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S2: Dear Prudence Dear Prudence Gifford here prudence here putting the approval here. Do. Is think that I should contact him again. Help help. Thank you.
S3: Thank you.
S4: Hello and welcome back to the Dear Prudence show once again. And as always I am your host Dear Prudence also known as Daniel Mallory or bring with me in the studio this week is my honey my baby my ragtime gal Conner Goldsmith a literary agent at fused literary specializing in sci fi slash fantasy fiction and a variety of non-fiction subjects. To be clear I meant sci fi and fantasy not sci fi and slash fantasy although I mean if you’ve got that.
S5: Yeah yeah. Connor is available. I mean I’m I’m flexible. Oh my God I’m just so happy to have you here.
S6: I could scream. I’m so excited to be here. It’s a really it’s a lot of fun. I’ve the right opinions about everything. That’s very flattering thank you. I disagree but I will take it under advisement that you feel that way because it makes me feel good.
S7: Do you have an idea of like what role you’re gonna inhabit as are you to be strict. And are you going to be like a relaxed uncle. Are you gonna be like a sinister godmother what’s your what’s your vibe today.
S8: I was actually talking to my mother about it this morning because I was like just happened to be talking to her and she was like well Connor Don’t be too mean because you can sometimes be very strident and so do any of the letter writers if I come across a little strident I apologize and my mother has encouraged me to be a little nicer so I’m going to try my best. I just when I you know I love trying to help people I’m like I’m that sort of like meddling yenta friend who’s like wants to be everyone’s mom kind of in my friend group in that sense like not in other senses but in the sense of like Okay let’s fix it.
S9: And you know so my my inclination is always to be like you have to do this and maybe that will help but so I’m going to try to be a little gentler. But I think my natural tendency is a little bit like you know talk some sense into you and a little bit. So I’m going to I’ll try. I’ll try to be a little more chill uncle if I can.
S4: I do like the idea though of like periodically invoking the spirit of your mother. Like if I’ll just say I’m like okay what would your mother say right now.
S9: We can you know my mother is very good at giving advice. So she’s like I get it from my momma in that sense. So it would be that would be she’d be very good at this park as maybe she’d have her at some point. Next up I’ll get the whole family on. Yeah. Why not. My dad’s funny OK. Would you read our first letter. Sure. All right. So the subject is secrets and it begins.
S10: Dear Prudence my husband and I grew up in the same small town. We have a two year old son for a birthday present. I got both of us an ancestry kit. I wish to God I never came up with the idea. The results came back saying we are actually first cousins on the paternal side. This news unsettles me and has left my husband’s world in tatters. His parents have been married for 30 years and my husband always held his mother close to sainthood. He will not talk about this to me. We are sleeping in separate rooms and he is starting to affect our son. All my uncles are happily married. I thought I find myself looking through photo albums of our childhood together and trying to figure out the truth. This secret is poisoning my marriage and I am terrified it will blow up the rest of our family. My father in law likes to rap Sidibe. How he married the first girl he ever kissed. This is going to kill him. I can’t confide in my mother or sisters. We were supposed to visit this summer.
S9: So like if nothing else I hope that one thing this podcast can do is talk at least one person out of ordering those DNA. Yeah. That was your first mistake. Actually in a small town. I feel like I know people who something like this has happened to where it’s like whoops you like you’re not related to your dad. And that’s like not. Or you are where you here or you are. I mean in this case that’s that when I was reading this at first I thought that like the incest thing was going to be the dilemma and then problem right. But then I realized that like oh no it’s also like an infidelity thing that’s like a huge nightmare now because with the incest thing I was gonna be like listen you’re your cousins you’re not siblings you didn’t grow up thinking of yourselves as related totally like there are plenty of places around the world where people marry their first cousins and it’s not considered that weird like I think you should just get over that personally.
S6: But then it becomes a little more complicated once you factor the other stuff in so I think there. Do you want me to just go. I don’t know how. Yes. Just go. Okay just go. By the way though I love that our take on this was both very like. It’s not really and I was like it’s not I mean it’s like it’s like fine it’s like not why you wouldn’t like go out of my way to date my cousin but like if you accidentally married your cousin like worse things could happen to you. That is exactly where I come down. We are the same and that’s what you missed on game of thrones. So I kept arguing that when we were talking of game of thrones the like they didn’t know who cares anyway. So but it should.
S9: I think there are really two different issues here and the first one is the more complicated issue which is the relationship with your husband because he seems very upset obviously. And that has to be something that you guys need to figure out. But then you’re sort of conflating it with this other question which is should I tell anyone. Like should we tell them to which I personally feel like the answer is no. Like I don’t see the UN unless your husband simply can’t live with this.
S11: I don’t see the upside in like blowing up this marriage potentially 30 years later or like telling his sibling like you know I just don’t see why that would be a good thing for anyone to do. Because obviously their family has been fine for however long.
S12: And people make mistakes and you know whatever happened it was 30 years ago and you know it’s probably not worth you know blowing up the family as you put it in order to give yourselves peace of mind.
S11: I think you opened the Pandora’s box a little bit with this DNA test and you found something unpleasant. And now I think it’s sort of on you to like not let the blast radius get me wider. That doesn’t help you though deal with this with your husband. I mean I feel like maybe you guys need to go to therapy. You say he won’t talk about it but like something’s got to give there. You know what I mean unless you or you break up like I don’t see how that’s sustainable. You’re already living in separate rooms like there’s the marriage is not good right now.
S7: Right. And I think yeah. Look I can almost see a way to steer them out of the various shoals here and get out to like we’ve process it as much as we feel like we need to and we’re just gonna let that one lie. Yeah. I don’t often give that advice but like I like the idea of trying for it but there’s so many so many different rocks they could found around I think the one that would probably be hardest at least for the husband right now is the sense of like so at least one of my parents saw me marrying this person and like using their memory remembered there was a decent chance we were cousins and didn’t say anything and that I think would be the hardest part for me would be like one of my parents knew that I was marrying somebody who is probably my cousin and didn’t say shit to me and that I think it’s like my mother didn’t say anything right.
S5: Like that that to me would feel like I don’t know that I can put that one away.
S11: But on the other hand if your SO they’ve been married for 30 years so my parents have been married for like a little over three years so let’s say let’s gauge these people like mid 50s to early 60s. Probably age wise right.
S8: I feel like if you’re in that age range unless you’re someone like my mom my mom’s coming up a lot I’m sorry.
S9: Who’s obsessed with genealogy so she loves the ancestry DNA stuff. But like I feel like most people would especially if you know they got married like five or six years ago before that was like a fad really before it was like on TV all the time. I feel like it wouldn’t occur to you that they would ever find out. So again it’s like one of those things was like yes like I made a mistake 30 years ago I was unfaithful. For all you know by the way his father knows this. And they moved on from it and he raised the kid as his own and didn’t have a like. And you know not to say didn’t have a problem but like clearly their marriage is good too. By all appearances so maybe this is something they worked through. But it’s also just as possible that the mother knew this was a possibility. Was never sure if it was true or not. Right. I just hoped it elaborated I hoped it would never ever come up. And if that’s something he can’t forgive his mother for then that’s an issue that unfortunately like is sort of above your pay grade because it’s not about your marriage.
S4: I think the main priority is not like if there’s a way to not share this with the rest of the family and you two are able to talk about it and your husband thinks he can be in the same room as his parents again. That’s you know that would be kind of remarkable but if it is I would say don’t prioritize keeping the secret over everything else. Right. Like if it just becomes we have to protect the secret no matter what even if we’re all dying inside.
S5: That’s too high a price to pay. Right. Yeah. And again like you know.
S4: Yes. So I would just say right now what you need is somebody to talk about this with and if your husband is not able to talk about it with you and he’s not going to therapy with you yet. Go go by yourself. You will still benefit from it and they will be able I think to help you clarify like what do I need. What are my goals. What are my desires. And figure out kind of a plan and then like from there to you know talk to your husband about like what do you need or ask for what you need yourself.
