Dear Prudence

Help! I’m in My 40s and Eternally Single. No One Understands Why.

I don’t want to detail my history.

Woman holding a heart-shaped cutout. A no sign is overlaid on top of her.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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

Dear Prudence,

I am a woman in my 40s, and as a child, I was a victim of sexual abuse. As a teen and adult, I have never had an interest in pursuing any kind of romantic relationship as a result. (To the disappointment of several romantic prospects, as well as protracted sexual harassment from some of my teenage peers at the time.) As I am now in my 40s, people look askance when I say I’ve never been in a relationship. How do I navigate these kinds of conversations in a way where I don’t have to go into my history but also express that I am still not interested in relationships so well-meaning people don’t try and set me up on dates? Or tell me I just haven’t found the “right person” yet?

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—Happily on My Own

Dear Happily on My Own,

I can’t remember where I heard it, but some women, when asked why they aren’t partnered, say, “I don’t know—I guess I just got lucky.” I think that would be a hilarious way to throw people off with a nod to the fact that many people in *gestures around at this entire column* relationships are absolutely miserable, and partnership alone is not something to strive for. You could follow it up with “Seriously, thanks for your concern, but I’m truly not interested.”

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Dear Prudence,

I want to stop being friends with someone, and I don’t know if I’m overreacting and/or how to end it. They have been in my life for more than 20 years, and while we have tried to maintain a friendship cross-country and even across continents, recently over the past five years they have felt very judgmental, and I’m kind of over it. I blame COVID and their being isolated, but now I’m starting to think that is how they think. I know they don’t realize how they sound, and when brought to their attention when it’s over the top they are quick to apologize, but some of their comments about my lifestyle and parenting style, even off-the-cuff remarks about presents I send, just make me want to shake my head and say, “Are you serious?” I would tell them, “Hey, your comment hurt my feelings.” But it’s so often that I’m thinking we’ve grown apart and it’s best we parted ways. Have you heard of this before, and what is your advice?

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—Hanging By a Thread

Dear Hanging By a Thread,

As uncomfortable as those tough conversations are, if you want to salvage this friendship, you’ll need to be vulnerable by confessing to your friend that your feelings have been hurt. But if you do that and see no results (or really don’t want to be a part of this friendship anymore—that’s OK too), you’re right that it’s time to go your separate ways. It’s fine to do this through a fade-out, but what I really recommend, if you can stomach it, is an official friend breakup. One more difficult talk in which you clearly state that this isn’t working for you anymore but you wish them the best is the bravest and best way to go.

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Dear Prudence,

I own a one-bedroom condo that has a nook that can be sectioned off somewhat. Also outside the city, I inherited a house that I rented out. I have had the same tenant for many years. My fiancée currently lives with her parents and several younger siblings. She keeps complaining about having no privacy since she telecommutes.

I have offered for her to move in with me and make her a real home office. She keeps balking. My condo is “too small” and she’d rather we have a “fresh start” in the house. I am a 15-minute walk to work now. I don’t want to drive over two hours both ways every day. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of moving, losing my very nice tenant, losing the rent income, and taking over a 40-year-old suburban sprawl. I want my fiancée to focus on getting rid of her school debt and finding the freedom to pursue her passions. (She hates her job.)

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I am happy enough to support her in her dreams, but not at the expense of my own. When we speak about the far future, we are on the same page about kids, religion, and finances. It is the immediate reality that keeps tripping us up. My fiancée has suggested I sell both properties and we get a new one together. We fought when I asked why she thought her name should be on the deed when she wasn’t putting any money down. She called me money-hungry and cold. And it was only “fair.” I told her I was trying to be rational here. She could redecorate the condo, get part of an office share downtown, or find some roommates, and I would be happy to cover the cost of a room for her work. She is sticking to her demand for the house. Our old counselor had health issues, and we are on a waiting list to see another one because of insurance. I love my fiancée, but this conflict is taking a toll. Nothing I offer works.

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—Moving Woes

Dear Moving Woes,

It is really great that you two were in counseling, but you don’t need a professional to tell you that you’re not at all aligned when it comes to what you value right now and what you want out of life. You’re at odds with how you want your lives to unfold. This situation will only get worse if you’re married. Don’t do it.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

Classic Prudie

When I first met my husband, he made it clear that he never wanted children. I know it was wrong of me, but I wore him down: Seven years ago he became a very reluctant father, and we had another child three years later. It’s obvious now that we made a terrible mistake …

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