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S2: Hello, Prudy listeners Danny and Lavallee here. And I’m excited to announce a new live show this spring in my brand new hometown of Brooklyn. We’ll have a special guest for a fun and lively conversation dissecting reader questions about relationships, home work and more. And I hope I see lots of you there. The show is Thursday, April 23rd at the Bell House. For more information and tickets, go to Slate.com.
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S4: You produce your prudence here, prudence. If it is your proof here, prove these things that I should contact him again. Help, help. Thank you. Thank you.
S5: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I am your host, Danny M. Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Caitlin GreenEDGE, the author of the novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman. She’s also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Glamour, Elle, The Virginia Quarterly Review and other places. And she lives in Brooklyn. Hi, Caitlin. Hi. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much for being here on the show today. I’ve really done a lot of research for this one, more more than I often do. Most of that research has been searching for vintage meat cleavers on eBay. I like it. I’m very impressed. I’m very impressed by this due diligence around the subject. It was very simple. You know, nothing about it required any kind of like archivist training or auctioneer work. But just the fact that there’s more than one antique meat cleaver running around out there. I think it makes sense. Like there’s an antique kitchen where some cast iron stuff or like certain types of pie racks. I know it’s like very sought after. Yeah. And I figured, sure, maybe like some nicer butcher knives, a meat cleaver derby would blast a lifetime or longer. But I also had no idea. So when that came up, I was like, I genuinely don’t know if right is there. And me cleavers are so rare. Marketplace for this or. Yeah, right. Have you deprived this person of like an era playable or can they just you know. Yeah, we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, which is where my favorite things to do on the show. But I’m hoping that you would read our first letter for us.
S6: Short subject felon at dinner, dear Prudence. My sister is rather seriously involved with a man who spent a decade battling heroin addiction, has seven felony convictions and just completed an eight year prison sentence. I, by contrast, eminent accomplished attorney, a mother and wife, and an occasional law professor. I don’t want to engage with him. I don’t want to know about their relationship. I don’t want him at my house or around my daughter. My sister calls this judgmental and has given me a quote, Take us both or lose me altogether. Ultimatum. Am I off base? Do I have the right to say no? Does it matter that my sister has had several less than stellar and short lived relationships and has a pension of viewing each new flame as the one? And speaking of the one. What am I to do if they marry and he becomes a permanent fixture? So there’s what there’s like for direct questions in this. Yes. Am I off base? QUESTION First of all, I think that’s tied into like my my sister calls me judgmental. I couldn’t help but notice that the introduction to this was the I, by contrast, thing is what my eye goes to. Right. Sort of listing your accomplishments alongside this man’s criminal record.
S7: Right. Or like as if motherhood or wife leanness is somehow the opposite of heroin addiction.
S3: Exactly. Yeah. And so I I think that’s what your sister is probably responding to when she’s saying or being judgmental. And I wonder what the price will be to, say, test outs or going to dinner with your sister and this man. There’s a difference between that act and deciding to serve of open arms, accept somebody into your family, no questions asked. And so I think there’s like a scale here between these two things. And I don’t think that they’re I think it’s actually probably could be a good thing to see what it’s like to go to dinner with your sister and her new partner. And you don’t say how old your daughter is. So I’m not really sure if you are worried. And we also don’t know what your sister’s partner has been convicted of four felony charges.
S7: That’s what came up to me. At first, I was like, if some of the felony convictions had to do with, like, harming children.
S5: Yeah, I would. Especially because those ones tends to go along with very high risk. Boy, I can never say this word. Recidivism, recidivism. That sounds wrong, but recidivism. I think that’s correct. Sorry. I don’t want to laugh about such a serious issue of the pronunciations on one. Yeah. So whatever it is like high rates of re-offending, then that would strike me as very, very reasonable if these felony convictions were all connected to heroin addiction, especially because like essentially heroin addiction is itself criminalized. Right. Like the things that a person has to do to support a heroin habit. Yeah, it’s kind of a hard to be a heroin addict and not commit a crime at some point. So I think it’s a little perhaps naive to say like, well, it would have been fine if if they had been a heroin addict and like never run afoul of the law. Exactly. It’s like, well, that’s not really how heroin addiction works.
S3: Mm hmm. In terms of sort of the implied part about including the information about your daughter worrying about harm to your kid, your daughter doesn’t have to be out at a dinner that you have with your sister and her new partner, if that is a true concern for you. And the like the larger question of AM exposing my daughter to sort of someone who has done bad things. I would also like to just point out that like the number of people who have done things that could be charged as a felony. There are many people who have done things that could be considered felony who have never been charged with felony. So like that idea of like protecting from harm is maybe something to explore.
S6: Whether I hear sort of also this question of your sister’s pattern of having you say like less than stellar and short lived relationships.