S7: And if he’s just like I want to sleep in this guest room forever and never talk about anything ever you know I think there needs to come a point where you can say like so that’s not going to work long term and I need to figure out something else.
S11: Yeah. I mean like what. Sort of. That’s kind of what I was going to get it. I think it’s a two tiered problem. And the key here that’s the first tier of the problem is your marriage. And like figuring out whether this marriage can continue. Whether this is something the two of you can process by yourselves because if you can process it by yourselves or with the help of a therapist but amongst yourselves rather than involving the rest of the family the damage to the family will be limited. But if that’s not possible then the larger problem is how to approach dealing with this. And if if you’re going to deal with it I feel like that’s something that he has to do with his mom honestly.
S13: Yeah. And maybe say like do you think you want to need to talk to your mom about this. Because again I think the odds are that once you start talking about it other people will inevitably be drawn into it. But it also like he could potentially have a conversation with his mother and a therapist that does not mean you have to call up every cousin you have and say like OK. Which one of you is my dad. But right.
S11: Yeah I do think that I’d leave the uncles out of it if at all your uncles. And you know that’s something that he and his mom can deal with if they want to but you need to like not dig too deep into that.
S4: I think unless prompted to Yeah hopefully they would buy them to talk about it in a way that was like I’m obviously like hurt and freaked out. I’m not trying to like you know bury you. I’m not trying to destroy you I just I need to know more about this. You need to be able to talk to me about it in a way that’s like I’m not I don’t know. I just I feel like the pressures of trying to keep all these other marriages going is like if they’ve already weathered the right 30 years I think they examine their storm.
S9: But and yeah and I think it’s again I think it’s very possible that some of that at least I mean certainly the mother knew it was a possibility.
S11: And the uncle whomever he may be knew it was a possibility. But I think it’s also possible if their spouses know that this is a possibility and that they’ve just all elected not to talk about it. That’s not to say that that’s necessarily the case. But I just think that you’re more likely to cause more of a problem if you start like digging and investigating and trying to figure out which uncle was closest with her when they were young. You know things like that. Like I just wouldn’t do that until it becomes something that is like an open conversation if it goes that way.
S13: Yeah. And I would just say to me if this if you start seeing a therapist you have a place to talk about it and it still feels like I’m getting no traction with my husband. This may end my marriage and keeping the secret is killing me at that point. If you need to start talking about it carefully with one or two people in your life then I would say at that point that’s more important than keeping the secret. It is like take that step first see how that’s going for you. If you’re not getting any progress and you are like I can’t divorce my husband and not tell anyone why. Like I would write so isolated and alone you know at that point it’s like I didn’t start the fire and.
S9: Exactly. This isn’t your except insofar as you bought the DNA test. But how could you have known this isn’t really like your. Nothing. Nothing about this is your fault and it’s not your husband’s fault either. So I think that like so while my advice is to start by trying to like deal with it amongst yourselves if that’s not possible. Like neither of you is the guilty party here. And so right. Not that anyone should be guilt you know but you got what I’m saying. I do know it’s not something you guys did. So if you need to like Lance the wound in order to heal from this then go for it. I just it wouldn’t be my first right choice. I do think you guys should not visit this summer yoga. You’re not ready. You’re clearly not there. You know what I mean clearly can be a nightmare. Yeah yeah yeah.
S13: But yeah you know I think to just really stress like especially if you’re struggling to get your husband to open up to just say like clearly sleeping in separate bedrooms and not talking isn’t working for either one of us. I don’t see it making you happy or contented or peaceful. I see that it is failing you as a strategy. And I want a strategy for you that enables you to deal with your feelings be present for our son and ask for the things that you need. And yeah I guess I think one of the things that is hard is this does seem to be like I think a little bit more common than a lot of us thought. With the advent of all right. You know kids and like again I don’t want to just say like don’t worry about it no big deal. But I also hope you can like it probably is true that your father in law really loves his wife. And right. It’s a complicated is not ideal but it doesn’t mean that everything was a lie. I mean some things were a huge lie.
S9: But it doesn’t right that they didn’t love each other and it doesn’t mean that they didn’t agree to tell the lie for what they thought was the best thing for their son. You know what I mean especially if it’s a small town where everyone’s gossiping I mean that’s why again like you may be surprised how many people it turns out knew about this for 30 years. Right. I mean we’ve actually even got a small town exactly like this happens all the time. Yeah. It’s not even the part that’s unusual is marrying your secret relative. That is layer and wrinkle that I have not encountered before. Luckily you’re not half siblings. That would be I’d be that I would be suggesting like other. That would be a bummer. Yeah that’ll be a bummer. But like cousins I feel like you can deal with this but it’s going to cousins you could totally work with. You can deal with it. I just you know take some time to make sure like you’re dealing with it because you don’t like don’t feel like you have to make this work. If he can’t or if you can’t or if this just becomes untenable. But obviously you want to make your marriage work. You say that in the letter. So you know give it a shot. I believe that you can make this work. Yeah but I would hesitate to go straight to let’s talk to your family about it.
S14: Yeah. And good luck. I hope you get that they’re good luck. You deserve a therapist.
S4: You deserve a lot of support these follow on with prudence because I am fascinated to know how this turns out on us and anyone else who’s listening who like is about to buy a DNA testing kit. Just go ahead and don’t get anything else. Or a puppy here.
S9: And don’t get it. I was just about say the only thing other thing you should go is don’t get an animal as a gift. That’s always a mistake. Oh yeah no not as a gift for someone. No God no no but that’s think she got it as like a gift for a birthday present. It was said that it was his birthday present.
S14: Oh God. Happy birthday like paternity crises. Yeah. No not great. OK. Speaking of birthdays do you wanna read the next one. Yes. Oh thank you. God I was like. Now we have a nice relaxing birthday where all that happened to someone punch their mother. So this is birthday bash and I just realized the the the possible work that the word bash is doing dear. I loved that letter writer. It was fabulous. Yeah. Growing up my parents pitied my sister and me against each other. They used my academic success to put down her intelligence while lecturing me that I should be more popular and sporty like her.
S13: We ended up close in spite of them. I was their favorite right up until he came out as gay before leaving for college. They screamed and cried about how their little girl was ruined and the only thing that got me through that night was my sister holding my hand. Since then I’ve had limited contact with them and they switched all their attention to her. I’m 20 and she turned 17 last week. I only visit home to see her and I was there for her party. Our parents were as usual comparing US and making snide remarks about my lifestyle. At one point an aunt complimented my haircut and my mom contradicted her launching into a rant about how I look like quote an ugly lesbian and how tragic it is that she only has one quote real daughter left my sister punched our mom in the face. She then yelled that they were despicable and should leave me alone. Obviously the party ended and my dad and I tried to call my sister down. Our mom had hysterics and a black eye. My sister went to her room and our parents told me to get out. I asked if I should take her with me for a while to give them all some space but my dad said I’d been enough of a bad influence and to stay away. I left. They’ve since been calling me multiple times a day to yell at me for ruining my little sister and seem to think it’s all my fault. My sister has been saying she can’t live with them any longer. I want to ask her to move in with me. My girlfriend is fully onboard but I also don’t want to destroy my family which I think is happening now. I’ve always tried to keep it so my sister doesn’t feel she has to choose sides between me and our parents but now I don’t know what choice I have. They say I can’t ever come back to see her. I think she would say yes to moving in with me although I’m also scared about spending her life is there compromise I’m not seeing here. I feel guilty for what’s happened and I just want to do whatever’s best for her.
S9: You are a saint. Yeah.
S8: Before we start I just want to praise you unlike your emotional intelligence at age 20 despite all of this horrible stuff that’s happened to you because I would just be losing my mind and not as cogent about all of this as you are. So kudos for that and kudos to your sister for the punch. No that’s not good. No violence.
