Dear Prudence

Help! I Just Broke Up With My Girlfriend—Who’s Also the Maid of Honor at My Sister’s Wedding Next Week.

Read what Prudie had to say in Part 1 of this week’s live chat.

Man on the phone looking distressed next to a maid of honor name card crossed out.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat. (R. Eric Thomas is filling in as Prudie for Jenée Desmond-Harris while she’s on parental leave.)

R. Eric Thomas: Hi, everyone! Coming to you on a Tuesday this week and looking forward to chatting. This is a big day for me as my new young adult novel Kings of B’more finally hits shelves everywhere. It’s about two Black, queer, 16-year-old best friends on a romp through Baltimore as they face their last day together. It’s a lot of fun. What’s on your minds?

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Q. Breakups suck: I broke up with “Lindsey,” my girlfriend of 10 years, just before my sister’s wedding, where my ex is meant to be maid of honor. The wedding is next week. It was NOT an amicable breakup—she cheated on me with my boss and tried to set my car on fire after she stormed out—and Lindsey will not be at the wedding.

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What is the wedding etiquette here? I mean, no big announcements on someone else’s big day, of course. However, how do you avoid it when there’s a massive elephant in the room? It was a 10-year relationship, people expect her to be there, they expect to see her in the front of the church on the day.

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Should I email everyone (including my sister, who’s DMing me to find out why Lindsey has ghosted her) now and let them know? It happened a week ago, but I’ve been drunk and/or sorry for myself and haven’t told anyone. Or should I wait for the day and pretend I’m as surprised as everyone else? Lie and say she has salmonella and can’t leave the bathroom? Hold my breath to see if Linds just turns up and fronts it out? A possibility!

It’s hardly the most important thing, I know. I’ve got an entire life to disentangle here, but it’s NEXT WEEK. I don’t want to deal with it, but it’s next week, so I have to.

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A: At the least, I think you should tell your sister what’s going on. If she’s losing a member of her wedding party, she’s going to want to know. This isn’t your fault and Lindsey should’ve been the one to tell her, but you can avoid an even more complicated and potentially hurtful situation by giving her the heads-up. This isn’t something that you can fix, per se, but giving her as much notice as you can helps keep your relationship with her unscathed. The rest of the family probably isn’t as urgent. You’re going to get questions, and if you tell your sister, word will get out. But a simple “it’s complicated, I don’t really want to talk about it” will hopefully defer a lot of the inquiries.

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How to Get Advice From Prudie:

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

• Join the live chat Mondays at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the discussion.

Q. Boxed in: Last spring my brother-in-law and his family were moving. As a favor, we agreed to let him store some comic books in our basement during the move.

Well, it’s been a year and we still have 80 boxes(!) of comics in our basement. My brother-in-law’s family moved into their 6,000-plus-square-foot house last June. For the past several months, we’ve been asking them to come get the boxes, but they either shrug it off, say they’ll get to it, or claim they don’t have the space. I’ve asked my husband to be more firm (i.e., ask, “You need to come get these. What time this weekend do you want to come by?”), but he is unbothered by the boxes and doesn’t want to be a nag.

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My husband rarely goes into the basement, but I’m down there daily. Now he’s told me to stop nagging and just drop it. Frankly, I think it’s unfair that I’ve even had to resort to nagging. I want the boxes OUT, but I’m afraid of causing more friction because I’m the only person who is inconvenienced. Am I being unreasonable?

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A: It’s your house and it’s an imposition to you, so it’s not unreasonable to want the boxes out. You’re not running a storage facility. The excuses that your BIL is using are odd to me: If he can’t find room for 80 boxes (!!!) of comics in his home, he is free to rent a climate-controlled unit and put them there. It’s just presumptuous to assume that you’re just not using your basement, and I don’t think you’re nagging—you’re not being heard.

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All that being said, you’re in a tough spot because you don’t have support from your spouse on this and it’s his house too. Part of me is inclined to passive-aggression, i.e., bringing two boxes every time you visit and just leaving them there or hiring a courier to drop them off. But this is chaotic behavior and I can’t recommend it. However, I think you and your husband should have a conversation about why he’s not taking you seriously, whether or not he takes the boxes seriously. That’s the root here.

Q. Exhausted just thinking about it: My boyfriend of four years, “Aaron,” and I have dramatically different sleep needs and patterns; I’m also a feather-light sleeper and he is a very loud snorer. It got so bad that we knew we had to break our lease (!!) or break up, so we moved into a tiny, cheap two-bedroom with a bathroom and galley kitchen and nothing else. It saved our relationship.

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One year into the new place and it feels like the honeymoon period still. I’m well rested every day, we have more sex, my chronic illness suddenly went into remission after two months of solid sleep, I also successfully went off my antidepressants, and Aaron says he enjoys it too.

The problem: His sister is undergoing a career change after losing her livelihood in the pandemic. She was offered a prestigious fellowship in our city, but it doesn’t pay enough to live on. She asked if she could stay with us for the summer, and Aaron insists that we say yes and share a bedroom. I told him we could put a cot in his room if he wants, or we could put a little money towards helping her find a place with a roommate, but that I cannot give up my hard-won sleep. We don’t even have a couch we could put her on, and I want to help his family and I admire his generosity in most situations, but this one is turning into an ongoing argument. What do I do?