S5: And I’m not sure that this is relevant to this part of the of what you’re asking. Right. Right. It would be one thing if you said, you know, she’s lived with guys who have stolen from me more, who have, you know, attempted to cut her off from her friends or have behaved dangerously. Yeah. That would be, you know, real grounds for wanting to have a loving intervention. If she simply has dated guys that you thought of as losers or wouldn’t have wanted to date yourself. Yeah, I think that falls into the category of my sister, makes romantic choices that I don’t make for myself. You know, that’s part of what adult life entails. And I would just say this, too, like I think a lot of people tend to believe the person they’re currently dating is the best person to currently be dating. That’s usually why they’re dating that person. I don’t even if she is often a little naive about it or is like this, guys, it was never in love before. Like, you know, you can view that with, I think, patients and compassion and just say like, well, we’ll see. But I don’t need to be the one who, like, convinces her to be skeptical.
S8: Like she’s allowed to be hopeful. Yeah. You know, I think it’s totally within your sister’s rights to want her family to meet her partner. Right. Like like, I don’t think, you know, some you know, like oftentimes people talk about like, oh, when should you introduce your partner to your family? Or like, you should only wait until, like, you’re 100 percent certain people have different rules that they align set up for themselves. But I think it’s sort of a very human reaction to say, I have this person my life and I want my family to know about me and know about them. And I think maybe approaching it from that direction, that that is how your sister is thinking about it. But I do want to point out your sister is also giving you an ultimatum, at least according to you, that sort of like take us both or or leave us lose us altogether. And that, I understand, can put pressure onto this whole situation that maybe is a little not necessary, I guess. Yeah. And. To you, I would say if your sister is making that ultimatum, I think you can acknowledge that perhaps she’s being a little bit manipulative and putting undue pressure on the situation while also perhaps agreeing to meet this person.
S7: Yeah, I think to come back and say and again, if these felony convictions have involved harm to a child, I think that would be a really fair point to say. Yeah, I accept your ultimatum. Hmm. Yeah. But if that’s not the case and if all you’re being asked to do is go out to dinner rather than, hey, invite him around the house and let him babysit. If that’s not something you’re actually being asked to do. Don’t borrow trouble. Yeah, but so assuming it’s all just heroin addiction related stuff. Assuming that you can get yourself into a slightly more like compassionate world view perspective towards people who struggle with heroin addiction, like people don’t just like start doing heroin because they’re like bored or if you do, it’s because of a very complicated relationship, the boredom. Right. It addresses a real and a serious and a profound and a painful need in someone’s life. So you don’t have to say, like, great, I love heroin addiction, but you can, I think, at least open your mind to the possibility that people who turn to heroin do so because they’re really suffering and they need a strong painkiller. Right. And you can try and get to know your sister’s partner as a person. So you can, I think, say to your sister like you are right. I have been judgmental. I can own that about myself. That’s probably not going to change overnight. But I love you and I would like to at least give him a chance. I can’t promise you that I’m going to become a different person overnight, but I’m I’m willing to meet up for lunch or coffee or something at a restaurant in public and to try to get to know each other. And if that’s something that she’s willing to do and you’re willing to do that, you know, start low status, don’t go to like a very expensive restaurant for a three hour dinner.
S3: But but give it a shot. Yeah. And I would also add, when you do get to know this person as a family member of your sister, the thing to be on the lookout for, on or to focus on is how they actually treat your family member unless this question of their past. So and that is maybe another way that you can frame it as why you would want to go to gold to get to know this person is to actually see how they’re treating your sister, what the relationship is like. Is there love and respect there? Yeah. And if there is, that’s a great thing to build from to understand how this person may fit into your life later.
S7: Right. And to go in not not prepared to ask like loaded questions. You are aware if he’s just finished an eight year prison sentence, he might not be caught up on all the latest movies asking like, what do you do for a living when he’s like, just gotten out and dealing with parole? Don’t ask questions that are designed to highlight the fact that he’s not a law professor. Mm hmm. Because I think that would be setting that relationship up for failure. But beyond that, if he treats you or your sister badly, if he behaves rudely or inappropriately, if she insists on like rushing him through babysitting duties, you absolutely have a right to set limits. But I do think that there is a lot of room for you to. Acknowledge the judgement in yourself when it comes up. Not pretend you’re not a judgmental person. That’s part of who you are. But then to also let it go for a minute and and and have some compassion. Heroin addiction is really, really hard for people to deal with and it does not help to be sent to jail.
S9: So. Give it a go and write back. I would love to hear how that goes. I genuinely, genuinely what? Keep us posted.