S5: Violence is bad but I also kind of like was like Yeah secret I mean I also get that that punch was about 17 years in the making. So yeah I’m not saying like good you should keep punching but like I get that she is 17 years old and has been like having to live with their focus on her which does not sound pleasant. Like
S15: I think letter writer you’re so worried about seeming neutral and peaceful and calm compared to your parents absolute constant like hysterics and bigotry that you have like both cited yourself into more neutrality than you need to like. You say that you don’t want to ask her to choose between you and them but like she wants to. She clearly would love to choose. And frankly like you know I think that it probably is really awful for her living in that house. Like I think she’s miserable there just because she’s not gay or getting like direct homophobic abuse doesn’t mean that it’s a good place for her to live or that it’s not a horrible home environment. So like I think you can let go of some of that. It will be good for her to get out of there she wants to get out of there. They don’t treat her well. Their version of love is confining and awful. And you know constricting and she wants to go and you are helping her escape by offering her a place like you know you’re not the one destroying your family. Your parents are the ones who have spent your entire lives trying to turn the two of you against each other trying to demean you both trying to harass you out of being gay like a you know you can let go of the both sides thing now like your parents are really awful and I’m so sorry that you had to grow up that way. And I’m so glad that you are able to offer your sister a place to go that it’s not their house cause she just deserves to be anywhere with there.
S9: So I mean I had a very similar reaction like the sense the big takeaway I want you to have. Letter writer as Danny so eloquently put it is like you know you’re not destroying your family like your parents destroyed your family. They’ve made a choice. And it seems like it’s something I mean from the beginning of your lives.
S16: They pitted you the two of you against each other. They created an environment where the family could be destroyed and then they made a choice to destroy it because they couldn’t accept you the way that you are. So that’s not your fault. And that’s the most important thing that I think you need to focus on. And it’s hard I know when you’re 20 years old not to blame yourself for things like that especially when it comes to your parents. But this just none of this is your fault with regard to her moving in with you and leaving the home. I agree that it sounds like this house is a bad environment for her. But I also think it’s important to just think like contemplate logistical stuff which you know there are details here that you like that I don’t quite get because they’re not provided like how far away do you live. Can she continue to go to the same school kids like because she’s 17 she’s finishing up high school presumably like does she want to finish up school in the same place.
S12: Can you guys afford to you know make sure that she has health insurance and like what’s the situation with college tuition if she’s planning on going to college and things like that. Like I I’m not by any means suggesting that she should just stay because she has to but I do think that if if she needs that support system I think you need and she may after this dies down realize that she can’t completely make it on her own right now even with your help at 17.
S16: I think it’s important for you to impress upon her that you won’t be angry with her if she decides she has to stay because the relationship between the two of you is clearly really important to both of you and I think is keeping you both strong through a really difficult situation. So if she ends up having to pretend to be on their side because she needs to stay there just make sure she knows that you won’t hold it against her. That’s. That being said hopefully you guys are in a position where she can leave and it will be totally fine. I’m glad that your girlfriend supportive. It’s just a lot to take on at 20 and 17. And while I’m not saying you can’t do it I just think that there’s a possibility that it won’t work and she needs to know that her sister won’t hate her if it doesn’t work.
S13: Yeah and I love to just that reminder of like this is such an emotional moment that it can be easy to think like just move in and we’ll figure it all out. And I think it can be so so good. Again that doesn’t mean like the day she moves in you that. Now let’s start talking about no start to pay rent. Exactly like it is just good to remember that even though this is something that is being started for emotional reason it will still be an adjustment and it will still be really good to eventually like sign some sort of like sub leasing agreement just so you all know like what your responsibilities are to one another and so you don’t like you know a year or two from now feel like OK at the time it felt important but now my girlfriend and I would really like to find a place of our own and I don’t really know how much longer. Like I just want you to get in the habit now of having like Frank brisk cheerful conversations about rental agreements and you know totally get if you can’t start paying anything until like a year from now or whatever. It doesn’t have to be any particular set of rules just that you are used to having these kinds of conversations now. Yeah I don’t start to feel like she has to live with me forever right.
S16: I just think like I think it would be good to get her out of that situation but I think it’s important to really assess whether you can provide that by yourself and whether she is able to do that like right now she’s very upset as she should be your parents sound horrible but you know it will she is she actually feeling able to make that leap. She’s very young so some people can’t do that and I don’t know if she can or not I don’t know her. I hope that this works out for both of you because I think getting her out of there would be great. And I don’t think that this family is going to heal in in anytime soon. I think that this is the kind of thing where years down the line Your parents might realize we made a mistake we’ve lost our children maybe we need to reflect or they might just not but right now I don’t think there’s anything you can do that will make this a better situation for you or her. Besides getting her out of there or getting her to somewhere else that’s the other thing. Like right. So do you have other family members who are because I mean based on your age and you said you went away to college or anything like you’re a student presumably. Like I’m just worried about you supporting all of this and I’m worried about like that. I don’t want you to end up in an in situation where the environment isn’t great for the two of you interpersonally either and then that becomes you know what I mean especially when it’s like sort of you don’t want it to become a thing where two years down the line you have a huge fight and she’s like I reject our parents for you and now you know not that I’m saying she would necessarily do that but again I don’t know her and this is such an emotional situation. So if you guys have other family members that could also help older family members who are more sort of established in their careers or whatever that might be a good thing. You know that’s not to say it’s absolutely something you have to get. I’m just thinking of ways that it could be potentially easier for you to make this transition. You know community members also like friends of friends of yours friends of the family that just I would say you shouldn’t try to go this alone. You should ask for help wherever you may be able to get it because I think people will understand the scenario when you deliver them like pretty clearly.
S13: Yeah. And just again like you feel guilty for what’s happened. Blake what happened. You went to a party with a haircut.
S17: Do you really like there are gaps. I mean all you did. Yeah like that. You didn’t know what the situation is.
S13: Yeah. It’s not like a situation where like your parents were 80 percent in the wrong but you were 20 percent in the wrong and it’s important to own your own part. No. You showed up with your hair. Someone tried to say something nice to you and your mom argued with them.
S11: The aunt is the one who made me think of like what’s up with the rest of your family because the aunt was trying to signal to you that she supports you expressing yourself the way that you feel comfortable. So if the aunt is the one who was like Your hair looks nice that’s to me if she knows your parents are homophobic. Sort of a veiled I’m a safe person. Message to give to you. Right.
S12: Right. And so maybe she would be willing to help because I just think what’s important here is that if your sister gets out of that environment that she have a stable environment to arrive in if at all possibly so you know good luck.
S14: This is really complicated and I know this is a tough. You said but I wish you something lovely and get a lot of distance from your parents just a lot.
S9: Yeah. They got to work on themselves and even then you’re not obligated to like ever speak to them again in my opinion frankly.
S13: Exactly. So this next one is it’s a little bit long. I think it actually boils down to something pretty simple.
S10: I think my answer to this is going to be pretty short but okay well I’ll read it and then I’ll let you have your short answer because perfect. I bet we’re gonna be somewhat aligned on this and if we’re not it’ll be interesting we can have a spirited debate. So this one was is interesting. They’re also interesting Dennis I mean these and I was just like these are great. I don’t know how you do this every week. I would be very stressed out having to tease out so many problems regularly so subject accidentally moved next to my racist acts like that one made my eyes kind of like bug out a little when I read it. So I was like What could this be about so dear Prudence. Ten years ago I dated a man for six months. Gradually it became evident that he and his friends embraced misogynist racist stereotypes about women. When the relationship ended he made multiple disparaging comments about my body. Told me that I smelled a revolting. That I looked awkward and mannish and that he felt nothing but disgust when he saw me naked. He then told me how terribly sad he felt for himself that he was losing my friendship and that he wished he felt differently. It was excruciating. I went to therapy to investigate why I spent six months with someone who was so casually horrid and I have a much deeper understanding of white supremacy patriarchy and my own responsibilities and vulnerabilities as a result. Fast forward and I am happily married to a kind brilliant man. My career is thriving. We have two great kids and just put a down payment on a house. I recently visited the neighborhood cafe to get acquainted with the area and this ex was there. Though I pretended not to see him he was with two young kids and a woman who appeared to be his wife. When I got home I found out through Google that he lives a block away from our new home. I have no desire ever to interact with him. He is still nauseated me one of his kids at the cafe was my daughter’s age wearing the kind of sparkly headband that is like a friendship beacon for my preschool age daughter. I know that when their paths cross which they will inevitably whether at the playground down the block or at school my daughter will seek her out for friendship. I can’t bear the thought of having to interact with my ex playdates or out of the question what do I do when this comes up. If it was just the adults I could deal with it. But the kid element complicates things tremendously. Do I tell my daughter that she’s not allowed to play with this girl because of things her father did a decade ago. Do we try to find a different house and take the financial hit. Please don’t tell me that I’m borrowing trouble.
