The “Problem With Perfection” Edition

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S1: Dear Prudence your prudence differed here prudence if it is your prudent here prudence.

S2: These things that I should contact him again. Help help. Thank you.

S3: Thank you.

S4: Hello and welcome to another mini episode of Dear Prudence. I’m your host Daniel Mallory Aubrey and this show is for you our plus subscribers this week. My guest is Jay Baer hat a Seattle based writer Zee insider and known Internet presence. Their work includes the chat books published comic little teeth. The YouTube critique series. Film critters and over dozens of posts at Twitter under the name fussy baby bitch. And now here’s our first letter.

S5: This next one is also like fraught challenging family stuff but at least there’s this sort of like added benefit of someone’s clearly being an asshole which is always I guess nice in terms of clarity.

S6: Yeah I know it’s nice when we get one of it. Very good advice I’m always trying to figure out like OK like what are what are possible other elements of this story that I’m not seeing because I’m only hearing one perspective but this one seems pretty straightforward. Yeah. So a framed family photo has gone from gift to culture wars. My wife and I have been married for four years together for ten. We’ve recently bought our first home together and are happier than we’ve ever been. My problem is my extremely religious mother and sister in law live with my wife’s grandfather. He was basically her father growing up and I’m often envious of their relationship because all my grandparents died while I was still young. For his ninetieth birthday my wife and I decided to send an 8 by 10 framed photo of us in front of our new home. We thought he would love it and displayed on his photo wall next to the rest of his family photos. A few days passed and unlike other times we’ve sent gifts. We didn’t hear anything. My wife called to make sure it arrived. Her mother answered and said we could send as many pictures as we wanted and they would never display any of them. She said Our relationship went against God and that as long as we were together they would not condone our blasphemy or display photos of it in their house. This came as a shock to us both my mother and sister in law have been vocal about their disapproval of our relationship in the past. But it’s never been quite on this level. Just the occasional jabs that we shrug it off. But her grandfather has never shared their views. Yes he’s a man of few words but always asks about me and how I’m doing when my wife calls. It is devastating to both of us that my wife’s mother is seemingly taking advantage of his failing health of his remaining years to speak for him this way and to dictate what he can display in his own home. My wife has been trying to avoid bringing this up since it happened but it still bothers me and I can’t seem to let it go.

S7: I am both sorry that your partner’s mother is being so cruel and I also think at least in terms of your wife’s grandfather there’s an opportunity just like like kind of last part of this off like the idea that like oh I’ll keep him away from any photographs of lesbians like OK you know what I mean like he still loves you. He’s not homophobic in the way that she’s homophobic. You get to have that. If that’s the extent of her power there then I think you can know that you have to just feel relaxed about it but you can treat it with sort of like Arch contempt and really just focus on what matters which is your relationship with him. But but if if that’s also coming with like she’s not letting you see him or talk to him I think that’s a real opportunity to mourn and talk to your to your wife about what she might need in that situation.

S8: Yeah that was my first thought too was like is is this like a situation where the mother in law is being a sort of intermediary between your wife and her grandfather because of so like. Yes that’s like that’s extremely upsetting and the fact that she is seemingly keeping this present for him away from him because she doesn’t approve of it is like absolutely something to be upset and outraged by regardless of her reasons given for it.

S9: Yeah yeah. And if you don’t. To that end it doesn’t sound like she normally answers the phone like I would call back until you can get a hold of him and just say I’m really sorry that you know she wouldn’t let you have our gifts. I just want you to know that we were thinking of you and we said it’s you. It’s a great picture it’s our new house we’d love to tell you all about it. Like have that moment of connection with him that she can’t like in her fear with assuming she’s not by the way like at the level of like not letting him answer the phone which would be really upsetting.

S8: Yeah. And I mean I don’t know quite like how how Howard would intervene in that sort of situation. I do know you know something that you could possibly propose to your wife is if she is able to see and speak of him with any sort of regularity you know bring him like a little wallet photo bring him something small and personal so it’s like well you’re not displaying in the house she can’t do anything about this.