S10: So moving on to, I think, a situation where open mindedness is slightly less important, at least for the letter writer. The city of our next letter is deadbeat boyfriends. Dear Prudence, I recently learned that when he was in his early 20s and living halfway across the country, my fiancee Tom fathered a child with a casual fling. Tom has concealed his now 9 year old daughter, Jay-Z’s existence from his parents, his siblings and me. According to Tom gisella’s mother, Claudia refused to get an abortion. Tom Young and unprepared for fatherhood, told Claudia he wanted nothing to do with the baby. Claudia swore that she would raise Gazelle on her own and ask nothing from him. Recently, Claudia reached out to Tom because she’s sick and needs to plan for gisella’s future should the worst happen. Tom told her to leave him alone, and eventually Claudia contacted his parents and me. Tom slipped out in a scary, very out-of-character way, and in the weeks since has been adamant that he doesn’t want to be a part of gisella’s life. Tom and I have been together for seven years. I love him so much, but the extent to which he’s compartmentalised gisella’s existence disturbs me. I’m also furious at how he’s treated Jaiswal. He’s never paid child support. I think a relationship might be ruined. Am I overreacting? Being unsympathetic? A condition of staying with Tom would be welcoming Gia’s Allen to our lives to whatever extent she and Claudie would allow and paying child support. Is that a reasonable request?
S11: I don’t want to start with whether or not that’s a reasonable one. I want to start with the fact that you’re furious and you think your relationship might be ruined. I think that’s a very appropriate response. Nothing about that strikes me as an overreaction. I don’t know how much sympathy I would have for the initial argument of he was young and unprepared for fatherhood and he just announced, I don’t choose to be involved, which like, legally speaking, you’re not allowed to just announced I’ll never pay child support like you actually do have rights to children that you fathered, even if you don’t want to have them.
S5: It’s part of how parenting works. Yeah, but it’s not just that. It’s that you only found out because this woman is sick, possibly dying. And as recently as a month or two ago, Tom’s response to hearing Claudia say, I need you to help because I might be dying. And his response was, fuck off. Right. So that wasn’t nine years ago. That was real reason. And that was his response to learning that the woman he fathered a child with and has never once supported might be dying. If you can’t take that as a sign of his character, like you say, that his scary response was out of character, I think, in fact, what you have learned is that you didn’t know Tom’s character. Yes. Now you do. Yeah. Yeah. Agreed.
S3: You. I was really struck by this question of being unsympathetic, because I’m assuming you’re saying I’m sympathetic to Tom and I. I think you. Yeah, I. I don’t think that’s like a question that should be on the table. You know, this has been a something within his life for the past nine years and something that he has concealed or or or not talked about for nine years. So if you’re considering sort of making like a lifelong commitment to this person, this is also really good information to have, because if this is the way that he is treating this woman when she’s asking him for help in this very dire situation, you have to think to yourself, what would happen if I was in a similar, vulnerable, dire situation? Can he handle that?
S5: Can handle what that means to be in a partnership with somebody when you’re supposed to take your you’re supposed be counted on to take on that load for your partner. And honestly, even without that, like, I feel like if I were in your position and we did stay together and we did have a child and Tom did show up for that child, honestly, a part of me would be still furious. Oh, yeah, I think like. Oh, so you show up for this child but like Chazelle can fuck off. Yeah. I don’t see any remorse on Tom’s part. No, I don’t see any desire to do right on Tom’s part. I see Tom continuing to lash out and blame other people for his choices. I see Tom like resorting to self-pity like I was young and unprepared. Well, I bet Claudie was also young and paired, and yet she’s been raising a child for nine years. And so I got to say, Tom fills me with disgust. I want to leave room for the possibility that Tom can lead a better life than the life he has led up to this point. I hope that for him. But if I’m in your position and I’ve learned all this and this is his response, I’m I’m taking that ring off. I’m walking out the door.
S3: I’m not look at Tom. Changing has nothing to do with the letter writer. And that’s sort of the unfortunate and heartbreaking thing about this. There’s nothing the letter writer can do to get Tom to act better or sort of act right in a sort of meaningful way. That’s all on him. And that’s gonna be like a very hard thing to realize and to sit with. Right. But that especially through this last question, like, can I somehow or somehow negotiate, you know, chisel into your life by putting our relationship on the table? That’s not going to work. You know, this is a journey that he is on on his own, that the letter writer unfortunately can’t dictate or really change things sort of way.
S7: I was wondering at that if part of the letter writers thought there was like, I’m worried if I don’t stay with Tom, he won’t do this. Right. And I think Chazelle needs somebody. And I understand that impulse. But that is not something you can do. Like Claudia needs to contact a lawyer. And hopefully Tom’s parents will be able to step up in ways that Tom hasn’t been able to. But you can’t stay with a man who’s revealed himself to be this awful just because you’re worried that if you don’t, he’ll never do right by her. Like Claudia needs to return to the legal system to get what she needs financially out of this man. And he needs to decide. He wants to fix his heart, you know. But for you, you need to go take a long vacation and get a therapist and look out for yourself and mourn the loss of the person you thought that you knew. Yeah, but this is no, this man can’t make you happy. Yeah. Know he’s not a good person. Agreed yet.