S13: There are literally five houses away and I know this is going to come up so I agree that you will probably occasionally run into him. I think that the fear that if my daughter sees this headband she will want this girl to be her best friend and I will have no option but to spend a lot of time with him is I do think that’s borrowing trouble. I think there’s something you can do. I agree. She’s preschool age. She’s not like 15 starting to form like friendships that might last the rest of her life like you know she can. You have a lot of. Authority that you can exercise over where your preschool age daughter goes because you drive the car.
S9: Yeah I mean I. So when you say like if it was just the adults I could deal with it but I think on some level it is just the adults. Do you know what I mean like your kids his daughter and your daughter don’t know anything about this. And nor should they in my opinion. And you know assuming they do end up interacting I mean now there’s one point at which I sort of would understand it like you know you don’t say this explicitly but I would assume that you are that he is white and you are a person of color based on the letter and if that’s what you’re specifically concerned about like that your daughter was subjected to like racist abuse of some kind.
S14: That is a very actually I can clarify because I had to edit it down but this letter writer is white. Oh well then that there was just a lot more backstory. OK. Well then I mean clarify. Yeah.
S9: Well I mean good for you for objecting to like racism but I was if that if that was like a personal like I’m afraid for my child’s safety. That’s a very different matter. But if that’s the case then I really do think then that this boils down to a dilemma between the two of you. It’s been 10 years. Maybe he is still a huge asshole. Or maybe he’s bettered himself. I’m not. Who. Who knows. But you have certainly better yourself as you’ve said you’re like. I went to therapy I became a much stronger person. I’m like on some you know you learned a lot from the experience and your own volume and learned about yourself and you know so on some level I think that your like triggered by this unexpected recurrence which makes total sense but you certainly shouldn’t sell the house like because of you like you can’t let him have that kind of power over you. You know what I mean. In my opinion.
S18: Yeah I agree that it doesn’t quite meet the standard of I can I can certainly imagine. You know if other things had happened in that relationship and you were like I cannot live near this person I would like you know you could do it but I basically here’s what I think. I think you tell your partner and you just say like if I ever see this guy walking down the street I don’t have to worry about whether he’s a better person or not. I get to say I never want to see him again and that’s totally fine and I’m just gonna leave. And so I think just to say it like again I think you’re imagining that you’re like 4 3 year old daughter is going to say like But Mom this little girl is my favorite no other little girl will do is my best friend why are you taking me away from her. And I think some of that is just that fear of something is going to force me to be around him right. And I really don’t think like you can just say like sweetheart we’ve gotta go or no we can’t do that and deal with like redirecting towards any other little girl in a sparkly headband of which there are many.
S9: I’ll just say like you know I don’t have any kids but in my experience I don’t know anyone who does have kids whose kids like hang out with someone whose parents the parents hate. Like I don’t you know like even if you at that age I mean like I once they’re in high school like you know or when I’m even middle school like that’s a little bit out of your hands cause they’re making friends at school. But in terms of like arranging playgroup and stuff like the parents do that. So I just don’t think you’re gonna be forced into this situation unless you allow that to take place and you can just. I think you can just prevent that now the bigger question is like your comfort level in terms of being in his vicinity at all. And I think that I think that like Danny saying I think that the daughter concern is more you thinking up like the worst possible scenarios in which you would be forced to interact with him a lot. But I think that the real problem is that like you’re afraid you’re gonna have to interact with him at all because of the proximity. So I think that’s sort of the root of the problem and you and you have to kind of figure that out. I would say like maybe talk to your spouse also if you haven’t already lately because they may have some insight on this. Oh it’s a husband. He may have some insight on this. You know I just think that the you know I think this is sort of a problem among the adults. And I’m not suggesting that you reach out to the sky or anything like that. But you know I think you should. I think you should stand your ground and keep the great house that you’ve moved into with your great husband your great kids. And I think that you said like you know you went to therapy and you process this and you came out stronger and I think that you can just sort of illustrate that by existing powerfully. And maybe he’ll take notice and maybe he won’t. You know but this is obviously a very uncomfortable situation. But I don’t think. I don’t think it’s necessarily a reason to inconvenience yourself and take a big financial hit. God you know above all other things like that is that sucks for a young family Yeah and again I totally understand like this was a horrible breakup.
S4: This is a horrible guy. Oh yeah he’s or he sounds harsh the anxiety of like I really want have to fuckin see this guy. Like when I’m at the grocery store and so I don’t want to dismiss that or say like just it’ll be fine don’t worry. That’s awful. And I’m so sorry that that has happened. But I do think that talking to your partner about it talking to your friends about it and just like you don’t owe him shit. Like if he if you run into him and you want to give him the fucking cold shoulder do it. If he tries to talk to you God forbid you can just say like the last time we talked was enough for me I never want to speak to you again.
S13: Leave me alone do that. Absolutely. Like let him know in no uncertain terms that he needs to keep his distance from you. Yeah. Establish your boundaries. Totally okay. And ask anybody in your life for a little extra some emotional support right now. And if part of what that means is like to your partner like as we’re moving in I would really appreciate like even more just running errands with the kids. I would love for you to come with me whenever possible or to do the errands just for the like immediate moving in period because I’m really anxious about running into him by myself again. And I just think that that’s okay to ask for like ask for the things that you need right now in order to make moving in a fun and exciting prospect. That’s not just dominated by like him but also don’t. Don’t try to talk yourself out of feeling bad like if you know anything about it that is OK.
S9: This sucks obviously. I mean it almost feels like a narrative right. Like you’re like how. Like it’s like your life coming full circle in this weird way. It’s such an it’s a novel like it is like a novel premise right. And I feel like you know I’m not a religious person but I like a fatalistic person but it does have a I am someone who works in literature and it almost has a bit of a quality to it where it’s like well the worst thing that could happen to you is happening theoretically like you’re stuck in proximity to the sky. How are you gonna deal with it. Like how are you going to move forward. And like be the person who has recovered from his emotional abuse and is like you know secure and happy.
S4: And honestly if it were me I would try to secretly undermine him in ways that he would never be able to trace back to me and run him out of town. But yeah but I keep an entire life to it and like ruin my own life in the process.
S9: Right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that that’s a good plan but it would also be my like Desperate Housewives style instinct. So you know but so we won’t blame you if you do but that’s not that is not a recommendation you know for the most part I would just say keep your distance and I think that you can establish boundaries that he will hopefully respect and if he doesn’t honestly talk to his wife. In my opinion I mean I like talent likes that respect it be like your husband’s. If he starts harassing you like you know I don’t know I mean figures. I mean I really I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope it won’t come everybody. That’s what I’m saying. Like it’s not just that I tell that it’s not just the why but tell. Right exactly tell the homeowners this isn’t like whatever cause you know if he is still like the complete asshole that you dated 10 years ago which is entirely possible cause lots of people don’t change or grow and he decides to go out of his way to antagonize you. Like take any recourse you have because you didn’t do anything wrong here. Like we said to the previous letter writer like you’re the victim in this situation the survivor of his poor treatment of you and like you shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything to make him more comfortable or to like avoid him it should be the onus should be on him to be a good person and I would just say to like I just don’t care like whether or not he has changed.
S4: You still have to live with the things that he did like he can’t change in such a way that undid what he had exactly what he did to you. So like again if he has changed for the better that’s great. Although apparently that change has not involved. Like trying to make amends with you or anything right. Yeah but like it just doesn’t matter. I don’t care if right now it is down in the world to him undo how he treated you.
