Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Can’t Take the Heat”

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Rebecca Onion discuss a Prudie letter: “Can’t Take the Heat

Rebecca Onion: So the thing that strikes me about this is the seeming contrast between Heather’s accommodation of his medical condition at certain times, and her very “out of character” comments at others. It is very familiar to me. I wonder how happy Heather actually is to accommodate. It feels a bit to me like she isn’t just expressing herself poorly; secretly, the situation is wearing thin. And occasionally she kind of just can’t help herself and something slips out. I don’t want to make the LW paranoid, but it seems telltale to me, and I wonder if there is any more conversation to be had about her actual feelings about being with someone who has needs that seem to impinge on her life.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Oh interesting! I did not pick up on that, but now I can see it.

Rebecca: Like, don’t those comments sound a bit like she … doesn’t believe that what he is doing is not a choice?

Jenée: I was thinking (and admittedly, being very generous to her) that maybe she was like, trying to emphasize his strength, like “I don’t know how you do it, I would die” or “this is so hard.”

Rebecca: Oh hahaha! That’s much nicer. Your minds’-eye “Heather” is a better person than mine.

Jenée: But honestly, that’s not a particularly sensitive thing to say to someone who’s suffering, even if it comes from a good place.

Rebecca: Not at all. That’s why I said I feel a bit like she’s lashing out—like she actually does find the situation challenging, and it’s coming out in this shitty way. LW says they have been dating for “a while.” I wonder how long that is, I feel like that would affect my perception of this.

Jenée: Me too, it FEELS very early to me. My bet is on four months, max.

Rebecca: Totally! Yesssss. That’s a perfect amount of time for a person to have been accommodating and not “fussy,” and then start to sort of see how things are really going to be like this, and start to react poorly, if they’re going to do that.

Jenée: Yep. It’s really easy to be like “oh sure, we’ll cancel our dinner and you can have toast and then I’ll give you Gatorade for two days” in the honeymoon period.

Rebecca: Yep.

Jenée: And then I can see that fading.

Rebecca: I don’t want the LW to feel badly, I bet if you have a medical problem like this you are probably not going to be surprised by the idea that some people you date might not be able to deal. But what’s the advice for a person with a chronic issue like this, who’s trying to talk to someone they’re dating, to find out whether they are REALLY okay with things? It is going to be very hard for Heather to be honest.

Jenée: Right, and I wonder if she understands that this seems to be permanent.

Rebecca: “Actually, I thought it was going to be okay because I had honeymoon goggles on but now that time has passed you’re right, this is too hard for me.”

Right!!! Permanent, and not a choice.

Jenée: At all. It’s weird because it’s the kind of thing you obviously accommodate if you really love a person and that doesn’t bother you if it’s early and you’re infatuated, but it sounds like they’re right between infatuated and love, in the “seeing where things go” phase of dating.

Rebecca: Yes. They are in a liminal zone right now. Things are dicey.

Jenée: I wonder if it would have been better to advise him to observe and question her, rather than telling her he’s upset. Like he needs to find out what kind of partner this is, rather than shaping her.

Rebecca: Yeahhhh. Like hold apart for a little while and see where this goes.

Jenée: Mmmhmm.

Rebecca: I think that this would probably be what I would do if I could keep my hurt feelings from dominating my approach, ha. But I can understand the impulse to just be like “wtf.”

Jenée: Yeah. I will say I think there’s hope, because her actions arguably mean more than her random comments.

Rebecca: Hope springs eternal!!!

Jenée: And she was deeply apologetic. All the more reason, I think, to just keep an eye on things.

Rebecca: I feel like it’s not uncommon for a partner of someone with a chronic issue (whether that be medical like this, or mental health, or even just something simple like a habit that’s annoying that they’re trying to break) to be unable to maintain a consistent day to day attitude toward the chronic issue. A lot of times there are ebbs and flows and days of more and less patience. As you say, what matters is actions and track record. And so … we agree!!! Wait and see, wait and see.

Jenée: Wait and see!