Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers on Mondays at noon ET. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.
Q. Wondering If It’s Weird: My partner of 22 years and I got legally married a decade ago. Together we purchased a silver band with fake diamonds because that is what I wanted since I often misplace/lose things. Fast-forward eight years and I have lost the ring for good. My husband suggested I get another “real” ring if I want one, so I went shopping and bought another silver, fake-diamond ring and I have ALREADY lost it. This past holiday, my mother-in-law brought out a wedding band, minus the engagement ring, from my partner’s previous girlfriend. It fits perfectly and I like it. Is it weird to take this band and make it my wedding band?
A: Your mother-in-law is kind of weird for getting the ring out. (That easily could have hurt your feelings or made you uncomfortable!) But maybe she knew what she was doing. If you like it, by all means, keep it and wear it—making sure to get it sized so it stays on your finger this time! If you’re a woo-woo type of person, Google “engagement ring energy cleansing” and feel free to have a little ceremony. If not, congrats on the money you just saved.
Q. Fretting Over the Future: I need some help parsing whether or not I’m doing something wrong. I am a gay man in my early 20s, currently in a long-distance, international relationship with my college boyfriend of several years. I also have a very close female best friend whom I have known since we were very small children. I know this may not sound believable from what I am about to say, but I genuinely do not have romantic or sexual feelings for this best friend.
However, when I try to envision what my future looks like years down the line, I find myself imagining sharing a house and life with her rather than my boyfriend. I think this is partially just because my boyfriend and I will be long-distance for at least the next five years if I don’t move to his country. My best friend lives very close by and I see her several times a week. She is, for lack of a better phrase, my platonic soulmate. To make things more complicated, I have suspected for a while now that I am asexual, so while I miss physical intimacy with my boyfriend A LOT, I don’t find myself yearning to have sex with him. I think I could live the rest of my life happily without sex. My boyfriend knows how close I am to my best friend and I doubt he would have any problem with us living together in the short term, but I know he hopes I will eventually move to his country. (It would be much more difficult for him to move to mine.) But some part of me just can’t picture it. There are complicating factors—for example, he isn’t out to his parents, so moving in with him would force me back into the closet for the foreseeable future. But some part of me feels guilty when I imagine living happily with my best friend forever. I love him and don’t want to break up, but it’s just so hard to imagine a future together and so easy to imagine a future where I spend the rest of my life in a platonic partnership with my bestie. Is this emotional cheating? Am I leading him on?
A: Let’s review: You don’t imagine yourself living with your boyfriend, you don’t particularly want to have sex with him, you don’t want to move to his country, and you don’t want to go back into the closet in the way being with him would require. While you say you’re in love and don’t want to break up, there’s just not a lot to back that up. It sounds like he is the one who should be your platonic friend—someone you care deeply about but don’t have to live with, sleep with, or plan your life around.
To answer your question, no, I don’t think you’re leading him on or cheating. You’ve done nothing wrong. I simply think you’re beginning to pay attention to your feelings about this situation. And the feelings are saying loud and clear that it’s time for it to end, at least in its current form. Your best friend is a distraction. Feel free to fantasize about living with her, and even plan to do so. But first: break up.
Q. Love Myself: Is it a reflection of the quality of my relationship if I enjoy living separately and don’t know if I would ever want to live with him?
A: Is this a trick question with a slight twist on the one above, just stated differently, to see if I give a different answer? Well, I’m going to! Here’s why: The quality of your relationship is measured by questions like “Does it make me happy?” and “Do my partner and I generally see eye to eye and want the same things?” If these answers to those questions are yes—if your partner also enjoys living separately and doesn’t know if he would want to live with you (or if he would want to live with you but would be willing to give it up in exchange for everything else you bring to the table)—then you’re in good shape and your relationship loses no points. If this is a point of tension, or if you don’t want to live with him because of things you really dislike about him, then you might have an issue.
Q. Please Stop Prying: Last fall, a relative’s family suffered a horrible event that made the national news. My co-workers offered their sympathies and were kind, and some, including my boss, donated to the GoFundMe. The issue is that my boss still periodically asks me for updates on how my family is doing. The way she asks makes me uncomfortable, almost like she’s trying to find out more sad and gruesome details that weren’t in the news. I feel apprehensive about telling her to stop because 1) she’s my boss and 2) maybe I’m wrong and she really is coming from a place of caring, not rubbernecking. How can I gently, professionally discourage her from continuing to ask me about this?
A: “Thank you so much for asking, and of course, for donating last year. My family is doing OK. But personally, I’m realizing I need to begin to move on from what happened so I’m trying to avoid talking about it as much day-to-day because it ultimately just upsets me.”
Q. Respectfully Romantic: I married my wife of 10 years because of her character, not looks. I thought with time attraction would come, but it hasn’t. She knows I deeply love her, but she also notices my lack of physical attraction and it breaks her heart. What should I do?
A: Why did you think attraction would come with time? Every third letter I get is about attraction going away with time. That’s the more normal pattern. You had this backward. I hear you saying that you love her deeply but I feel like if you really did, you would do a better job pretending to be attracted to her. This is unfixable. Take all that love you have for her and set her free to find someone who appreciates all of her qualities, not just a few.
Re: Q. Please Stop Prying: You can kindly and firmly tell your boss something along the lines of “I appreciate how much concern you’ve shown by checking in on (the tragedy). Could you do me a favor and refrain from asking? I’m navigating that with my family and it’s hard to rehash it at work,” or whatever variation of that feels best to you. If your boss persists after that, draw a firmer boundary… “That’s a private family matter, but I could use some help with these docs,” or whatever. Good luck!
A: Yes, this works. I mean, I don’t want to minimize the touchiness the LW is feeling around sharing the story publicly to solicit (and accept) support and then suddenly changing it to a private family matter. But I think any statement that expresses vulnerability and asks for understanding should go over fine.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: We’re going to wrap it up here. Thanks for joining and we’ll talk again next week!
More Advice From Slate
My 8-year-old daughter “Sasha” has become best friends with “Mary,” a super shy and awkward girl in her class. Mary’s mother is grateful for this and praises Sasha to us and the girls’ teacher. Sasha sticks up for Mary against bullies and helps her with her schoolwork. Mary’s mom mentioned to me that when Sasha was out sick for a day, her daughter really struggled without her. I love my kid’s spirit, but I worry that this situation may be putting a little too much pressure on her.