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I’m 49, and my husband, Quinn, is 42. I love the way I look and the way I’ve aged, so I don’t say the following to be self-deprecating: Quinn is breathtakingly gorgeous and has only grown more handsome with age. Women and men are drawn to him, and I can’t fault them for taste. Most people are respectful about it, but there have been a number of people over the years who’ve either believed I wasn’t good-looking enough for Quinn or that he would cheat on me (possibly with them). Those experiences bothered us both, but we love and trust each other, and it’s easy to move on from them. Seventeen years and three kids in, I don’t think about the so-called discrepancy between our looks unless someone calls my attention to it.
Recently, Anna, a good friend whom I met through our daughters’ school, texted me screenshots of a conversation between her and Bridget and Rita, two other good friends. Bridget and Rita spoke very graphically about what they’d like to do to Quinn and said some really unkind things about me. She said she thought I should know what was being said behind my back. I was shocked and haven’t replied to her.
I’m really sad that my friendship with Bridget and Rita wasn’t genuine. Our daughters are friends, and we facilitate Skype play dates each week, so I’m not sure what to say to them or whether our kids should play together anymore. I’m also angry about how they talked about Quinn like a slab of meat. And a small part of me that I hate most of all feels shame about the things Bridget and Rita said about me, which is what’s kept me from showing Quinn the messages. I like myself a lot, and it feels so stupid that I’ve let two mean girls affect that and make me feel embarrassed to confide in my husband. This has shaken me, and I want to start moving forward. What should I do?
Anna’s approach leaves a lot to be desired: She didn’t ask if you wanted to hear about this sort of thing or even paraphrase the conversation so you could get the gist without having to read particularly cruel remarks about your looks. She may have meant well (or she may have wanted to stir the pot), but there was no sensitivity or tact in how she brought this to your attention.
I’m not surprised you haven’t been able to formulate a response. It’s not stupid to feel hurt when you learn people you thought of as friends say hurtful things! You don’t have to share this with your husband or anyone else if you don’t want to; if deleting the screenshots give you some peace of mind and you simply want to ignore it as idle and mean-spirited gossip (rather than a calculated statement of intent to try to seduce your husband), you certainly can. But it might help to share at least the outline of what you’ve learned with Quinn, if only so you two can figure out how to manage remote play dates in the future. I don’t know if your kids require full-time supervision on their Skype play dates, but if your goal is to prioritize the kids’ relationships with one another, it might be possible to keep your own on-screen presence to a minimum and give the kids headphones so they can chat and play with at least a modicum of separation.
You can also just tell Bridget and Rita that you know what they said about you and Quinn, that you’re hurt, and that you’d rather not discuss anything non-essential or non-kid-related with them in the future. If that prospect feels embarrassing, don’t do it, but it might be a relief to acknowledge reality and let them take on the discomfort rather than carrying it all yourself. You can do so politely and coolly, and you don’t have to get drawn into a conversation where they offer justifications or scramble to get you to forgive them afterward. But it is an option. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Friends All Gossip About Wanting to Bang My Hot Husband.” (Aug. 10, 2020)
My daughter Bella has a great playgroup that meets once a week after school. We were REALLY lucky to get into this group. The girls come from some of the wealthiest families at the school, and since our family is more working class, we love that Bella is able to see how the other side lives and maybe even look for something to aspire to one day. So far Bella has had so much fun with all the girls. But last week I got a nasty email from one of the mothers. I sent some homemade cookies and store-bought veggies and dip for the snack last week, and apparently this was not up to snuff! The mothers said that my vegetables were clearly not homegrown and organic and that they could taste the pesticides and preservatives on them. They asked if I knew that ranch dip is high in cholesterol and saturated fat which leads to heart disease. I was in tears reading this email. Their assumption that I had no idea how to feed my daughter was so insulting. I emailed them back saying that I was unsure what particular brands of veggies, dip, and baking items to buy, and received another email suggesting I start a garden. Prudie, we live in an apartment complex. I am unsure how to respond. I really, really want my daughter to be happy and have friends with the right values and aspirations. But I have no idea how to make these women happy. I went to the farmers market an hour away last weekend to look for some appropriate items to send for next week, but the market was so expensive. I don’t want my daughter to get kicked out of this playgroup, especially now that she’s so happy. How can I handle these clean-food moms?