S7: But yeah talk to your partner and you know if it just helps you to say out loud one of the things I’m feeling right now is a desire to pull out our downpayment and move somewhere else and I just need to say that and I want to share it with somebody and I realize we’re probably not going to do that but I just need to name it. That might be helpful because I think sometimes it can be good to remind yourself of like if I needed to and when I felt like it was worth losing the thousands of dollars and starting over again I have that as an absolute like nuclear option. And sometimes that just makes you feel a little bit more free when it comes to thinking about what you’re gonna do next.
S5: And good luck. Oh God. This next one.
S9: Oh God. The next one. This is this funny little lighter than the last year have been pretty heavy. Plus obviously they’re all pretty. I guess that’s why they’re riding into an advice column isn’t it. That is sort of the premise I see. I mean this next one is this next one’s more like we’re going to rap about this a little and like a way that I know it’s gonna be. I think this is gonna be a little bit lighter. So why don’t you read it.
S14: I think this is gonna be great. I think it’s only 400 line get excited readers and I’m so excited. Troubled try. Curious. Dear Prudence.
S7: My husband and I have been a monogamous couple for ten years and neither of us have any experience with polyamory. Recently he’s told me that he has started having feelings for a mutual female friend of ours. This didn’t bother me as I trust him to be honest and faithful in the same conversation he gently suggested the possibility of inviting her into our relationship and asked if I’m attracted to her as well. I’m a bisexual woman as is she and I do find her attractive. My husband was clear that he wasn’t considering this as a fun one off threesome but that he would like to invite her to join as a long term partner. I find this idea both exciting and terrifying. I’ve definitely considered polyamory in a theoretical way but I never expected that my husband would be interested. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of also having a female partner and I really like this woman but I see so many ways for it to go wrong. Of course there’s the worry that she wouldn’t take the proposition well and we could lose her friendship. I also worry about telling family and friends about it if she becomes our girlfriend. I worry that bringing in someone new would rekindle old jealousy issues him of me from early in our relationship that we’ve since worked through. I’m also feeling insecure that he might want to bring in a new partner because he doesn’t find me as attractive as he used to or that she might only be interested in him and not me. She’s also a bit younger than us and I worry she might not be at the phase of life that we’re at. We’re looking to buy our first home and start having children. Lastly it seems like it could be really difficult to bring someone new into a relationship that has 10 years of history behind it. Prudie I’m all mixed up. I want to throw caution to the wind but that’s never been my strong suit.
S17: Am I overthinking things. Yikes. Sexy sexy sexy. Yikes. No just real quick. Under thinking under thinking. Yeah. You’re really strenuously under thinking things in my humble opinion.
S19: Like we do every every question that you’ve brought up is a super reasonable question.
S13: My eyebrows kept inching toward my hairline like every news ends of this and until it was sort of it was just like I don’t want to be so hard on you because I think some of this is good and great. Like the two of you are getting clarity that polyamory is something that interests you. Absolute there are certain things about it that also feel anxiety inducing but you do want to talk about it more and possibly pursue it. There’s some things that you’re both on the same page about in terms of what direction you want polyamory to look like. All of that is good.
S15: Yeah I think the line of communication between the two of you seem like pretty open and that’s a good thing for sure but the level of communication is like you just had like one conversation about it and you two are contemplating asking a woman if she wants to become your partner which is like you just missed 50 steps.
S9: So I’m not a polyamorous person so I’m speaking somewhat out of turn here but I have friends who are and I think it’s a perfectly like fine and valid lifestyle or orientation or whatever you want to call it. I just don’t think that the way you start that conversation is I think Cindy’s hot.
S19: Do we want to invite Cindy to be our girlfriend especially when you think about like how has any relationship you’ve ever been in started. Did it ever start with someone who was a friend saying do you want to be my partner. Or did it always start with at least a date or a hookup or asking for one of those things like and that’s not to say that your own friends don’t become lovers sometimes because that can definitely happen.
S9: But there’s something happened to me but we talk. Yeah exactly I mean there’s I just think there’s a power dynamic here that’s tricky also because like it the picture for a second that you are the friend you’re a bit younger you don’t say how much younger. But enough that you aren’t sure that she would be game for your like plans to have children which again like putting the cart before the horse a little bit. In my opinion. But you know if my if I was hanging out with this slightly older couple and they suddenly like approached me like Hi we’d like you to become our girlfriend that would stress me out and I don’t know how I would feel like you know it would I would be like Have they been friends with me specifically because they were trying to like learn me and sexually. Like what do they expect of me. You know it’s a lot to lay on someone and it’s not even hey we think you’re hot would you like to have a threesome. It’s like Hi would you like to join our relationship which is like a huge and like by the way we’ve never done this before. We’ve never done and we’re floor having kids in the next couple of years. But would you like to like move in and be like part of our triad. Like I just feel like that’s there. I just can’t see a scenario in which I mean I suppose there is the outside chance that you feel like great. I’ve been longing for that the entire time we’ve been friends but it seems unlikely to me that that will be the reaction. Right.
S13: So I would say what you can do with this instinct right now is learn more about polyamory. So like you should not be the only potentially polyamorous people you know you should be going and like looking up what are like kind of well-respected books within the various polyamorous communities about how to go about looking for like minded people how to ask friends out in a way that leaves a lot of room for them to say know how to communicate with your partner about your own insecurities which are again totally legitimate. I don’t want you to feel like if we do something polyamorous it means all bets are off. We have no rules. No one’s allowed to feel jealous. I’m not allowed to stop something if I’m like Hey this brings up an insecurity for me and I want my primary partner to be here for me like all of those are necessary. I really think you two should find maybe like local polyamory meet ups so that you can talk to people who actually have experience doing this and you can run your ideas by them.
S9: There are a lot of online communities also that might be useful. I know that I know there are people who I know people who are like involved in like online Facebook groups or forums or things like that where they discuss stuff like this because sometimes you are the only one in your immediate community who’s living this great life. But like you can definitely find people at least in your state or in the vicinity you know who you can meet and then become friends with. I just think that you have no I mean here’s the thing. Just because you’re both bisexual women doesn’t mean she has any attraction to either you or your husband. And I think like I think that it’s just it feels like you’re sort of assuming that she’ll say yes which to me feels not great. And I also think that there’s so there’s also a couple things here that I think are deeper issues that you need to talk about with him before you go before you even open the relationship at all. Like when you say like I’m insecure because I think maybe he doesn’t find me attractive anymore. You need to ask him Is that what’s. Like if you’re going to have these open lines of communication. They need to go deeper than just the surface level of we think it might be appealing to like have an open relationship or to have polyamorous relationships. You need to be able to say hey look the reason I’m a little hesitant about this apart from the fact that we don’t know if Cindy I’ve just assigned her name I’m sorry it like Cindy would be interested in this is like I’m worried that you that I’ve gotten too old for you and I’m not attractive to you anymore or I’m worried that you know you’re just looking to have a girlfriend and don’t really care if like she’d be interested in me or the thing sort of the qualms that you’re raising in this letter are I think conversations that you and your husband need to have before you move forward at all with anyone right.
S15: And it’s not a sign that you can’t do something about your desire to become polyamorous. No not at all like you two should be able to talk regularly and openly about your fears and insecurities and and to also kind of share in the commitment of like this kind of comes first right now like we always need to make sure that we know where the other one is and that we’re aware of one another’s fears not so we can immediately fix them or reassure ourselves out of them. But so it’s all out in the open it’s all out on the table and we’re not just trying to avoid conversations by bringing in new people.
S9: Yeah I mean I just think like if anything you know it’s that you say like your husband is like not just trying to have like I’m a not a trois but like honestly maybe like a place to start would be to explore that kind of stuff and just like sexually open rather than emotionally open the relationship just to begin with because it sounds like your hesitations are mostly on the emotional end. So you know if you both if you would like to have sex with women and your husband would like to participate and you can find women who are game for that. That sounds great to me as long as you’re communicating about what your comfort level is and what you want to do and what you don’t want to do and what you want him to do and don’t want him to do and that you’re all agreed.
