Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns.
I live with my aging and ailing father. He recently invited his old college roommate to visit and discuss doing some renovations on our home (his friend is a contractor). I found him to be a pleasant enough man, but grew concerned after a couple of days over a strange—and disgusting—habit I noticed.
My father’s friend seems to have been using the bathtub in the shared bathroom as a urinal to relieve himself at night. I started to suspect as much when I would think I would hear him getting up in the middle of the night and not hear the toilet flush. I was absolutely certain when I would find urine splashes in the bottom of the tub in the morning.
I spoke to his friend and asked him to please stop doing this, that there was absolutely no reason to. I then had to leave for the weekend for a work trip. I came back after he had left, and discovered not only had he continued, but that there was evidence that he was using it as more than just a urinal. I was HORRIFIED. After using a ton of bleach and power tools outfitted with scrub brushes, I have told my father his friends are not welcome until they are housebroken. He does not see the big deal. How can I get him to see my side of this?
The good news is you don’t really need to get him to see your side as long as you’re able to enforce the no-houseguests-who-have-shit-in-our-tub policy, and I think you can take even begrudging, eye-rolling agreement as a win. Don’t let that guy back in your house. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Dad’s Friend Peed in My Bathtub. On Purpose.” (Jan. 28, 2020)
My husband’s first wife cheated on him throughout their marriage. He’s been battling how difficult it is for him to trust women ever since their divorce. We’ve gone to counseling separately and as a couple to cope with how his difficulty trusting me has impacted our relationship. We love each other very much, though, and when I became pregnant with our first child last winter, I thought he finally trusted that I have never and will never cheat on him. Then he asked me for a prenatal paternity test to ensure the baby was his. His biggest fear is raising a child that isn’t biologically his own. I was hurt by his request, because it implied he still seriously mistrusted me. He thought if I had nothing to hide then it shouldn’t be a big deal, and he told me he trusted me, but needed absolute assurance. We argued about the paternity test for most of my pregnancy, but he lay off shortly before I gave birth to our daughter in July. Things have been wonderful ever since, until I discovered evidence that he and his mother ran a paternity test without my knowledge. Of course our daughter is his. Now we’re fighting again. He’s apologized for not trusting me, but I cannot stop feeling betrayed that he would do this behind my back. I don’t know where we can goes as a couple from here. Am I overreacting?
Despite what this column might indicate, almost all men really are the father of the children they think they are the father of. You may love your husband very much, but I wish you’d paid more attention to the klaxons in your relationship. Being incessantly punished for the misdeeds of a previous spouse is not a good basis for a healthy relationship, and you had plenty of warning that you were being doubted. I bet if you wanted to check, you will find your husband regularly scans your cellphone and computer to try to gather the nonexistent incriminating evidence. That he and his mother did some genetic testing behind your back must have been a punch to your solar plexus. You now have a child with this man, so I assume you want to salvage your relationship and try to establish some framework of trust. Head back to the therapist right away. He needs to understand that while he’s obsessed with you cheating on him, he’s shown himself to be the great deceiver. —Emily Yoffe
From: “Help! My Wife Is Pregnant by Another Man.” (Oct. 22, 2012)
I am getting a head start on the winter holidays by drawing up an early gift list, but I am stuck on one recipient in particular. My boyfriend is generally handy and especially enjoys building fires, and he has expressed interest in chopping wood for the last few fires we’ve had. Great, I thought—I can get him a high-quality ax or hatchet for Christmas. But then I started thinking about the potential for injuries. I have anxiety and know it can skew my perception of things, so I’m trying to think it through rationally. My boyfriend is very aware of safety and risk assessments in daily life, but he’s also not the most spatially aware person. He can be clumsy by himself or with others, especially after a few drinks. He’s also never been trained in any kind of ax safety. I still think he’d be delighted by this present, and part of me wants to be convinced by that alone, but another part of me thinks that even having an ax around would kick my fear of accidental injury into permanent overdrive. Should I try to muscle through the anxiety or start looking for a different present? Or is there a compromise here that would satisfy both my fears and my desire to impress with a cool gift?