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A: Your bedroom is being treated like a luxury and I don’t think that’s correct. You’re not sleeping in the guest room; you’re sleeping in your room. While you and Aaron are in a relationship, you purposely moved to a place where you have a roommate-esque sleeping arrangement for your health. And it worked. So this request to move his sister into your room is less like a couple turning an office into a bedroom and more like your roommate asking you to give up your room for his sister—it doesn’t make sense.

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The cot seems like the way to go here, or even a second bed in his room, or whichever room is bigger. This is going to be a sacrifice any way you slice it, but what Aaron needs to understand is that this is asking a bigger sacrifice from you, one that has implications on your health. I would find a time to have a calm conversation with Aaron where you point out that you’ve both already made a huge shift to prioritize your health and save your relationship, so you know he’s committed to it and to both of you. Remind him that this isn’t just about you getting 40 winks; this is something that has the capacity to affect every part of your life negatively. Offer to talk with his sister and explain what the situation is. If he still won’t budge, then he needs to go get a sleep study because this is a shared burden, not a you problem.

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Q. Why can’t it just be adults? My mother is driving me mildly crazy. She lives in the middle-ish portion of the country and supports my brother and his daughter (“Mary,” age 11). My mother adores Mary and has been essentially the only mother my niece has ever known. My husband and I live very far away on the coast and I rarely get to see my family (even pre-pandemic). Now that everyone has been vaccinated and boosted, my mom is pushing for a trip, which I would love! But she wants it to be her and Mary meeting me and my husband at a city in between our two locations.

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We haven’t hung out with Mary in a few years, but our last family get-together was a lot; she got frustrated that the adults would overrule her suggestions and expected full attention from her grandma, making it difficult for me to actually catch up. At 11, Mary is now totally into the “anything adults like is lame” stage and seemingly has zero interest in things beyond YouTube and TikTok. I don’t want to be the jerk who says I don’t want to hang out with my niece (because I would love to see her), but the thought of planning a multiday trip to a different city with things that interest everyone is making me exhausted … particularly as finances are tight on both sides and this could be a stretch on our pocketbooks. Any advice?

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A: Is it possible for you and your husband to visit the city where your mother and Mary live instead? This seems more cost-effective for them and, conceivably, is only a slightly longer plane ride for you. The main upside, however, is that it relieves some of the pressure to include Mary in everything. Mary’s at an age where, while she can be left to her own devices, she can’t really be an equal participant in taking responsibility for the energy of the trip. If she’s on her home turf, she can go hang out with her friends or whatever it is that she deems a better use of her time. Your mother may have her heart set on a getaway, but I’d suspect her primary goal is to see you and your husband. Offering the option of a staycation-esque reunion trip might make things easier financially and logistically.

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Q. Sad in Seattle: I’m one of three siblings, now all in our late 20s. We all live far from our parents, although my siblings live in the same city. I believe we all get along well with each other.

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My oldest sister and her husband are expecting a baby late this summer, which is very exciting. Unfortunately, the baby shower is during a wedding where I’m the maid of honor, and my sister has stated she doesn’t want anyone to visit when the baby is born because it will be a stressful time and she wants to be alone. She’s also stated that Thanksgiving is going to be private with just her husband and the baby as they get settled in. As a result of missing them at Thanksgiving, she’s going to her local in-laws for Christmas. I’m worried I won’t get to see her for a long time, and I rely on holidays because I don’t get much time off.

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My younger sibling isn’t worried about this because they live close, and has plenty to do at the holidays with loving in-laws. Prudie, my in-laws hate me for being a lesbian, and after some terrible experiences, my wife suffers them alone. How do I solve this feeling of being “left out,” when it’s not intentional but my baseline is less support than my siblings have? I feel like a child, missing my siblings and not getting to meet the baby.

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A: Though it may not change your sister’s position, one thing you can do to help your feeling of being left out is to talk honestly with your siblings about the way you feel. This isn’t so much about the logistics of babies and travel as it is about a desire to feel connected. And sometimes we can feel the connection we’re missing by sharing the hard stuff. Being vulnerable with your siblings also gives them an opportunity to support you, particularly around the tough situation with your in-laws. While your older sister may still prefer a private Thanksgiving, a conversation about your need to maintain close connections while she’s going through a big life change may prompt some alternative suggestions. Meeting a baby over Zoom, for instance, isn’t the same thing and is less satisfying (babies do not know how to work Zoom), but might give you some of what you’re yearning for. More importantly, I think the reassurance that your siblings are thinking about you and your relationship with them will really help you and hopefully carry you through until the next time you can be together in person.

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Q. Re: Boxed in: Agree with Prudie that LW’s position is made challenging by the husband’s lack of interest (in itself a separate issue—is he often disinterested in things that materially inconvenience LW?).

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While passive-aggressively leaving boxes at BIL’s house each visit may be a no-go, if one more frank talk with the husband doesn’t lead to a plan or make him take the problem seriously, I’d start moving boxes out of the basement and into a space the husband primarily uses. Does he have an office or rec room that is primarily his? How about his side of the closet? Does he mostly own the toolshed? If I were LW, I’d find a space I didn’t use regularly that is in the husband’s domain and leave boxes there until he took the problem seriously.

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A: This is a good option and reminds me of a tactic I had to use once in college to get my suite mates to do their dishes; I was like, “Am I the only person seeing this?” And I feel like the letter writer is having similar frustrations. If LW’s husband is treating the boxes as out of sight, out of mind, then putting them in his sight might change his tune.

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Classic Prudie

My cousin is a sociopath. He recently dated a friend of mine, stole her identity, and then dumped her. Now all our friends are angry with me, because I should cut him off after what he did. Should I?

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