S13: And I really think the best way to channel this desire is not to immediately ask out your friend but to start looking for other polyamorous people to talk to you and potentially hook up with a while. Yeah get to know. Yeah. Like I think that that’s going to go a lot better than hey none of us have ever done this before. And we we have a lot of unanswered questions like and that doesn’t mean you can never ever try to ask her out someday but that it might actually be a better idea to start with somebody who does know what they’re doing.
S12: And I think that you want to be really confident in this lifestyle before you like approach this person whose friendship you value and potentially mess it up like if you’re going to approach her about this. I think you both need to be really confident about what you’re doing and you don’t sound enormously confident about what you’re doing. You sound nervous about it which is understandable but I think that you need to kind of get your sea legs before you invite her onto the boat.
S5: Yeah. And just again I don’t I don’t I like slap you down but it’s just like I think again not everybody has the same experience. Some people love stuff that other people get drive and totally driven driven totally nuts by. I do think anecdotally speaking a lot of bisexual women field especially when they’re single. FIELD A lot of requests from couples that are sort of like hey we like this idea and you’re bisexual so you definitely be game right. So she may have like a little bit of unicorn fatigue and and it’s just really good to remember all the bi women I know say that like Tinder is and is like a nightmare of constantly being accosted by couples.
S9: So she may like be exhausted.
S7: Yeah. And again I don’t want to speak for her. I do know that there are also bisexual women who are like you don’t fucking speak for me I actually really enjoy it as long as people are asking me in an on shitty way. But as a as a trend it is definitely true that more couples reach out to by women looking for either a third or a new partner or a threesome than vice versa. There is not like a national trend of single bisexual women going up to couples and men like Hello.
S9: How would you like to open it up. I think you’re both gorgeous right now. That seems less frequent and I think impossible. No and I think the age differential here is also something to keep in mind. Like you don’t specify that but it’s clearly enough of a gap that it’s something that you’ve thought about. So that’s also something I think you know I’m just sort of like I need more information. Like would you like to know more yes like about that because I don’t know.
S7: Yeah. And also just really like you and your husband will need to figure out together hey if we want to start thinking about having a new partner and we want to start having kids. What are our thoughts there. How are we going to work that out. Would we want that person to have like a potential legal relationship to my kids.
S6: Does it I know that this person is our partner. Like you know things like that right.
S7: Would we be interested in someday potentially coming out to our family and if not you know that might be a lot to ask of this third person that like we get to have the publicly recognized relationship and you have to sometimes pretend to be a roommate especially if kids are involved and the and the partner is invested in the children.
S11: So you know that is asking a lot of her.
S13: Yeah. And so I’m not saying all this to be like just give up don’t do it. I’m just saying these are all questions you need at least partial answers to before you proceed.
S7: And it’s going to take a lot of conversation and a lot of groundwork. And I really think you are under thinking it or rather these are all the right questions and the next move is not hey we’ll figure it out as we go. Let’s ask her out. It’s let’s learn more let’s meet either virtually or in real life. A lot of other people who are doing this. Let’s ask them questions about how they handle these things and let’s figure out what’s going to work for us and then also if and when we start asking people out how are we going to make it really really clear that we will super respect other people’s boundaries. If they say that is not for me I’m not interested.
S9: Right. And I think you also do have to prepare yourself for the real possibility that if you do approach her with this she will no longer be interested in meeting your friend. If she’s not interested I think she may feel escaped.
S13: Yeah and that’s just part of it too.
S9: You can and that goes for almost any friendship I think any friendship or you approach someone’s actually right exactly.
S13: Yeah. You always run at least some of a risk. Yeah. If even if I say this really well they just it might change things and I’m okay with that. All right I think it’s worth the risk and so be mindful that like that will be present here too. And good luck. I really do think that there are ways that you can explore this well and healthily and with great love and compassion with your husband. I don’t think this is it just yet but I hope you figure something out that’s really fun for you.
S9: Yeah I think it sounds like you’re starting on the right foot but you’re really just starting. So like do some homework before you really go for it.
S18: Exactly. All right this next one is all you.
S10: Okay subject ADHD or unavailability. Dear Prudence I have an old friend who is very dear to me. They have had a very roller coaster couple of years since they came out and I’ve been excited and supportive including during a scary mental health crisis. But I feel the energy has become one sided. They don’t ever ask about what’s up in my life anymore or follow up about things I was working through the last time we talked. I’ve mentioned this kind of following up it’s something that makes me feel cared for and they’ve basically said they’re ADHD means they are not capable of doing this. This rings alarm bells for me as I’ve been in previous friendships and relationships where this is code for I am unwilling to do reciprocal emotional labor. This friend’s ex has characterized their relationship that way as well. If I bring stuff up about my life my friend will engage with it but they never ask and I’m also starting to notice that they just don’t initiate contact with me very much anymore. Though they seem to put stock in keeping me as a friend while their social world shifts rapidly I feel like I don’t matter so much to them on my own terms in any other friendship. This would be the moment to stop reaching out put the ball in their court and see if they pick it up but I hesitate to do this here. Am I expecting too much from someone who’s undergoing an extremely intense time. Should I just be supportive for a bit and expect little in return. This friend has been reading a lot into other friends actions lately assuming people are pulling away since they came out which I’m sympathetic to because my friend has legitimately been treated more distantly by some people but I don’t want to pretend my needs don’t exist to protect my friend.
S12: What do you think.
S13: I think this isn’t the total point here but I do think it’s important to at least be mindful of the origins and the meaning of the phrase emotional labour that stood out to me also term within origin it comes from the work of sociologist early horse child and it has to do with sort of emotional regulations that a person has to meet in order to meet the requirements of their job. And I think it’s not totally meaningless to sometimes talk about ways in which that can creep into other areas of life. But I do think that it’s pretty important that it has to do with the emotional work a person is doing on the clock in order to make money and the sort of just like whether or not your friend calls you enough is not the same thing. It might have to do with it’s become a globally used prostitutes. Yeah yeah but it’s not the same thing. Right. That’s I think that’s that’s worth paying attention to. I think sometimes there’s like concept creep. They come into play where all of a sudden people are using emotional able to say things like I favor one of your tweets. And now we’re fighting because you don’t favor enough of my tweets and it just it can get too far removed and I’m right.
S8: You know I think that the fact that it’s like a premise of of niceness under capitalism that’s like required of the working class is like really important to the factual concept and so I appreciate you pointing that out because I made a note of that as well.
S9: So here’s the thing. I think that you know the answer to this because you kind of set it.
S12: You know I completely understand and appreciate that you are trying to be sensitive to the fact that your friend recently came out recently had a mental health crisis is has other people distancing themselves and you don’t want to be that person you don’t want to be a bad friend. But the fact is that your friend is being about friend and it’s really just that simple on some level. So I think that you have to decide is like Is this a friendship that is still worthwhile to you. Is it something that makes you feel good. More than it makes you feel bad. And that’s not to say you need to like make a pros and cons list. I’m just saying is this something that you do want to salvage because if it is then I think there are ways you can approach it that are not enormously confrontational but that might provoke a conversation that would be helpful. So you know you’ve said that you have pointed out to them that you know being cared for and having someone check in on you is important to you in a friendship. And the ADHD excuse that they’re using I mean I have ADHD that’s not I think that that’s kind of a B.S. excuse. Honestly I don’t forget to like ask people about their day you know. But I think that one way of going about it would be like you know I really value your opinion and there’s a lot going on in my life. And I really always value your input. And like talking about my life with you is important to me. And I you know that’s something I value is like I want your take on what’s going on in my day. So I wish that you would start those conversations more because I just want to feel like I can ask you things and I’m not burdening you with my you know like sort of make it more about you can make it more about yourself rather than being like your being bad because I think if you go to a place of like you are being about friend even though I think that they kind of are that that’s going to lead to a more tense conversation that’s not really helpful. Yes you will understand the friendship Yeah I will say.
