The “Blood or Marriage?” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: Your freedom, your prudent effort here, prudence, dear, dear Prudence here prove, do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thank you. Thank you.

S3: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel and Lavery. With me in the studio this week is Natalie Walker, a performer and writer. She’s contributed to Fulcher, the Cut and book forum, and can be found on stage at 54 below ARS Nova and Joe’s Pub. Her television credits include and are limited to search party and BoJack Horseman. Natalie, welcome to the show, Danny.

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S4: Hello. This is so exciting for me.

S1: It’s really exciting. I’m so used to hearing this voice when you’re doing front facing videos or performing on stage. So it’s really fun to get to hear it in a conversation.

S4: Yeah, and I’ve just been obsessed with your writing forever, but this is our first SEMIH meeting. And so this is this is very, very thrilling to me.

S1: This is the way that you meet people now. This is how it happens.

S5: This is how it has to be.

S1: I’m really, really excited and I’m wondering if you would please read our first letter.

S4: AB so loosely subject to give or not to give.

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S5: Dear Prudence, I used to be a teacher and I live in a state that is having a large surge of covid-19 cases. It looks like schools may open in person this fall and my former colleagues are terrified. One is a single mom with underlying health conditions that make her very high risk. She recently wrote on social media that she feels like she is choosing between homelessness and risking her life by getting back to work. I don’t think anybody should have to make a choice like that. My husband and I just inherited money from his grandma that we don’t need. If schools do open, I would like to give it to my former colleague. I think it would be enough to get her family through most of this year so she wouldn’t have to go back to teach in person. My husband is on board with this. Is it appropriate to offer such a large gift to a former colleague? We aren’t close friends, but I admire her very much and she taught me a lot. And how should I phrase this email? I want to be clear that there is no pressure to take it and no strings attached.

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S1: This is a really lovely question. Yeah, my only thought here is that this might not be a conversation for email, but, you know, you’ve talked it over with your husband. You don’t need the money. You would like to offer it to your former colleague. I think that’s a great impulse. You’re also very clear that if she says no, you’ll understand. You know, aside from maybe checking in with a lawyer to find out how you should handle the possibility of such a large gift on your taxes next year, I think you’re pretty much ready to move ahead. So I wouldn’t I wouldn’t worry about the question of whether or not it’s appropriate. You want to it would not be a financial burden on you. You’re willing to take no for an answer that seems appropriate to me. Do you have any other thoughts there?

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S4: No, I think yeah, I think the impulse is really is really beautiful. And all of the sort of caveats it feels like have already been brought up in the letter that can be clarified, whether it be in the email or in the conversation of saying like it’s not a burden. As you said, there’s no pressure. I think as long as those things are also made clear to the potential recipient, then I think it’s just a. A really lovely thing to even ask, even if the person is ultimately uncomfortable with it, right?

S1: Yeah, the only other thought I would add there is that if you want to look for ways to support teachers in your area who are considering going on strike or making other demands of management to protect them and their students, that would also be a really good way to protect colleagues and former colleagues in addition to this one woman. But I also don’t want to say like because you want to help this one person, it’s now also incumbent upon you to fix the whole problem. I get that the problem is system wide and not something that you yourself can solve. I think that’s pretty much it. My only other suggestion would be make it a phone call, because then you can kind of walk her through your reasons. You can hear her thoughts. You can let her know you don’t have to respond right away. But, you know, although you would maybe later want to put it down in writing. So you have like records of making a gift for taxes. Again, you know, it’s a slightly more personal conversation than just like, hey, how you doing? Would you like, you know, thirty thousand dollars or whatever?

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S4: Yeah. Feels very Nigerian prince via email.

S1: Maybe I can definitely see that a little bit like is. Hang on. Have you been hacked. Like is this real. But this is a lovely, nice, easy question. I mean the circumstances under which this gift is being contemplated are not easy, but the impulse here is lovely and I really kind one. I don’t have a lot of other thoughts there. I think you seem very clear that, you know, it’s not a permanent solution, but it’s also just like when you’ve got money you don’t need and you want to think about ways to either help one person a lot or many people a little, that’s a good thing. So the next one is a little bit thornier. Yeah, it’s a lot funnier, actually, and it will probably also involve at least some of the answer being you should talk to a lawyer. But I think it’s my turn to read. So I’ll go ahead and take this.