S9: That’s a really that’s a really good idea. I like that a lot.

S7: I love the idea of him just like getting one. Varieties like bigoted daughter by being like she doesn’t know this but I have a small picture of who’s just constantly finding new ways to send this same photo in different formats that she can’t get rid of these photos of different gay people through. It’s like Who are these homosexuals. I don’t even know that they’re from Philadelphia. And by the way like I realize I’ve been saying all this in a very lighthearted way but I just also want to acknowledge. Of course it still bothers you. Of course it’s hard to let it go. This is so petty and cruel which is such a bad combination and especially when it’s like an escalation from a parent who you had thought like OK she’s not great about gay stuff but she’s not like the worst. And then like Oh she’s like evil stepmother in a fairy tale like tearing up letters so that you don’t know how loved you are which is garbage.

S8: And I mean if this was something where I don’t know what your wife’s relationship with her mother directly is but if that is something where she would want to bring it up I think it could even be worth like if they still have some sort of a close relationship despite this bringing up to her the like Hey. This like hurts a lot. Like this isn’t the you know this isn’t just like what I’ve been able to come to accept as a baseline of like you not accepting my relationship. This is like you were now at a point where you are like intervening in my relationship with the rest of the family and that goes beyond just not accepting my relationship. Yeah because that’s that is something that I have I have discovered in the past. It’s like family is like someone family is still operating from a level of homophobia transphobia and it sort of clouds the way they interact with other family members. They sometimes genuinely don’t understand how hurtful they are like to them. It’s like that’s so reasonable that I would not want a photo of gay people in my house that they don’t understand like what that says to their daughter.

S9: Yeah I wish I could believe that homophobia was often just that stupid. I don’t know.

S5: I want to but doesn’t that strike you as a little naive or well. But like they might not understand how harmful it is.

S8: I feel like they usually do right with I mean like I said I think it comes down to that’s why I said I don’t know what the wife’s relationship with the mother is since a similarly given the story it sounds like they’re still in communication which suggests that it’s a weird sort of like an unspoken like. Okay I know you don’t approve of this but you like love me in spite of it. And so we kind of have this ironic ironic phrasing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell dynamic around it but it’s familial homophobia is always like very very fraught. And I found that the way it manifests is sometimes very baffling and it’s contradictions where it’s the sort of thing of like this idea that the mother could maintain this relationship with her daughter where she’s speaking to her regularly but also view like her decade long relationship as like a blaspheme and treated as if like she believes in the long term that it’s going to end is clearly the message that she’s sending right.

S10: Or just like you my daughter are gonna go to hell someday. Yeah. And I you know a part of me like shaky cam part of me would kind of want to like tease that out a little bit more and if it were your mom I would kind of encourage you to go this shit kicking root. But I understand if your wife doesn’t want to do that you couldn’t. But you have to kind of go like so how damned are you for mostly endorsing my relate like you haven’t tried to physically separate us or pray over me or like get us to get divorced. So like how much is this going to ding your admission entry into heaven.

S8: Yeah I know it’s just makes me that I mean who even knows like what the what what religious values this could be here. I’ve had friends who’ve come from like Jehovah’s Witnesses family I’ve dealt with similar circumstances. I don’t know it’s a it’s a really sad story and I hope that she’s able to reconvene with her grandfather at least either without her mother’s intervention or with the sort of direct pushback from other like hey this is not acceptable. Like I don’t care what your perspective on this is. This is not an acceptable way to treat your own daughter and her relationship with her grandfather.

S10: Yeah. The last suggestion that I will make is you can just yeah send her pictures of yourself every day and the mail man quits.

S8: But send send send like individual like pieces of the photo that can be assembled onto the wall when she’s out of the house into a giant photo of you and your wife in front of your house.

S4: Yeah. Start texting. Like just pull out all of the stops like that scene in Miracle on forty forty third street weather. The guys I’ll come in with the big bags of letters to Santa is it.

