Dear Prudence

Help! A Woman Broke Up With Me the Moment She Saw My Apartment.

She said she wanted authenticity, but I guess she didn’t like it.

A messy room is covered over by a no entry symbol.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

I’m feeling really blindsided by a recent breakup, of sorts. I (male, 25) met a woman, Betty, on a dating app about two months ago, and we went on several dates over the course of a month. Through our conversations we have talked a lot about authenticity and honesty in relationships, and she said that she doesn’t play games. We went on four or five dates before she invited me to her place where she cooked a fantastic meal and I spent the night. I offered to host our next date and suggested pizza and board games, and she enthusiastically agreed.

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On the day of that date, she texted to confirm the time and said she was really looking forward to it. I was too and was going to ask her to be my girlfriend. When she arrived, she seemed off and uncomfortable. I was hoping it was just nerves and was trying to make conversation. After only about 10 minutes she abruptly got up and said this wasn’t going to work out and that she would be leaving now and wished me the best. I asked her what was wrong, and she said “Well honestly it doesn’t seem like you’re ready for guests” and gestured around my apartment. Admittedly I don’t prioritize chores, but I did make an effort. I cleared off the kitchen table and made sure there was space for us to play games and have a couple plates out. I thought she wanted to get to know me so I wasn’t worried about the rest. I was honestly shocked given that she had been saying she wanted to know the “real me.”

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I texted her a few days later and told her how confused I was about that night. She texted back that she was thankful for that date because I was honest and authentic with her, but that authenticity does not replace basic manners.

— What Do Women Actually Want?

Dear Actually Want,

Certainly some women actually want to play games and get to know you in a dirty living room with just enough space cleared for a couple of plates. But Betty is not one of them. The question you pose in your sign-off makes me want to remind you that not all women are the same, and there are no rules about what they’re allowed to see as a deal-breaker. The person who wants to eat pizza amid your clutter and will see it as a beautiful exercise in authenticity is out there. You’re much better off getting back on the apps and looking for her than trying to convince someone not to be disgusted by the way you live.

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Dear Prudence,

I have a social niceties question that feels simple but that I nonetheless cannot parse. I have a couple of friends from college I still keep semi-regular contact with. We graduated three years ago and all live in different cities, and the distance plus time plus personal changes/growth has made me feel like maybe these friendships aren’t made to last. That’s okay with me—people and circumstances change. The problem is that a couple of their own friends live in my city, and I’ve met up with them a few times at my college friends’ requests. These friends-once-removed are fine people, but I do not like or enjoy them. They haven’t done anything heinous, and I’m not trying to be cold here, I just feel that we’re incompatible.

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Every so often (maybe once every couple months) they’ll plan activities that include me, like a trivia night or going to a barcade. I don’t really know if I can say no to them without coming off like a reclusive jerk. I also worry that by continuing to attend these outings, I’m kind of leading them on. They’re both newer to the city than I am, and I think they’re both really looking for friends and connections. I wish them all the best, but I don’t think that connection is me. Is it better to go to these outings out of politeness than to decline and assume they’ll find socialization elsewhere? Do people often have sporadic social outings with people they don’t very much like? I’m autistic, for added context, and I feel like it’s so hard to get clear answers on social things like this. Thank you.

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— Polite or Honest

Dear Polite or Honest,

This is definitely not a case where you need to socialize with people you don’t enjoy (and honestly, it’s kind of a strange ask on the part of your college friends). As for how to bow out, maybe I’m a coward, but I’m going to go with politeness over “I don’t like or enjoy you so I’ll pass.” How about: “Thanks so much for the invitation! I can’t make it this time but have a great night.” You could even add “I’m just really overwhelmed with work right now” or another white lie, but you don’t even have to explain. Say it a few times and before you know it, it will have been a year and they will have forgotten about you.

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Dear Prudence,

My husband has a new female friend that he connected with; they go biking, hiking, and rock climbing. He also enjoys talking to her so much in every way and for hours. My problem with this is that he seems to put her feelings before mine. He makes himself completely readily available in every way, emotionally and mentally at all hours, regardless of what we were doing, even when we were on a recent vacation.

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On my birthday, the first thing he did was text with her, but he never wished me a happy birthday. He wanted to buy a new kayak seat for her because she enjoyed kayaking and the kayak seat we currently have hurts her back, but not once did he think about getting me a better kayak seat when I have been suffering from sciatica for over a year.

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He spends three to four days a week, six to seven hours with her each time, and a couple of those hours are at her house every time they are together. And when they are not doing anything together and he is with me, he would try to invite her to come with us. Aside from already spending all day with her, they text each other throughout the day/night regardless of time. He even checks his phone when it dings, even we are trying to be intimate. He speaks about her very fondly and practically puts her on pedestal in front of me.

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When I tried to speak to him about it, he claimed that I am being insecure. He assures me that nothing happens physically and that nothing will ever happen. Then why do I feel like he is violating our marriage and casting me aside? When I finally got fed up, I told him to move out, but he refused and said he wants to work it out and adjust his actions. But he is not willing to let go or lose her because he said, “I really like her, I like talking to her and I enjoy doing things with her. ” I approve of him having friends regardless of gender to do things that I cannot do with him, but I don’t believe it is okay to put that much value on his friendship over his marriage. Am I overreacting about this? Please help.

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— Confused

Dear Confused,

Whatever your husband has done—or whatever has happened in your life—that has made you question whether you have a right to be upset about a full-fledged emotional (and I would bet, physical) affair that’s taking place out in the open, I hate it and I wish I could undo it. No, you are not overreacting. Not in the least.

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But that’s not the important question here. After all, there’s no firm rule on what’s appropriate when it comes to outside friendships and relationships, there’s only what couples agree on. The important question is whether being in a marriage in which you feel like you’re not valued and in which your husband totally disregards your feelings is something you want. Please listen to the part of you that knows none of this is right, stop looking to him to agree with your perspective (because believe me, he’ll be happy to make you feel unworthy and unreasonable until the day you die), and begin the legal and emotional process of moving on. You, or readers, may be wondering why I’m not suggesting that you go to therapy or give him an ultimatum to get him to improve. The answer is that he’s already shown you that he doesn’t care whether you’re harmed by his actions, and he’s very unlikely to be talked or pressured into changing that.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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