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S3: The subject is unforeseen effects of my platform. Dear Prudence, I’m a white female college student. A few months ago, I started a classifieds Twitter account for my university, where I solicited and published verbatim anonymous messages from students to their friends or crushes. The page took off a few weeks ago. I began getting a lot of submissions from students about anti blackness and sexual assault at our school. These are important topics to share with an audience, so I publish them verbatim. To recently, the inbox has started spiraling out of control. I get dozens of heart wrenching messages every day. Submitters have started to engage me directly before sending in their posts, asking who I am. I’ve been anonymous so far and how to phrase their submissions. It’s understandable given the sensitive content, but it’s also a massive amount of support and work I’m really not prepared to provide. I’ve had to develop editorial standards on the fly. Do I allow posts that explicitly name accused abusers or do I keep things anonymous? Do I use content warnings? Are there any posts I should decline? And I’ve gotten hate messages from all sides, from conservative students who deny sexual assault and racism or problems, and from submitters who are upset with the backlog of posts awaiting publishing as they try to figure all this out. What should I do? I want to use my privilege to provide a forum for discussing oppression that people seem to find valuable. At the same time, I feel so ill equipped and emotionally unable to handle this tremendous responsibility I did not anticipate. I feel like I can’t tell anyone about this since no one knows who I am and I don’t want to violate the trust of my scimitars.

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S4: Whoo! Yeah, this is an incredibly complicated one.

S1: Yeah, yeah, and I think it’s part of the reason why, for example, newspapers or journalists, journalism outlets have consistent industry wide standards about vouching for somebody’s identities or fact checking or holding somebody’s identity a secret. And they’re able to do so in their protected both in some ways by law and in other ways, by industry norms. And that’s part of the disadvantage of the work that you have been doing. So I I really do think your first move here should be to consult a lawyer, which you can often do for free or have an initial consultation over the phone. That’s a very reduced rate. Doesn’t mean you’re necessarily hiring somebody to represent you. But I think it’s very important to figure out what your legal obligations are, especially if people have been providing you with information of crimes being committed because you really want to make sure that you are legally protected and also that you know that you’re not failing to report something that you have a legal obligation to do. So that, I think, would be my first piece of advice. Absolutely. Do you have any other things that you think this letter writers should bear in mind? Do you think she sounds prepared to continue doing this? Do you think this is something she needs to start wrapping up? Do you think it’s like she needs to stop right now?

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S4: Yeah, that’s that’s the real that’s the real tricky question. I think while as I was just watching, I made a strong view this morning, which deals with sexual assault in many ways and very nuanced takes on coercion and consent. And the episode that I was watching this morning is how sort of spoilers for the U.S., because I have been watching a head on a VPN in the U.K. She sort of she exposes an abuser and then becomes this sort of social media vigilante, exposing and saying all of these men. And it starts to take such a toll on her that, like her blood pressure is elevated when she goes into the doctor and she ultimately deletes everything. But she so much of the episode deals with her taking on not only her own stress from being sexually assaulted at the start of the series, but. Taking on other people’s stress, because she, prior to all of this, had already trained herself to compartmentalize, but she’s taking on all of everyone else’s problems. And so I understand I understand here the impulse to use your platform. To bring to light issues on your campus, especially now as all of these social media accounts are being made for, like black at Exeter or black at Princeton or black at whatever institution where all of these stories are really coming to light so that people can see and read the way it is for a lot of marginalized people. But I ultimately think that you are a college student. You are not. Equipped to. Take on all of these systemic issues all at once and all by yourself and again with with no legal help as of yet, which could land you if you’re if you end up saying a name or if names start being outed by, like even commenters on your page, that’s something that could land you in hot water and ultimately end up doing a lot of the work that you’ve been trying to achieve with this. So I think I think not stop it right now. I think reaching out to a lawyer is is a really smart next step. But I do think you need to start thinking about an exit strategy and how to wrap it up in a way that feels like. And unburdening as opposed to running away or disappearing?