S7: Oh it’s Miracle on thirty forestry. I have my streets mixed up. Sorry everybody. Miracle on 34th Street.

S9: Yeah. And yeah. Again that’s just like of course it’s devastating. It’s totally cruel it’s totally ridiculous.

S7: It’s like oh was fine to like you know have these lesbians visit but a photograph that then God notices because God can see photos more easily than people because we moved too fast for his eyes because they’re so far away. But if you keep a photo up he’s like.

S8: I notice that if they’re in the house you can purify it afterwards but if it’s displayed up I think it’s idolatry at that point. I’d have to reconcile my my texts. Yeah yeah it’s I. That’s what I get to. It’s like I said like it’s homo familial homophobia is oftentimes completely irrational and it does not have any internal logic to it.

S9: Exactly.

S4: So the next one is from somebody who’s friends can’t see my problems because of my superficially perfect life. Dear Prudence on paper I have a great life a nice house a high paying job doting husband behind the scenes I struggle with PTSD from past abuse a hidden disability a demanding and stressful job and a husband with expensive and dangerous addictions. My emotionally tightlipped family taught me to keep my issues to myself. This works great when meeting new friends but has been difficult on those friendships deepened. These people are happy to unload their breakup and money difficulties on me and I’m happy to listen. But when I empathize or discuss my own problems they clam up. One person told me that I don’t have quote real problems in response to my sharing my husband’s near fatal overdose. One of these friends complained to my husband that it’s unfair I have nice things compared to her after I told her I was really exhausted from working and going to grad school full time. Currently my newly single friend is ghosting me after I told her about some arguments that my husband who she describes as quote perfect the same thing earlier this year when my disability interfered with our plans. Am I doing something wrong. I keep finding myself in one sided friendships where I give a lot of emotional support but I’m ignored when I need help or even just when it comes time to let loose and have fun. What’s reasonable when it comes to sharing negative life events with friends.

S6: So this one may. My initial thought is sort of the the consistency in all this is like yourself. And so my question is like sort of where you were you meeting these friends. Like what is what is what kind of dynamic do these friendships develop under. Because the not implication I guess but it’s like my question if it is like with these friends are sort of envious of your life and stuff. Then why is like why is there this sort of disparity between you and your friends.

S8: Because you know I have I have like friends who have various like socially material like benefits and privileges over other people and our friends circle and stuff and they oftentimes have a similar sort of like guilt complex of not feeling like they can talk to about their own problems. But I feel like there’s a any healthy friendship dynamic there’s a understanding of like no like emotional problems serious problems sufferings from like PTSD disability dealings of addiction like those are all bad. Like those are those are all negative life experiences no matter who you are. And so I I sort of wonder like you know where where are these friendships being built where they don’t fight. They’re not seeing that those are serious problems for you because you are in an otherwise more stable life.

S4: Yeah. And I think to also pay attention to like is there a pattern of when I get to know people for the first time are our first conversations often then unloading a lot.

S7: Or me asking them a lot of questions and and them kind of like taking advantage of that which is not to say by the way like it’s your fault that your friends are being jerks but if you start to notice that there’s a pattern of a lot of my friendships begin because somebody thinks I’m a really great friend because I ask them a lot of questions pay a lot of attention to them and help them figure out stuff like that that can actually kind of explain like maybe what I thought was a really powerful connection was not in fact reciprocal it was just that I was willing to do a lot of work for this person upfront and assumed that they would feel the same way about me later.

S8: Yeah I know. I think that’s that’s sort of what I was trying to formulate to put in to put into words just like I was like if this if this is a repeating pattern of friendships then that tells me that there is something about the pattern of how those friendships are being formed which is causing this.