S8: I hope someday he becomes he could be, but. Yeah. He isn’t yet want to be. But he doesn’t want to be. And this is one of those sort of like character defining things that. Really tells you.
S5: Whoo hoo! Personally, I also just would not at this stage believe anything he told me about how things happened at the time. Good point. You know, he he told me that, you know, she refused to get an abortion and that he told her at the time, you know, this is what you can expect from me. And she said, fine, I agree. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not. But you just need. You can’t trust this man. He hasn’t been honest with you unless it’s been forced out of him. And you have no corroboration like. Right. And you you. But you you do have evidence that when he is in a hard spot, he you know, Telekom’s other people. People, so. Yeah. That is a good indication that perhaps the story is not exactly the one that you’re being told. Yeah, this is a bad dude. You need to run away. Yeah. And I’m so sorry. That must have been devastating. Yeah. Discover all this in such a short period of time. Yeah. The like depressingly silver lining here is that you found out before you two got married. Yeah. Hmm. So we come now to the subject of the second hand meat cleaver. I’m glad that it’s my chance to read. Okay. I did a little research for you, letter writer here for you. We’re gonna help you out with this. Yes. Dear Prudence, I left my abusive relationship in a haste. Once I realized I needed to get out, I recruited a family member to help me pack and clear out of my partner’s house in a few hours while he was at work. In the following months, he tried various tactics to prevent me from disconnecting completely. If you won’t come over and explain yourself, then you need to come get the rest your stuff out of my house. I hadn’t left anything behind yet. I found myself compelled to go back there a couple more times. I’d find an appropriate occasion to go check during a time when I knew he’d be away. Then he’d send me a barrage of angry text messages when he realized I’d circumvented the part of his instructions where I’d actually have to be in the same place at the same time as him. I soon started refusing to go along with going over to collect my things anymore. He started accusing me of taking his things. One item he mentioned in passing was a rusty antique meat cleaver which he’d kept in the kitchen and had occasionally talked about polishing up until it was usable. He mentioned a few other items in the same attack. I dismissed it as nonsense. I said I didn’t think I’d taken them. If I had, it would have been three months earlier at that point. I didn’t think they could possibly have just gone missing from his house that week, but I told them I hadn’t unpacked everything. If he really thought it was missing, I’d take a look through my boxes just in case.
S7: I really would have been happy to have looked for my things then. But when his response made it clear that he was more interested in generating more hostility than actually retrieving any items, I concluded it was all a ruse and forgot about it. It’s been almost a year now and I’ve just moved into a new apartment. I finally started unpacking all my stuff I’ve had in storage. Yesterday I opened a box from the kitchen and there was my access rusty meat cleaver. So now I’m in a moral bind. I really do have the thing he accused me of taking. I didn’t take it deliberately. I think my family member who helped me pack up must have taken it assuming it was mine. It’s been more than a year since this exchange with my ex. I can’t imagine he’s even still thinking about his meat cleaver. Contacting him again is not an option. I continue to live in fear that he will try to contact me again and draw me back into his orbit. I have nightmares about my time with him even still, and I keep imagining ways he might find to terrorize and harass me. I do not want to risk opening the lines for him to think of me or how he could come after me. But here I am with this thing that belongs to him that I know he’d like to have back, and that I feel guilty for having accidentally taken. So I’ll just start with.
S10: You are not in a moral bind. No. At all this. I think you know this on some level. But like if it will just help to hear.
S5: What you are describing is essentially garbage. It’s an old rusty meat cleaver that he had no intention of ever using. You are absolutely correct in that in thinking that he only brought it up because he was looking for an excuse to get back on it. This is not a person who should have a meat. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Like even if it were like a non weapon item, I’d be like, you don’t owe this guy shit. But like this man should not have a meat cleaver. Yeah. By the way, I went and looked up on eBay. I just searched for the term vintage meat cleaver. There are dozens of vintage meat cleavers available for $15 or less. He could get one anywhere. It’s not like original Pyrex before they changed the formula.
S12: And even if it was, you still wouldn’t have to give this thing back to this person. I just want it like. I think there is a and like a scale here between, you know, this person.
S3: You were in an abusive relationship that the person this person has exhibited abusive relations, behavior towards you. And if the choices between this person getting back something that they believe is of value and your personal safety, your personal safety still trumps that object, even if it was something that was really valuable in some sort of way. Does that make sense? Absolutely.
S10: Yeah. There’s there’s nothing genuine about this.
S7: He’s doing fine. He’s not suffering any way for loss of a meat cleaver. He’s never used. You didn’t take it and throw it away. Don’t worry about it.
S3: Don’t worry about it. And, you know, I hope in this after math of this relationship, you are in therapy. You know, reading a little bit more, if that helps about abusive relationships and sort of the feelings and psychologies that can come up with them. Because to me, this also sort of feels like some of the rationalization that often happens in really abusive relationships. And I don’t know, I don’t want to psychologists too much, but it often feels sort of like like a misguided attempt to reclaim agency that somehow, like you not giving back this meat cleaver is as bad as or as whatever in the relationship as this person’s threatening behavior towards you. And they’re not the same.