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S1: Yeah, I think my strongest impulse here is the letter writer says I want to use my privilege to provide a forum for discussing oppression that people seem to find valuable. At the same time, I feel ill equipped and emotionally unable to handle this responsibility. So part of what that tells you right there is that your desire to use your privilege, that’s one thing. But you know that you are not equipped to do it. You also know that you’re not equipped to protect and defend the identities of the people who get in touch with you. If, for example, like the creator of the shitty media men list, someone wanted to pursue a lawsuit against you. So the question is not did you have good intentions? And the questions also not are the other methods that students might have for seeking redress, flawed, imperfect, dangerous, resistant to change on their own. Because that can also be true, too. Like, I think part of why you’re you’re getting this feedback is because, you know, between the title nine offices or campus safety departments or the police, oftentimes, you know, people’s requests for help are ignored or denied or pushed aside. And so it’s very important to figure out what are alternatives to those things. But it doesn’t mean that just starting this account with good intentions is the only way that you can be useful to other people. And so I think the key here is you don’t feel equipped to keep doing it. You don’t have a strong sense of how to develop editorial standards and you don’t know what your legal rights, protections and obligations are. That third point you can go learn more about by talking to a lawyer. But as for the rest of it, if you do not continue this Twitter account, that does not mean that your fellow students will never be able to file complaints, talk about their experiences, get together and try to collectively agitate for change. All of those opportunities will still be available to them. So I think what you’re experiencing here is maybe a sense of I went into this with good intentions, but I did not seek to learn more about work that other people might have already been doing in this area. I didn’t learn what my legal rights and obligations were, and I figured, I’ll just do this by myself and the good intentions will carry the rest. And that didn’t work. And so now you know that that doesn’t work. Doesn’t mean you have to think I should never try to help people again. Doesn’t mean you have to think I you know, I’ve I’ve only done bad. But I do think that this is a sign that the work that you are doing is not something that you can continue in the same way. And you will have to find other ways to find ways to be useful to other people. And that, yeah, I don’t know. I sometimes get nervous when people say something about using my privilege, because sometimes it seems like it means I want to address feelings of unresolved guilt by just doing the first thing that comes to mind. And again, I don’t say that to come down too hard on this letter writer, but it seems like you’re aware now of, oh, good intentions. Don’t take you very far.

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S4: Totally. And it’s it’s also the the very bizarre thing about the pandemic and about the the new landscape we all find ourselves in, which is that this this account started for the letter writer as like a fun Gossip Girl thing. And now the shape of conversations has shifted. And it’s and so people are responding and the things that they’re sending in have changed. And so fundamentally, the the assignment that you gave yourself when you started this account has changed. And you are no longer. Fit to carry out that assignment.

S1: Yeah, and I think one thing that will help is that if in the future you want to do work, either helping people process their feelings or ask for redress or, you know, push for change is look for ways to do that work that are not in isolation. Look for ways to do that, work with people with experience, where there is accountability, where you can check your motives and your tactics with others. And that will help serve you well, I think in the future. And you can tell a lawyer about this, you can talk to potentially a therapist about this. Both of those types of conversations can be privileged and confidential, although I can’t promise you that there are never any instances in which they would need to report something if you shared something with him. That was something that they had to report. But but you can stop. You are not the only option that other people have for seeking redress and good luck. This is a lot to kind of wade through. And I hope we get to hear back from you in a couple of months or a year or two and hear how you’re doing.

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S4: Do you take this next one? Yeah, the subject is blood or marriage, Dear Prudence. My husband hates my brother.

S5: I have tried for years to try to sort all of this out, but it is not working now that they differ in political opinions. It has made my life even worse. I only talk to my brother occasionally. My husband and I only see him once a year. But now my husband is demanding that I confront my brother and choose between them. I do agree with a lot of my husband’s political beliefs, but I am not a confrontational person. I was raised to see the good in people despite our differences. When I try to say this to my husband, he says it is stupid and says if your brother was a serial killer, would you still find the good? I think he’s making things too black and white. I have already cut off my dad mainly because of my husband, but I don’t think I can cut off my brother to it would hurt my mom, who is my best friend. How do I decide when we are not arguing about politics? Things are good, but I am tired of hearing him put down my brother and family. He is like a dog with a bone and doesn’t let go. The only family I have is my mom and my brother. My husband is cut people out of his life before without a second thought. For me it is not that easy. It took 10 years of trying with my dad before I finally gave up. Should I confront my brother and try to make my marriage work or give in to my husband’s demands?