Let’s leave aside the question of how much your anxiety may be affecting your decision-making here or how clumsy your boyfriend is. This is not a referendum on his ability to hold his drinks but a pretty straightforward question about the whole point of gift-giving: Does it make you feel excited to contemplate giving it to him? If the answer isn’t “yes,” just move on and think of another gift. Chopping wood doesn’t seem like his secret dream hobby, and he won’t be broken-hearted to get something else. If he were a professional lumberjack or had his heart dead-set on becoming an expert woodsman survivalist, I might have different advice. But he’s not, so I don’t! Just get him something that doesn’t stress you out. If he’s generally handy and into DIY projects, I’m sure there’s some other gadget or carrying case you could get him that would line up nicely with his interests and be sure to please. This is already a very weird and difficult year. Go easy on yourself as often as you can. —D.L.
From: “Help! I Want to Buy My Boyfriend an Ax for Christmas, but I’m Afraid He’ll Maim Himself.” (Nov. 21, 2020)
My cat is 18. I know you like dogs, so pretend this is your dog. The cat harasses me all night. When she is howling for food at 3 a.m., she won’t eat it unless I am involved. My husband or kids can give her the food, but she howls and refuses to eat until I get up, pick up her bowl, and put it down. She is deaf and toothless, and traumatized if I shut a door to escape her. When I take a shower, she howls. My young kids love her. She is expensive because of medicine and special food—$200 in a month excluding vet visits. We have not gone on a family vacation for years. Either my husband or I stay home, because caring for her is so expensive that leaving her to be boarded costs $30 to $50 a day. When I talked to the vet about putting her to sleep, they said she is a healthy animal with manageable concerns and that they would not do that. She is friendly and alert but she is ruining my life. I love her and putting her to sleep would be very upsetting, but being the primary caregiver for a needy, nocturnal animal is upsetting, too. Every year I ask, “How much longer can you last?” And every year, the answer seems to be, “I am immortal.”
After I give this advice, I’m going to have to go into the witness protection program, but here it is: Put down Fluffy. You are being held hostage to the emotional demands—probably driven by feline dementia at this point—of a cat that is about 90 in human years. Ol’ Fluff has lived a long, long good life. You will live a much shorter, less good life if you don’t get some sleep and a vacation. Yes, one has an obligation to an elderly, beloved pet, but you’ve more than met yours. Of course your vet won’t put down Fluffy; she’s a gold mine. But you can take her to the nearest humane society shelter. When you explain she’s 18, deaf, toothless, and has a host of medical conditions, they will break out the Fatal-Plus. You explain to your kids that you have loved Fluffy since before they were born, but she is very old and sick now—she can’t sleep at night, she is going downhill, and you don’t want her to suffer. (OK, maybe she’s not suffering, but you are.) I do know what you’re going through. Yes, I am a late-life dog person, but I’m a lifelong cat person. I have had cats since I was 25, and I have two now. I’m in an abusive relationship with one—I love him, feed him, and stroke him, and he will only give affection to my husband. One is a 15-year-old who any minute should start his daily howling for food which lasts all afternoon. (Yes, I give him a snack, and yes, I have had him checked out with the vet to the tune of a college semester’s worth of tests. He’s fine! He just likes to send me to the brink of mental collapse.) —E.Y.
From: “Help! My 18-Year-Old Cat Is Ruining My Life. Can I Put Her to Sleep?” (Nov. 10, 2014)
More Advice From Dear Prudence
My two sisters and I are all close in age. “Chloe” got engaged first but has put the wedding off due to grad school. “Zoe” got engaged a few months afterward and was looking at a whirlwind wedding. She bought the dress and then caught her fiancé cheating on her.