S5: I mean, yeah, I. That struck me as well. Like the level of guilt you feel over this. Totally accidental. Like the fact that you accidentally took off again, like an an item of basically trash. Yeah, that is worth at most $10 that he never used. That’s clearly not the issue. The issue here is that he has harmed you so much and so frequently that he has convinced you that you’re harming him by having this clue. Talk to me like this man abused you so extensively that over a year later you stuff nightmares about him. And yet you’re also consumed with guilt about life. But he must be in so much pain from the loss of his precious meat cleaver. I don’t say that to trivialize. It’s not like I hope that you can hear in this just how unreasonable it sounds to think like this man is not harmed by this loss of this item. No, no. He he he has convinced you that you are uniquely able to hurt him by accident, which is one of the thing I think that abusers often do up to their victims. And so I would just really encourage you to take these feelings and fears and anxieties about your inherent harmfulness to a therapist.
S10: Yeah, because I think they’re going to be the best suited to help you. And just like, you know.
S5: Imagine him going a certain now that it would help you to like imagine a person going through a day in their ordinary life without a dirty meat cleaver. Yeah. It can be done. You know, like their day is the same.
S12: It’s the same. And get that thing out of your house. I’m sorry. Make sure you absolu if you have to throw it away. If you ask after, ask a friend to throw it away. That is totally OK to like. You know, if you say to a friend, this has a lot of weird feelings for me. Can you just get rid of this? That’s totally a cool thing to do as well.
S5: But make sure it’s like hanging around her house to remind you of these things, or I honestly wouldn’t have put it past him like like sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night and going to wherever your stuff was stored. And like it’s like living in an area like, I don’t think that he did because it sounds like logistically that would have meant he was anticipating the break up. But like this, the specificity of the request is very suspicious here. You mean you owe this man nothing? And good luck. I’m so glad that you got to move away and get out of that relationship. Yeah. Congrats. Okay. Let’s have a nice, simple problem. Okay. The subject is disgruntled librarian Dear Prudence. I love to read. And in the past I’ve loaned many of my books out to friends. I’ve recently decided to stop lending them out, but I have a lot of books still floating around out there with friends of mine, some for over a year, and some that I’ve just given up on is lost. Is there a polite way to ask? Can you please return my books? There’s no hard feelings. I don’t even care if they got busy and lost interest in reading them. I’d just rather have my things returned as opposed to have my friends keep them forever because they’re too embarrassed to admit they don’t intend to read them. I find this irritating because whenever I am loaned anything, I make it a point to try and get it back to its owner within a reasonable timeframe.
S12: Yeah, just say, could you please return my book? That’s a very polite way is very polite way of doing it. I would just also add, I don’t think that there’s no hard feelings. I think you’re a little bit annoyed and it is totally okay to annoy and own that annoyance to yourself. At least it is annoying to lend something up to somebody and not get it back. That’s a human reaction to have and it’s totally normal to have. You don’t have to include that reaction in your request for the thing back. Right. But you can acknowledge yourself that, you know, that kind of pissed me off that loan book and I get back.
S7: And I think that’s partly why you’ve decided to change your policy. Right. Because you’re like, oh, I get really excited about this. And then when the other person doesn’t match my excitement, I feel annoyed. So I think good new strategy. And it’s incredibly polite to say, can you please return my books? It’s also, again, because sometimes people tend to not intend to withhold stuff from their friends, but it’s low down on their list of priorities because there’s no deadline attached to it. Right. So they just always let it slide in relation to like work things or stuff that’s more time pressing.
S5: So I think even just to say like, hey, I’m free this Saturday afternoon to stop by and pick up my books. Is that cool for you? Yeah, it will be easier because then you remove from them the deciding power of when it happens. You’re just letting them know this time works for me. Does it work for you? Yeah. And then if you say, Oh, I’m busy, then you list two or three more times that are good for you and ask for confirmation rather than why don’t you the person who’s already demonstrated it’s hard for you to assign value to this issue, decide when it’s gonna be resolved. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I remember the first time I ran into a friend who was like, oh, I don’t loan books out house in college. And I was both like very like offended. And also just like, how can this how can one human being have this kind of power? But obviously, I was just like, well, like I respected it. I didn’t try to talk him out of it, but, oh, that’s like I believe this. I would. What? You’re depriving me of joy and us further. This is this will not stand. And Rosa totally stood. And they were right not to let me. Their books. And they were happy people. And I just wanted a library.