S1: One thing that really struck me about this letter was the ways in which it chose vagueness.

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S4: Yes. What are the political beliefs like? What are the exact what are the exact circumstances of the disagreements?

S3: Yeah, yeah. There are political beliefs, political disagreements where I might say, OK, I understand the decision not to pursue confrontation there. That’s OK. And there are political differences where I would say, no, you need to choose confrontation here. Even if you don’t like it. It’s more important than just doing what feels good. Yes. And the fact that you don’t say what they are, I think you did that on purpose. Letter writer.

S6: I think you wanted to make it sound a little bit abstract and a little bit vague because you want to make it sound like, hey, they just happen to have slightly different interpretations of, you know, the Whig Party or something.

S1: It’s very like theoretical, as if, like, your husband’s trying to make something out of nothing. But like, are these opinions, things that affect people’s actual lives or abilities to be safe or pursue justice or feed themselves or get health care or or housing. Because in that case, it’s not just a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of lives. Are these things that have also resulted in like personal attacks or like insults or harm in some other way that that your husband has been carrying around? I would have to know the answer to these questions before I could say anything else. So, you know, I guess my my only question for this letter writer is you say you’ve tried for years to sort all of this out, but it’s not working. What have you tried? Do you mean that you try to calm your husband down and then later you try to calm your brother down? Do you mean that you facilitated honest conversations about your values with one another? Do you mean that you’ve pursued conflict even when it made you uncomfortable, or do you mean that you’ve tried to minimize things, be specific about what you have done, and then be specific about what options are available to you before and until you get to a point where cutting somebody out of your life is necessary and then ask whether or not you can do any of those things.

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S6: I just beyond that, I can’t really make a ruling whether or not your husband’s being reasonable or just curmudgeonly, I just don’t know. Right. So, yeah, I hate to have a question where I say I kind of can’t answer your question, but the question is, should I confront my brother and try to make my marriage work or give in to my husband’s demands? I don’t know. I would need to know what these things are.

S4: It even seems like the phrasing of the question when we ultimately get there is sort of designed to. Uphold social niceties of sort of saying, like, should I give in to my husband’s demands, sort of making him sound like this sort of authoritarian.

S7: Tyrant.

S4: Because really, to me. It it the read the read that I’m getting is that the brother is the one that maybe is.

S7: Supporting.

S4: This administration or something like that, that’s my gut on it and in that way, but I can’t really.

S1: Yeah, I mean, I definitely have impulses here, ways that I would like to fill in the blanks, ways that I feel fairly confident about how I would fill in the blanks, but I really can’t do that. So letter writer, I don’t often do this. Please write back with more specifics and we will take another pass at your letter. But that’s all I got. Yes. All right. I like I didn’t realize this, but I think I kind of alternated more straightforward questions with really complicated ones.

S6: So this next one, I think, again, is going to be fairly cosmetic, which I’m happy about. So the subject here is emailing morning students.

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S3: Dear Prudence, I teach undergrads in an online program. I’ve been teaching in this program for about seven years and often have to respond to emails from students about tragic events and family deaths when responding. I usually start with something like this. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and hope you’re able to share happy memories of X with your loved ones in the coming days. Or I hope you’re able to be with loved ones as you mourn your loss. I then address their questions and remind them that I’m available to help. I’ve always thought this was fine. Recently I was talking with a colleague who suggested this was inappropriate since I don’t know whether my students have loved ones to mourn with. And it may be painful for some to hear, especially since they don’t know the nature of my students relationship to the deceased, she suggested. I keep my message more generic, like I’m sorry for your loss, since it’s less likely to offend and is an overly personal. I make an effort to cultivate a friendly tone with my students, since an online classroom can be impersonal and this seems too generic, especially when my students emails are vulnerable and engaged. Is there a right answer here? If I’m coming across as overly personal, I want to know, should I just say I’m sorry for your loss and jump right into answering their questions about assignments and extensions?

