life.

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First and foremost, if you haven’t already, I’d try open and honest communication, where you reassure your girlfriend that while you want to be there for her and provide emotional support for parts of her life that are tough, at the same time you’ve noticed that these daily gripe sessions don’t seem to be doing much to alleviate her overall stress and dissatisfaction, and seems to affect her mood well beyond that. I would stress to her that you are not asking that she never complain about anything ever, but rather that the two of you find ways to communicate with each other about the less than stellar aspects of your lives while at the same time not allowing it to drag either or both of you down into depression. Frame it in a way that emphasizes that you love her and want to have a happy, fulfilling life together and that this comes from a place of genuine concern. Avoid talking about it in a way that makes it sound as though you’re merely annoyed with her or that being her ear is an inconvenience.

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If she responds in an overall positive manner, then great. If she responds defensively, then you may want to consider getting either both of you or at least yourself into either individual or couples counseling. Because overall it seems like your girlfriend needs better coping strategies to deal with a job that she is not enthused about, and while she is shortly moving on to another job, there is no guarantee that she may not later on begin to feel negatively about it and resume this pattern.

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A: So true. I didn’t think of that, but you’re right. Most jobs will be bad at some point—and many other situations in life will be aggravating or tough—so it’s really unlikely that a new position will be a permanent solution.

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Jenée Desmond-Harris: That’s all we have time for today. Thanks for joining and I’ll talk to you on Monday.

If you missed Part 1 of this week’s chat—My Husband Says I Abandoned Him at a Hockey Game. I Think He’s Being Dramatic—click here to read it.

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From Care and Feeding

My husband and I are expecting our first child. We’re both in graduate school and have a pretty tight income right now. We have lots of flexibility with our schedules, but both have a lot of work to accomplish, and that work takes a lot of mental energy and focus. We qualify for a child care subsidy that would put day care within the realm of possibility.

My husband is open to this but has offered up an alternative.

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