S13: My my friends with ADHD and ADHD are very thoughtful and while they struggle with a number of things being kind and thoughtful friends are asking me what my day is not one of them. And I just find that I don’t know that that’s an assertion about their own condition that you need to give a lot of weight to that doesn’t mean you’ve to get into an argument with them about what their ADHD doesn’t doesn’t affect. I just think in terms of thinking about what you need next time I would not worry about that assertion is also there. You say that they’ve had a very roller coaster couple of years since they came out which says to me two things. You know you say that I’m sympathetic because they’re going through a really intense time. Well it sounds like the intense time has lasted a couple of years. And so when you when you worry like she just be supportive for a bit. It sounds like you’ve done that for several cycles of bits. So this didn’t just happen a month ago this wasn’t just a week ago. It’s been a couple of years and that’s not to say that people don’t sometimes go through very difficult years. It’s just like if you if you say should I be supportive for a little bit. What do you think is going to change in a month or two. And if the answer is probably nothing. I think that you don’t need to wait and collect more information. So the other concerns in addition to like I do care about this person.
S5: That’s the only one that I think really matters the stuff about like some of their other friends have been distant since they came out that’s really too bad. That’s not that’s not uncivil to you. Yeah and that has nothing to do with your situation. And then the other one is like they’ve been reading a lot into other friends actions lately assuming everyone’s been pulling away. And that to me says I’m a little worried if I do pull away my friends gonna talk shit about me right.
S17: It sounds like you’re worried about the difference of being.
S5: Yeah well they won’t think well of me and that’s like that’s too bad. But you know you can’t control that. And like if they’re going you can’t have both right. So yeah I think you got to pull away put the ball back in their court.
S13: See if they pick it up and if they only reach out to complain that you’re not doing all the stuff that you used to do then I think you can honestly say like yep that was starting to feel like a lot for me. And you know I just I want to prioritize friendships where my friends asked me how I’m doing and if they’re like that’s an unreasonable expectation. You can just go ahead and say I don’t agree that it’s unreasonable and I wish you the best.
S9: Yeah. And again if you you know if you if they do reach out and you do talk about it I think there are ways that you could approach it without like being sort of accusatory. But I also think that that’s not you know I think that their comfort level is not necessarily the most important thing in this case because I think they’re you know not being supportive of you and that you feel it. And you know that you’re not enjoying this friendship right now because you basically said you know what to do.
S13: You don’t need to get into an argument about whether or not your expectations are reasonable. You just get to draw boundaries when your expectations aren’t being met. Right.
S9: Feel like this is what I needed a friendship and I’m not getting it. Mm hmm.
S4: And if you’re friends like I disagree I think your expectations for friendship are reasonable then that’s actually probably a sign that this friendship was not going to continue much longer right than find to other friends who won’t demand that of you.
S7: Yeah and I understand that idea of like I don’t really get much out of this friendship anymore and I’m mostly just keeping this up one because I feel guilty because other people haven’t been nice to them and to because I’m worried that they’re gonna be really mad at me and it’s just like you cannot be friends with somebody only because you’re afraid of what they’ll do if you stop doing all this work to make them happy or like you can but you’ll be very miserable.
S9: Yeah I mean that’s like that’s like you’re like sort of blackmailing yourself you know and to convince yourself to stay. Like if the if if you do stopping front of this person and this person does tell people they stop being friends with me because they’re a bigot or whatever like that sucks and it always sucks to be like accused of something that feels unjust but like you can’t control that and that can’t be something that you focus on when you’re assessing whether or not a relationship is like toxic to your well-being right.
S7: Frankly they may do it anyways right. And again it’s not like you have to you know you’re not even saying I’m at the point where I want to like block them.
S9: You’re dying like I want to scale back and I just think that’s super super reasonable and it’s entirely possible that if you do scale back they’ll realize that they need to do more for you and maybe the friendship recovers. But right now you’re not happy and I think that’s the bottom line. Yeah. So all right we’re going to move on to another easy one because we’re ending on a kind of more challenge the last one’s hard but this next one is yes pretty simple. I think this one is just your husband as your husband just fucking sucks. Can I swear on this podcast. Yeah okay. Sorry.
S6: Of course I already have but I’m just groups like asking for forgiveness rather than in my dad. All right it is weird because it’s like Wait is this work or why I was like IBM where are you. I’m in a fancy studio I don’t know exactly what’s going on. I don’t know what Slate’s brand you know insists upon with regard to F bombs. Just checking. Anyway go.
S14: Go ahead sorry line. You’re great. OK so the subject is Christmas in July gone awry. Thank you for my love. There’s so many good rhymes and puns and all the letters this week. Dear Prudence due to distance and conflicting schedules my husband and I can’t spend Christmas with family so we do Christmas in July at our beach house. My elderly parents adore it. The present exchange means the world to them.
S13: But while their gifts are thoughtful and well intended some are not especially us think souvenirs from places that they’ve visited or books that we’re not especially into etc.. These are the gifts that mean the most to them because they picked them out specially. I just feign interest and then take the items home to give away. My husband however shows little interest and will often visibly toss things out or leave them behind. His family doesn’t exchange presence and he cannot see how his actions hurt my parents feelings. It breaks my heart to see the disappointment in my dad’s eyes when he finds the DVD that he just gave my husband carelessly shoved away. I’ve asked my husband to at least pretend but he says that we should just be honest. Instead I say that this is a small gesture of kindness which makes the people who love us happy. What say you.
S9: I say your husband’s a jackass. Yeah that’s what I say.
S5: I like love the way you’re trying to and I mean I get it you’re in a difficult position but like the trying to excuse it by saying like well his family doesn’t do gift Oh my God I know.
S6: So he don’t know how to be like you know like human being. Like that’s wild.
S13: He couldn’t possibly have picked up the idea that it’s rude to throw someone’s gift away after they’ve given it to you while there’s still no fucking no. I’m sorry. I like whatever his family background with gift giving is. He knows that it’s rude and he’s doing it on purpose. So let’s not pretend that it smells better than it does right.
S9: And so then the fact is he’s doing it on purpose. So then the larger question is like why is he doing on purpose. Is he just completely tactless which is possible or is this like a passive aggressive way of getting back at your parents who he doesn’t like or at you for some some reason like what is this because it’s aggressive it’s an aggressive thing to do. Yes. And you know especially to be like well we should be honest instead. And it’s like well okay maybe he needs to be honest with you about what’s going on in his head because this is weird behavior. It’s a strange thing to do.
S7: Also it’s a major reason why it is passive aggressive. Yeah. Yeah. It’s not honest because if you were honest he would say to them hey it’s kind of you or whatever but I really don’t like or appreciate or use these gifts can you stop I feel like you’re.
S17: I feel like you’re wasting your money and maybe we could talk more openly about what we all like to receive as guests or something like And I’m not suggesting you do that because again I think that’s a little weird like I think you should just be gracious about gifts because they’re gifts but you know especially if it’s something that brings your elderly parents joy like you should really just chill out. But yeah exactly. He’s not being forthright. He’s being like underhanded on some level and it’s shit.
S9: Yeah he’s just being a bitch. Like I don’t get I don’t see any justification for this behavior. So yeah that’s like something you just need to like. If someone you like that’s the honesty you guys need to find it. It’s not only with your parents right. Like why are you behaving this way. Are you disrespecting my family this way.
S13: Right. Yeah. And I think that’s the way to frame it. Like I think that that’s the key is like when you go to your husband and you say like you say it’s about honesty but you don’t actually you know tell my parents to stop buying US presence. So I don’t believe that it hurts their feelings and it creates extra work for me because I have to comfort them after the fact knowing that it hurts my parents and it’s hard for me. I want to know why you choose to do this every time we get together to hurt us. Is there something else that’s really bothering you and you’re acting out in this way. Please explain to me why knowing how much it’s difficult for the rest of us you would want to do this again and like let him sit in that uncomfortable silence and make him answer like whatever answer comes to mind like he needs to get honest about this. And then at the end of that to say like what I’m asking of you is to not openly throw a little presence in the trash that my parents have given us at the very least if you can just say thank you and leave the gifts there and let me put them in my suitcase. That is literally nothing. That is no work for you right. You think that you can commit to that right.