S4: Yeah, I would not. I understand what your colleague is saying, but I personally would not have a problem because loved ones can really mean anything. I think loved ones doesn’t have to mean family. But I would say if you’re worried about the relationship to the deceased in the future, just send her the student. I would say sort of like I hope you are feeling supported and cared for in this time because it’s really what you care about in this moment is the student and making sure the student is receiving the care and support and love that they need.

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S1: Yeah, that’s a great tweak. I really don’t even think that that tweak is necessary. I totally agree. I think loved ones is incredibly broad. It’s not overly personal. If a student emails you in obvious distress about a death, I think it’s safe to assume that at the very least, they’re upset about the death and are hoping to receive comfort and support. So, yeah, I don’t see anything in here that feels like it assumes that the student in question has like this perfect nuclear family and that they’re going to be surrounded by unmitigated love and affection. I just I just don’t agree with your colleague. I suppose since I’m not myself an academic, you could maybe check in with a couple of other colleagues and see what their read of the situation is. But, you know, I also often hear about or from teachers whose response of students loss is very skeptical and often dismissive and cruel. And so I don’t even know that not to assume that all of your colleagues are like that, but I would just say, you know, there might very well be a consensus that you disagree with. And I think that that would be appropriate to. Nothing you’ve described here strikes me as too personal, making really wild assumptions about the student’s life. Natalie, I think that was a great tweak. But beyond that, I’m sorry for your loss is also fine.

S6: It’s not awful, but they’re both OK options. So I just think your your your colleague is bringing something to the table here that you’re not actually doing. Yes. So if you want to tweak it, you can. I just don’t think that you have to I don’t think you’ve written anything that’s like obviously you love this person and they never did anything wrong. You’re just saying that death is painful and grief is hard. That’s it. That’s all I got.

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S4: Yep. All right. Next one subject only pictures left.

S5: Dear Prudence. When I was 19, my 17 year old girlfriend died in a car accident. She was eight months pregnant. Our daughter lived for eight minutes. Her mother blamed my family, cremated the bodies without a funeral and moved away. I only have a few pictures of us together. The most important one was of. Cradling my girlfriend and her pregnant belly, I don’t display them, I kept them in a box with other keepsakes like the baby blanket and stuffed toys my late grandma made for us. My now fiancee knows this history. We were living with her mother while looking for a house. My sister recently announced her pregnancy and I decided to send her the stuffed toys our grandmother made. I pulled the box out from under my bed to find that the toys and baby blanket were still there. But none of the pictures. I freaked out. I opened every other box we had in the garage. My fiance and her mother came to find me tearing out my hair. When I told them my pictures were missing, her mother said she got rid of them weeks ago, quote, as a favor because they were, quote, ghoulish. I left immediately because I wanted to hit her and moved into a hotel. My fiance kept calling saying she knew what her mother did was wrong, but that I wasn’t helping the situation by overreacting. She said it worried her how irrational I was being over a picture of a dead girlfriend. I said that picture was the closest I had to a picture of my dead daughter. I never got to hold her or bury her. She apologized, but I haven’t been able to go back. And I’ve moved into a cheap apartment with most of my boxes. We can’t find a therapist here and I’m not sure how we can get past this. Her mother was always pushing boundaries, but nothing like this. I don’t have any other pictures of my dead girlfriend other than my high school yearbook. None of them are of her while she was pregnant. How do I move on from here?

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S6: Not only is there any part of you that thinks this is a salvageable relationship, I really don’t think so.

S4: It really feels like he had been open with his fiancee about what this meant to him, how much this death affected him, these deaths affected him. And and for her to minimize the horror of what her mother did in this way is is really, really distressing.