S8: I am somebody who gets lent books all the time and never gives them back and feels incredibly guilty about it and then moves with a bunch of books from other people. And I am the terrible friend in this. It’s hard because like sometimes I’m kind of excited to hear about a book my friends excited about. But not so excited. I would would’ve gone and sort it out on my own. But so when it gets to the point of LNG, my copy, it’s hard to say like, no, I was faking it.
S12: Right. And I I I’ve come to realize that when I’m more interested in sort of what the lending of the book symbolically means. So I’m sort of like, oh, where were mine friends? Yes. OK. Like where? Let’s let’s symbolise and legitimize this further thing of friendship that we have through lending this book.
S3: And so in the last couple of months, especially as I was moving and realized that I literally had 250 pounds worth of books in my house, I had to sort of come to the conclusion that there has to be other ways to make this connection and to acknowledge that we have this deeper friendship or deeper understanding of each other, that this still means packrat being a pack rat and stealing other people’s books.
S5: Right. And I mean, like, I don’t even read the books I buy. Yeah. And I think that’s a pretty common trope. Like we see it on Twitter a lot. People like I’m always buying books and I I I don’t read them, but I want to read them. So it’s not even I think that maybe your friends aren’t excited about the books you recommend. It’s just that this is I think a lot of people are our eyes are bigger than our stomachs when it comes to reading. We don’t want to think of ourselves as readers, you know, I know I’m a voracious reader. I know who wants to be the dummy who’s like notebooks for me. They know I love spending six hours a day scrolling mindlessly through my phone and watching episodes of sitcoms I’ve already seen before. So it’s also very aspirational, which is, I think, part of the problem. Yeah, the human condition is a difficult one. It is.
S3: And I would just also say that the letter writer, if you’re giving these books in a spirit of connection and there’s something within them that you’re hoping to have a conversation with with a friend or whatever, and then you’re knocking them back and you’ve they’re never mentioned again. You can still have those conversations with their friends that you wanted to have that you were hoping sort of the books facilitated and focusing on that part of the exchange may also help to leave some of these very understood feelings of frustration that you’re having around this book.
S5: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. But super polite to ask the question. Yes, you framed it. This next one, I think the letter writer does not have the problem that they think they have or or rather that they they’re asking the wrong question. I think I agree with you. Okay. I think this one’s me. Right? Or was you just. I just read it. I always forget this. I think he just did the library. Then I want you to read this because I did the the food issue.
S13: That’s right. And food issues where that’s OK. Subjects. My jerk boyfriend wants to be a therapist. Dear Prudence, I have an awesome boyfriend who has shown me tons of support through our. Two years together and now I think it’s my turn to return the favor. He is interested in changing his work schedule and pursuing a college degree. I’m super excited for him and eager to help him navigate the whole process since I’ve been through it already. My concern is that he wants to pursue a psychology degree so he can become a therapist. I am worried something that I struggle with in our relationship is how he communicates when he is upset or more accurately, how he refuses to communicate when he’s upset. Also, he’s not particularly sensitive and prides himself on being brash, even if that means making someone else feel bad for his being rude. Being able to communicate and handling sensitive topics gracefully are not two of his strengths, but those seem like two very crucial skills for a therapist. Just yesterday when I mentioned that my little sister was seeking a new therapist, he said he thinks she’s too dramatic and sensitive and is exaggerating her symptoms of anxiety and depression. I shouldn’t have to defend my little sisters diagnosed medical condition to my wannabe therapist boyfriend, but I did and he was offended that I didn’t agree with him. Can I sit him down and say, I love you and I am excited to see you succeed the field that you’re passionate about? I don’t think you would be a good therapist because honestly, babe, sometimes you’re a jerk about mental health, and I worry that you don’t have the right attitude to be treating patients. Let’s think of something better suited to your many other talents. Do I tell him that I don’t think being a therapist is a good match for him? Do I trust that he’ll receive education and learn the skills that he needs to become the most kick ass therapist ever? Part of me wants you to say I’m awful for doubting his ability to succeed, but I have this feeling that he could do more harm than good. And I’m afraid to ignore it.
S5: There’s something almost admirable about the optimism of the most kickass therapist ever. Like you are really trying to put a positive spin on this. You know, just piece of shit relationship. And I think it’s time to stop. You sound tired. Mm hmm. I love this script. It is a wildly naive script. It is a script that is unwilling to engage in reality. Let’s think of something better suited to your many other talents is something you say to like somebody who wants to be, you know, an usher at your wedding and like, let’s give you the guest book. But but like, there’s just you’re you’re trying to make so much out of something that is so not good. Not bad at all. And the idea of, like, you know, this guy who doesn’t communicate when he’s upset, who’s not sensitive, who makes other people feel bad, who can’t handle sensitive topics gracefully and who prides himself on it and who prides himself on it and who’s like cruel when other people struggle with mental. On the idea that, like, you can give him this script and he’s like, oh, well, thanks for the redirect, babe. Yeah, maybe I should go into construction is just like. I think, you know, that’s not going to work. Yeah. He would get incredibly offended. How dare you say I wouldn’t make a good therapist. How dare you? You hate me. Apologize and tell me how sensitive I am right now.