These moms should register themselves with the FDA—just think, they have a bionic ability to detect chemicals at parts per billion! If you want to have your daughter hang out with friends with the right values, you should consider finding another playgroup. You simply want your daughter to get along with nice friends, so please stop injecting your own social anxiety into what should be a carefree time. The other mothers have demonstrated that their values include insults and superiority. Ignore their jibes and skip the farmers market—carrots are carrots. And if your vegetables aren’t good enough for them, their group isn’t good enough for you. —Emily Yoffe
From: “Help! My Daughter’s Playgroup Expects Me To Bring Organic Snacks, but I Can’t Afford It.” (Aug. 27, 2012)
My wife and I recently had to have our dog put down. The dog was young, barely more than a puppy, and while this was upsetting to me, it was devastating to my wife. (The dog was sort of “her pet.” We have another pet that’s “mine.”) Our young daughter is also devastated. Through the whole thing, I’ve tried to be supportive, loving, and helpful.
My problem is that I am also absolutely furious. My wife is not a tidy person. Our house is rarely as neat as we’d like, which is not the end of the world. But she’s always had an ability to create unholy amounts of mess: papers everywhere, food left around, bags dropped wherever on the floor. It’s long been a source of frustration for me. And it’s how this happened. She walked into the house and dropped her bag, which she never cleans out or goes through, on the floor. The dog rummaged through the bag, found her ibuprofen, and ate it. Now the dog is dead (ibuprofen: really, really bad for dogs).
So here I am, trying to hold it together. I want to comfort my wife, who is really hurting, not to mention our daughter. But I also need to work through my anger. I don’t want to tell her how I’m feeling because even in a quiet, peaceful moment, “I’m upset because you sort of killed our dog by being a slob” is not what she needs to hear. And yet, it’s kinda what happened. How do I comfort my wife while also dealing with the anger I feel toward her?
I agree that you two need to talk about it, and I think there are ways to bring this up that aren’t just You killed our dog because you’re a slob: “I’ve been worried about finding a way to talk about this. We’ve all been devastated about the dog, and I know you’d never do anything on purpose to hurt her. Accidents happen. But I am also angry: This happened because you left dangerous medication on the floor in an easy-to-access location. I want to figure out productive, peaceful ways to discuss this. I know this is really hard for you, and I don’t want to pile on. But we need to be able to talk about it and figure out what kinds of changes are possible.”
It might be a good idea to suggest seeing a couples counselor who has some experience with people who have difficulty parting with possessions. That’s not to say that your wife is necessarily a hoarder, but I wonder if there’s an emotional component to her inability to deal with messes. I think it’s possible to discuss this honestly, even if it causes your wife pain, without simply berating or recriminating. You cannot pretend this didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t avoidable, just because you’re afraid of hurting her feelings. Especially if you plan on ever getting another dog. —D.L.
From: “Help! Our Dog Died—and It’s Sort of My Wife’s Fault.” (Oct. 29, 2019)
Several months ago my husband turned into an unrecognizable person. He began snapping at me and our kids, then quickly became cruel toward us. He openly began sleeping with a woman half our age. He left our family to be with her and we have been going through a hellacious divorce. Not long ago he discovered that he had a sizeable brain tumor, which apparently affected his behavior. He has had the brain tumor removed and is undergoing chemotherapy. He is also racked with guilt and can see how awfully he behaved; he has shown me true remorse. My husband wants to give our marriage another go and has cited the brain tumor as the reason he behaved how he did. I cannot bring myself to forgive him, though, even if he’s not entirely responsible for his recent behavior. Should I give our marriage time, or am I justified in pursuing my divorce?
This is the reason I so often say that when someone has a gradual, or sudden, change in character or personality, a complete physical and mental evaluation is called for. I think “The brain tumor made me do it” is a pretty compelling excuse. Of course it doesn’t undo the pain that was caused, but it does explain your husband was not in his right mind. If, no matter what the cause, you are done with your marriage, then I don’t see how you return to it. If you can get some distance from your pain and see that a medical crisis was causing his behavior, perhaps there’s hope. In any case, your kids have been through an awful trauma. Their father turned into someone else, and now he’s very ill. Please get some counseling for the whole family. You don’t have to decide what you want the outcome of this to be. But having a safe place for all of you to express your pain and your fears will at least allow you to go forward with everyone’s best interests in focus. —E.Y.
More Advice From Dear Prudence
Most of my friends have known one another for 15 years (we’re mostly in our 30s). I’ve been sleeping with one of them, “Jake,” once or twice a month for the past eight years. He’s been with his girlfriend for six years (I know).