S6: Yeah, I am suspicious that her mother acted alone or at the very least had not been having conversations with your girlfriend on this subject where they both expressed a desire to do what the mother eventually did. Yes, I just think like. I don’t know how you come back from this, I don’t know how you atone for this. I don’t know how they could ever make that right. This is irreplaceable. It took up such a small place in your life, not that it would have been OK if you had had like a private shrine and then like then she would have been justified in throwing it away. But it’s just. What she did is ghoulish, what she did, she can never undo your fiance. They said that you were overreacting. She called you irrational for wanting to have a picture of your dead girlfriend and the child you never got to meet. I just really think that this is not like an isolated incident or something she did in a fit of temper. I think they both really, really believe that they did the right thing and that you’re just going to need to get over it. And I don’t think you can trust them. And I think the way to move on is to say this is devastating. I’m suffering. Take care of yourself, reach out to your friends, keep trying to find a therapist on your own, but. I think the only upside here is that you found this out before you got married like this is just I don’t see a way, even if they were both, like, desperately sorry and wanted to try to make this right, it would still be really difficult to imagine how you could come back from this, given that they have done a lot of after the fact justifying and minimizing that tells me that you can’t trust them.

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S4: Yeah, no. It’s an absolutely repugnant carelessness with malicious and careless. Yeah. Yeah.

S6: And especially when that line towards the end she was always pushing boundaries. It’s just like, oh, so this is part of a pattern like this. Will this will happen again.

S4: I think if you go back into that relationship and I’m just so, so, so sorry because of you, because ultimately if you go back into that relationship, especially with them having responded to. Your renewed trauma in this way of trying to write it off, of trying to trivialize that if you go back, I know the way this this woman sounds, especially the mother, but also sort of the your fiance’s complicity in that behavior. It feels like the mother will say like, oh, I did him a favor.

S6: Yeah. Yeah. I think the only way out of this is out of this. And I’m so, so, so sorry. It’s just awful. I wish I could get those pictures back for you. Maybe if you have any other I mean, he’s not in contact with any of her family members. Maybe if you have any friends, maybe you can canvass them and say, does anyone have pictures of prom night that they can share? Does anyone have pictures of high school that you can share? You might not ever be able to get back a picture from the time that the two of you were expecting a child together, but you might at least be able to get something. And I want that for you. Right. We have a little bit of time if you’re available to listen to a voicemail, which we rarely get to do. Are you in?

S4: Oh, absolutely. Great.

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S8: Oh, oh, oh, oh, dear Prudence, I don’t know what to do about my father in law’s second wife. I’ve had a complicated relationship with her for the better part of a decade. She is the most accomplished, mean girl I have ever met. Also, I have borderline personality disorder. For me, though, small, passive aggressive slights can feel really damaging my husband. Autism spectrum disorder, which means, by and large, she simply doesn’t notice them after hours of conversation, a lot of them involving therapists. My husband and I are on the same page about her behavior, but we don’t know what to do about it. He can’t protect me in the moment from her because he simply doesn’t notice them. Passive aggression is lost on him, and it hurts me too much to have anything to do with her, I think. What do I do?

S1: I’ll just start by saying I love this thing and I just really love about saying I don’t know what to do about my father in law’s second wife. It feels decadent, luxurious. It feels like something a bourgeois might say, or maybe even just somebody from one of the Ripley novels.

S4: Absolutely. Or like a dynasty moment. I just I’m envisioning shoulder pads and sequins and martini glasses that are being precariously held on Talon’s. I’m just so into it all the way. Yeah.

S6: And I’m also really sorry, obviously, because it’s it sounds unbelievably wearing and wearying. You know, there’s not a lot in here about your husband’s relationship to his father, which I’m a little bit curious about. Like you say that you and your husband are on the same page, but his ability to catch those moments as they happen and help you are limited. So I guess my question there is, is he close with his father? Have they ever talked about it? Does his father have any understanding of this is a problem? Are there any other relatives who share your experience or the two of you kind of isolated in this? Right. Do you feel like you have a strong sense of if this was your situation, what would be kind of your first impulse? What would be your like? I’ll do this if I have to, but not unless I have to. What are your priorities here, if this is you?

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S9: I think my priorities here, if it’s in-laws. Did we get a sense of how often they see each other?

S1: I didn’t know, yeah, I didn’t know if it was like they lived down the street or on the other side of the country or what.

S4: Right. I think that’s that’s sort of a main question for me, because obviously this sort of negative, relentless digging behavior is extremely frustrating and emotionally exhausting, but.