S12: Right. I’m really curious about what your boyfriend thinks the therapist is good for and what what therapy actually is, is maybe the question here, because it’s telling people what’s wrong with them so that they do the shit you want them to do. Right. Yeah. Yeah.
S3: Is that that is the motivation to become a therapist. And I think you also know that deep down that that’s sort of what is bringing here. I will also add, if you have sort of looked into what therapy training is, I believe you’re often asked to go into therapy yourself. So I. I don’t think that this is going to satisfy your boyfriend. And as you already know in the ways that he seems to think it’s going to going to go down. But that’s not really the issue. I mean, the bigger issue is that you’re in a relationship with someone who can’t communicate when they’re upset, disrespects your sister and who you feel you have to couch things in these incredibly Peppe talky way.
S5: Yeah. This like bullshit pep talk language that you like. Open and close this with him. Like he’s an awesome boyfriend. He’s tone. Show me tons of support. You can’t think of any specific examples right now. Don’t worry, it’s there. I’m super excited for him. Ray, by the way, he’s a monster. Yeah. How do I remind him that he should never, ever work with vulnerable people? He’s the butt. Yeah. And again, I don’t say that to make fun of you. I get that you love him. But like this deluded attempt to try to deny reality is not doing you or him any.
S8: Yeah. No amount of positive thinking or positive language is going to change this particular orientation that he has towards the world. Also, just like what about my column makes you think that I would say I think you’re awful for doubting his ability to succeed. Like you kind of know on some level that I wasn’t going to give you that.
S12: Right. You have to know because you wrote to this particular column in particular. And so I think you already deep down sort of know about this stuff. And I’m also going to maybe a good way into start to think about how you could rethink this is you do say I shouldn’t have to defend my little sister’s diagnose medical conditions to my wannabe therapist boyfriend. Right. There is the maybe, perhaps true core of what you understand is going on. And also the fact that you that did you did the letter writer title, my drunk boyfriend. Oh, no. The love that was rooted. Yeah. No, I did not read the letter. So you yourself says. Say my jerk boyfriend. So I see in this letter also some real conflict in between what you are sort of wanting to put a positive spin on and also your both acknowledgement that your boyfriend is not a sensitive, caring person, the world and also your very justifiable anger and frustration around that. Yeah.
S5: So like unsurprisingly, my advice is I think you should dump this guy. Yeah, I think you should dump him immediately. And I don’t think he’s an awesome boyfriend. I think he sucks. You know, I think he’s an asshole. And I think he loves being an asshole. Also, just like add to this. Like, you know, he wants to go to college and get a psychology degree. That doesn’t make you a therapist. That makes you a college graduate with. Yeah. So like, you know, even on top of all of this, like. But but that’s I feel like a slight like that’s kind of not the point. Right. Because it’s like if it were really just like, don’t worry, you have seven years to figure this out. That would be one thing. But like, I don’t want to say that you can only date people who are perfect. But my goodness, if you were dating someone who doesn’t know how to fight. Conflict is a pretty critical part of any good relationship. And if somebody gets worse in a fight, that’s a really bad sign.
S10: And if they don’t communicate their feelings when they get upset and they regularly rely on pretending nothing is wrong, stonewalling, blaming you for something else like projecting, that’s exhausting and awful. Yeah. And that’s not something that I think he’s gonna get better at in a couple of weeks. No, it doesn’t even sound like he knows he does it or cares. Right.
S3: Exactly. You know, all of us come into relationships from at different points in our life. The fact that he doesn’t acknowledge that this is a problem and also would be incredibly combative if you tried to say, let’s work on this is the real question and an issue here.
S6: And also, you sort of you do say at the start that he’s show me tons of support throughout our two years together. Now, I think it’s my turn to return the favor.
S12: I want to also sort of get away from this quid pro quo. Thinking of this relationship to, you know, supporting you is sort of the bare minimum of what it really feels like.