S4: All right so in terms of like what to do right now one of these things is absolutely scale back on the friendships where people are are telling you you don’t have real problems or at the very least are in addition to that pushback when people say things like that if your friend says your husband is perfect you can say like that’s not true and that’s not a helpful thing to say and I need you to not say that to me when I’m trying to tell you that it’s hard for me or if somebody else you know is just ignoring you don’t waste your energy trying to chase them down and if somebody says you don’t have real problems when you say my husband almost died that person is telling you that they are not to be trusted and you should not spend more time trying to repair that friendship that might feel like a lonely start because that kind of means you just start by like seeing the people you consider your friends less. But before you can develop new kinds of friendship you have to make the time for that and I think to whatever extent you can I sure hope you can go to some version of alum on a disability support group or ideally both something where you can be around other people who are also dealing with like the chaos of loving and living with someone who has an active addiction and figuring out like how do I find and build a life for myself. That is like serene meaningful useful joyful regardless of whether or not my partner gets clean and what would that look like for me. I want you to have a lot of help with that and I think that al anon or I’m not sure if Al Anon has like a Narcotics Anonymous equivalent or you know if you’re especially secular a non spiritual alternative to Alan on that would be really really good. Even if you can only find like an online disability support group because there’s non-local to your area maybe just spending a little time once a week or once a month with other people who experienced similar disabilities might make you feel a little less alone and like you’re gonna be in a space where you’re allowed to share your problems.

S8: I think that would really help and building off of that and those that they’d also mentioned that they are attending grad school and I think that’s a great resource to even look for those kinds of groups and grad schools and colleges in general generally have programs exactly to facilitate like social French social dynamics and friendships and relationships because they’re aware how isolating and alienating college can be otherwise. And I think looking for just even even just interests that you have or people who are going through the same sort of issues you are going through. That’s like a great place to start. And a great place to find people who are going to sort of already be at the level of like wanting to listen to you talk about your issues as well as you know have someone listen to them talk about their own.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. And even if there’s just like free or low cost counselling services through your grad program whether they’re remote or are on site I would urge you to take advantage of those things and to really prioritize all of that right now to whatever degree that you can. I know you’re already exhausted.

S4: I know you already have limited time and energy right now but I think if you can scale back from trying to chase down these people who are not there for you and use that time for something that you know will result in at least like I’ll be listens to for 20 minutes or I know I’ll be around people who experience some of the same things that I do and won’t think that that’s a fake problem that will go a long way towards making you feel like you have a real community even if it’s not people you’ve known for years and years.

S8: And I think in that program or on your own even since it sounds like you’re sort of on the precipice of realizing that like the friendships you’re in right now aren’t working for you develop a sort of sense of like what what what are you looking for in a friendship. Mm hmm. Because like they mentioned that you know at the start of onset of friendships that you don’t really tend to open up as much but they do and you’re fine with that. I think it’s a good time to ask like Is that something that you’re comfortable with. Like would you prefer that like your friendship sort of both start at a level of like you know you’re you’re getting along but you would rather like discuss tougher issues as you get closer. Not immediately. Would you prefer that it’s something where they as you meet people they ask you questions from the onset about yourself. I think asking yourself you know like what are you looking for out of these sort of friendships is a really good way to help you sort of like rekindle actualize how you pursue those friendships.

S10: Yeah I think all this is a really really good idea. And I just hope that you’re able to start doing some of these things because this sounds like a lot.

S4: And I guess the one upside is somebody who says you don’t have a real problem when you say my husband almost died has just let you know like that after worry about getting you a Christmas present this year. Yeah well you and I are we’re done here.

S8: There’s I definitely I definitely feel like really feel for this person because I feel like this is like the only thing more isolating than like actually being isolated is being in a situation where you don’t feel like and if your friends are actually invested in the difficulties you’re going through while you’re going through some honestly pretty heavy difficulties.

S11: That’s our mini episode of Dear Prudence for this week. Our producers Phil circus. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton as always if you want me to answer your question call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1. Dear that’s 3 4 2 7 and you might hear your answer on that episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice.

S4: Keep it short 30 seconds a minute tops. Thanks for listening.