S9: I wish I had had more of a sense of how often you are being forced to endure the emotional labor of bearing all of that, because if it were me in this sort of situation and I don’t have borderline personality disorder, but I have my own sort of laundry list of of mental issues. And I think if I were feeling. Attacked by an in-law that I didn’t see that much. I would be more inclined to. Just armer up before going to see them at whatever holiday or family gathering, but if this is the type of situation where you’re being forced to see this person weekly, even even monthly for an extended period of time, and it’s really wearing on you. I think that’s something that you. Have to talk to your partner about and and. Either try to extricate yourself from future situations that way, say to your partner, I really don’t feel comfortable being around this person, it is wearing on me and negatively impacting my day to day. I am exhausting a lot of emotional energy in this, and I think. I think your partner should understand that, should respect you needing to create that boundary.

S6: Yeah, one thought that struck me about that was your husband agrees that she’s doing this and he’s also agreeing that it’s hurting you and that’s good. And so one option you might have, you know, if you want to feel like I’ve done the sort of like small escalations before the bigger, I can’t be around you unless and until you stop treating me like this is you can say to your husband, like next time she does it, I’m going to say something. I’m going to make sure I don’t, like, lash out and say something that I can never take back. But I’m going to say something that will make it very clear to you husband as well as whoever else is around, that I’m hurt by what you just said, and I would like her to apologize and knock it off. I think if you two can talk about that in advance and agree on whatever kind of language that you would need to use so that your husband would not have to rely on trying to pick up on a cue, that’s difficult for him to see. That seems like surely he would be able to respond to a direct request for an intervention.

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S4: Absolutely. To to make clear. Yeah. To make clear in the moment. Hey, the thing that I have talked to you about in private is now happening in public in this moment.

S6: Yeah. Yeah. Like, if he doesn’t notice them when they happen. And it’s partly to do with the way that he like processes and orders, you know, external information finally agree on a way that that will bring his attention to it, whatever that is, and then do that if if that doesn’t help or if that results in like further conflict and insults in ways that feel really exhausting, you know, you don’t have to. But it does strike me as one possibility before you kind of do the bigger moment off. Like, I, I just don’t like being around you. But you can also, I think, just say that, you know, I think there’s also value to saying I know we often I often advise people to use like their partner as a buffer or a go between when they’re dealing with in-laws. And I do often think that that’s best. But you can also speak on your own behalf here. And if you just want to say directly to her, like. The ways that you put me down are constant, the passive aggressive, they hurt my feelings and I don’t like it. I don’t like being around you. When you treat me this way, I’m going to leave. You can really just say that you don’t need your husband’s permission to say it. It’s not rude. It’s not cruel. It speaks directly to your own experience. It’s not getting involved in family business that, you know, doesn’t concern you as an outsider who only married in. Does that seem reasonable?

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S4: Yes, absolutely.

S1: You know, I’m fully on board right now with anyone who’s like, do I have your permission to stop talking to a relative? Possibly too much.

S6: But I think you do have options here. And I don’t want you to feel like just because your husband can’t catch these moments as they happen, that you have no other options. It’s not just a case of having to endure it because he’s not making it up. There are ways that you can object to it on your own behalf and ways that you can just say, I’m out of here. This dinner sucks. I’m not having a good time. And I think that’s kind of it. I think that’s my best advice for a lot of the people that we heard from today, which is that ultimately, if you’re having a lousy time, you just want to go home. Go home.

S4: Yes. Always, always, always.

S6: Almost always an option. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the show today. As always, your voice is a gift.

S4: Thank you so much for having me. Was such a joy to talk to you. Oh, what a dream.

S3: Yeah, it was wonderful. Thank you for bringing a little bit of Samantha to the call.

S4: Oh, anytime, darling.

S10: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is still cercas, our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Had to slate dot com. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to sleep, dotcom. Pretty hard to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three to seven. 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, 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

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S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I think the obvious question is like, do you think there’s any way they could have made different decisions about sleepovers aside from being informed that their daughter was dating a girl? Like, I think they’re trying to blame homosexuality for something that, like compulsive heterosexuality is responsible for, which is they your parents apparently raised two children without ever thinking how would we want to handle things like sleepovers or trips together if one of our kids was gay or bisexual or otherwise queer? To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate. Dot com forward slash pretty pod.