S5: I don’t buy it. I believe he’s shown you a ton of support. I believe that you’re like I believe that you have convinced yourself that whenever he’s occasionally shown up, Malik, they had some flowers. The grocery story by U5. Then like, you’ve been like, oh, my God, what an amazing boyfriend. But like, nothing in this letter describes a supportive person to me. I don’t believe that he has been a supportive boyfriend to you. I believe that he’s like occasionally said nice things or like kissed you. I just I don’t read a supportive person. Yeah. So I. I call bullshit. I think that’s why there’s no details. Like. Very good point. You know, and that’s why she can pretend there were any. And so the whole like do I just trust that he’ll get the education like that, that I’ll be able to outsource this problem and hope that his like therapy teachers will teach him that he’s doing things wrong, that I don’t have to talk to him about it. That to me suggests that your what you’re bringing to the table here is a fear that if you honestly stated your expectation, that means in a relationship that you get laughed out of town. Yeah, but if you had said to your boyfriend, like, you’re not emotionally sensitive, you’re not intuitive. You don’t think about my needs when I’m not around. You don’t spend any time imagining what my internal experiences like or what other people’s internal experiences like. And I want and expect and need that from a partner to be like, good fucking luck finding that in a man. Yeah. I know that. That’s what I that’s what I fear is the case here. And so I just want to say the part of you that says I couldn’t possibly I have to pretend I’m happy with this like shitty small relationship, because if I ever admitted my real expectations or hopes secretly from a partner, I’d be laughed at and it would never get them. It would be made clear to me forever, once and for all, that I was expecting the moon. And I should be ashamed. That’s my fear. And I don’t want that for you. So I might, at my encouragement. Here’s for you to say to your boyfriend, you’re not sensitive. You’re rude. You pride yourself on your rudeness. You’re mean about my little sister. I don’t like it. I don’t like the way that you treat people. Yeah. And then if you know, if he says anything that you find interesting or compelling or loving or open, cool or willing to engage in and think about ways to change. But if his only response is like, how dare you? This is very unsupportive. Yeah, I’m amazing. Actually, you’re mistaken.
S9: And I think you know that this guy is not. Not just not a good therapist, but not a good boyfriend. Right. Right. Yeah.
S11: And I think there’s a reason you’re afraid to ignore it, because I think you’ve been ignoring it.
S13: Yeah. And, you know, two years can feel like a long time.
S3: But, you know, it’s it’s also enough to know the rhythms of your relationship. Who this person is. And I don’t want you to get into sort of like an idea of like I’ve already put two years in. Because in the grand scheme of things, that’s a very short period of time.
S11: You can disengage from this and find more. Yeah. Yeah. And often in a dynamic like this, there’s a sense of like, you know, if he showed me support by which I’m just going to choose to interpret, it’s like didn’t break up with me when I changed jobs. Right. I now for some reason owe him the exact same thing. She’s like. That’s not how relation’s network. No. You don’t win additional time by being supportive. It’s not like a pinball game where you’re like, oh, I hit the like thirty point sign a couple of times I pinball while sorry. So that means I get like an extra three rounds. It’s like, no, you get to end a relationship when it’s not working for you and you’re unhappy. And I think you’re unhappy with this guy. Yeah. Good luck. I think your life is gonna be so much better when you dump him. Yep. Agreed. And I don’t think he’s ever going to become a therapist. I really don’t. I do not think so either. Yeah. Kaitlin, I really enjoyed agreeing with you today. I know there is a lot of agreement. I had a great time. I just I don’t mean that at all as a. Nuck, OK. I think the ways in which we agreed were important and invigorate. OK. Yeah. Thank you so, so much.
S5: Thank you for having me. I’ve also been meaning to say I love your ring. Oh, thank you. This is my engagement ring. It’s beautiful and it looks lightly, Kirst. It is in the best possible sense. In the best possible sense.
S12: Yeah, it’s it’s like a. They claimed it was a black sapphire. If that’s a thing. But we’ve got it vintage online and there’s like a little flare inside it.
S11: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I’m later going with a couple of friends to buy a lot of masculine jewelry. Huh. Because there’s a sale at a department store and I recently in the year 2020 started watching The Sopranos for the first time. My main takeaway has been I’d like a lot of like gold, grey, slippery slope. Yeah. So that’s exactly the kind of things that happen. So I’m about to go pick up you just like show me your most macho jewelry. I want to adorn myself with that.
S3: I have a friend and he just recently started wearing like a George Michael style Eros earring. I have some of those. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this cross earring and what it means and where it goes and all these sorts of things. But it looks fantastic.
S5: I have to say there may there. They look great once they. There’s a reason George Michael started a trend, which is it looks amazing to wear a single cross area. And I love it. Yeah. Caitlin, thank you so much. Jason’s delightful. Yeah. Makes.
S14: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Phil Circus.
S15: Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com, slash dear prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus, go to slate.com slash pretty pod to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for 0 1 3 7 1, dear. That’s 3 3 2 7. And you might hear your answer on an 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. Keep it short. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S5: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. You don’t see what feels most crucial to you, whether it’s ending the relationship with your boyfriend, getting rid of the property that you co-own, quitting the job, getting out of the suburbs. It might be helpful to list like in what order these things matter to you. Yeah, because maybe the boyfriend would want to come with you. Maybe you don’t want him to come with. Maybe he’s number one of the things to get rid of. I don’t know. You are allowed to break up with nice people who care about you. Like I think sometimes, especially when I hear from women who are like. But he’s a good person. She’s like, fine. Many people are good.
S10: If that meant you owed them lifelong relationships, you would never get to do anything else. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate, dot com forward slash prudy pod.