S9: Like he is on some level doing more work by being nasty to them than he would by just being nice. So that means he’s going out of his way to be mean. Which to me like bespeaks a deeper issue that is not being addressed so get at the heart of that and just also like tell him to stop. Like I’m sorry I it’s just it’s so bizarre behaviorally that I feel like you kinda have to put your foot down about it because like you simply can’t treat your parents that way. It’s not acceptable.
S5: You can’t invite your parents to your beach house so your husband can insult them and it’s just so much like literally it’s just literally just say thank you. Put it in your luggage. It takes two seconds so all this like nonsense about like it’s not authentic it’s just like who hasn’t gotten a girl that they didn’t love beyond measure and just said thank you.
S9: And like put it on your shelf or like take it to you know housing works or whatever. I don’t know. That’s a that’s a charity but like you know what I mean like donate it somewhere or something like I just don’t. There isn’t he. He’s making a point of being cruel to your parents. So that is the problem that you really have to address. It has nothing to do with the gifts. Really.
S13: Yeah. And like all I hope and assume that this is just like a one weird outlier for him and the rest of the time he’s good with your parents. But yeah I think just to have the conversation where he needs to get honest about it you need to both acknowledge that what he’s doing is disrespectful and cruel. Again it’s not like he’s you know kicking them or you don’t want to. I don’t know yet. So outside just because I think it’s really rude like I do think it’s really rude but it’s also not like on the level of like yelling at them.
S9: No but it’s a ridiculous but it’s so rare but heated like it’s sort of a repeated sort of attack on them even if it’s not like a physical ruler or it like angry attack. It’s it’s an aggressive thing to do and he does it over and over apparently for years since this is a once a year event. Do
S13: you have so you know and I think just dressing it like the alternative is that once a year you do less and don’t hurt my parents feelings. This is a win win situation. And you know I don’t like it to just say like this is a small enough thing and it’s very important to me and and I would like to ask that you do this for me if even if you don’t believe that I’m right even if you don’t agree with me. I would like you to do less and make me happier. Do you think you can do that because I feel like that is such an easy sell that if he’s like No fuck you at that point something’s wrong.
S9: And it’s not. Then you’ve got it and it isn’t about the gifts. It’s about something else. It’s about some kind of resentment that he has that you guys need to figure out because the behavior doesn’t make any sense.
S5: Yeah all right. Finally we have the tricky one.
S10: Yeah. This one’s going to. We’re gonna have to. I’m still not sure how I feel about this and I’m reading it right now. So we’ll have to figure it out in real time. I’m. I’ve read it before I mean I’m reading it aloud right now. You know what I mean. You got me. The readers are very you know very smart. They pick up what I’m putting down I think. OK subject overreaching adult adoptee. Dear Prudence I was adopted at birth with no knowledge about either of my birth parents recently I’m in my mid 40s. I took a DNA test and discovered my biological mother’s family. It has been an amazing experience. I have new siblings and they are incredible. My biological mother was very kind and shared the name of my biological father. They were young and in love but unmarried. They gave me up for adoption and did their relationship and both eventually married other people. One of my siblings learned my biological father’s address and I wrote a letter to him telling him a bit about my life and including my contact information. I also said I understood this might be a surprise and that I would not reach out to him again if he didn’t want to hear from me. Several months later I learned he had died of Alzheimer’s shortly after I sent the letter. My guess is that his wife read the letter and chose not to respond. From his obituary I know we share the same profession look alike and that one of his children lives only 10 minutes away from me. Should I reach out. I’m tempted but I worry it might be breaking my promise. I don’t want anything other than to get to know them and to hear more about his life.
S13: So I do think here that they’re like this does feel like one of the limited situations where a DNA test does not seem quite like planting a bomb.
S9: Yeah. This one. I mean like it it’s it’s brought so much joy into your life so that’s nice. I like the DNA tests bookends this week. Right.
S13: Right. And you came from out of the perspective of like everybody already knows that I was adopted. Like that’s not gonna be a surprise. Yeah I think for me the fact that it was apparently like not necessarily an open adoption where they had a lot of contact with you but like it was it doesn’t sound like they kept it a secret or that your birth mother experienced a lot of shame and repression around it so I do think you have at least some reason to think rather than like you’re your biological father’s wife.
S7: Reading the letter and throwing it away she just may have been so he was die. I mean you know her dying husband that she just saw it and was like I don’t know who this is.
S9: I’m throwing it out right or dead or just just like in a pile somewhere like I might be able to download mail that he received and she was just like he’s not reading any mail right now and she checked for bills and put the rest of it in a pile and she’ll deal with it someday. You know I think that so I think that there’s a couple different ways right. First of all it’s really lovely that your biological mother’s family has embraced you. I think I’m really happy to hear that. And I think that it makes sense that based on that experience you’re hoping that your biological father’s family will also do the same. I think that it could go either way and you have to be prepared for that possibility if you do reach out. I I’ve been going back and forth on this as I thought about. I think you can. I think you could reach out to that sibling who lives near you. I think that the fact that in contrast to the first letter with the DNA test there’s no infidelity question here. There is no like you know this. Your birth happened before these people married their spouses who they then had more children with. So presumably you pre-date that relationship. And so it’s not as though this man it’s not as though it would be a betrayal to the family unless he didn’t tell them they have a sibling and that upsets them which is entirely possible.
S4: But at that point I think the fact that they’re all in their 40s early yeah. I mean you’re all at all. They’re in their 30s or 20s. Yeah there’s no like little kids.
S9: I’m in my thirties and if I’m I think I’m old enough that while it would be strange if I found out something like this I would want to know and I would be intrigued. I would want to know the person. It also given that he just died quite tragically. Might be nice for that. It might be a part of their father that they didn’t know was out there and they might find that to be an exciting thing but they also might be like my father’s dead and he kept a big secret from me and I’m angry about this. So that’s just an eventuality. I think you have to be prepared for. But I don’t think you are breaking your promise because you made a promise to a man who has passed away and he didn’t respond right. Yeah like there was no right. There was no interaction in which you swore a vow to one another like you just made an offer you never heard back. And it’s entirely logical to then reach out to the next of kin as it were but not to his widow. I think that would be strange. So you know. Right. And she’s not one of your relatives right. Like you’re not related to her. So that’s not who you’re trying to reach. Although I’m sure it’d be nice to get to know her also if you want to know more about him. But I would say like I think that the kid who lives near you is a perfectly reasonable person to reach out to. And I would again coach it is like Hi this may be a surprise and I’m really sorry if it’s like not a good surprise. But here’s the situation yada yada yada.
S5: Yeah. And I think I’m coming down on that too if like I was a little bit on the fence. But I do think there’s grounds and I think you can just include in like I assume you’ll send a letter to your sibling now.
S13: You know again because there’s a chance that that that you did guess what happened that his wife saw it and was too overwhelmed or just didn’t want to deal with it. So I think it might be fine to include a line that was like I had tried contacting him but I learned that he never like I never he didn’t know that he was a girl and I didn’t get a hold of him before he passed.
S9: So just like. Right yeah. And so you’re not just hovering up that you did reach out previously to be transparent about that and then reiterating if you’re not interested I will not try to contact you again.
S13: This is totally just about voluntary getting to know one another. And if that’s not something that you’re available for I respect that.
S11: Right. And hopefully they will be and hopefully it will be just as fruitful a relationship as the one you’ve forged with your biological maternal siblings.
S12: But if it’s not I would say you know you found something really beautiful there and I would say just try to enjoy that and I’m glad I’m so happy for you that you found something that you wanted and that you feel good about it. But I do think that you’re well within your rights to make one more sort of overture and see what happens. And then I think if you don’t hear from the siblings you should let it go.
S4: Yeah I think that’s the right balance too. And I do think that is really lovely that like even if this doesn’t lead to anything that you have this whole new side of your family that you’re able to reconnect with and who have been kind and welcome to you it’s just so lovely.
S9: Yeah I mean that’s that’s already a happy ending. You know what I mean. So you know I just think that it’s it’s OK to feel any kind of way about this because this is a complicated situation that again as is a running theme this week. It has nothing to do with anything you’ve done. You were just born and this is the situation you were born into. So you know hopefully your siblings will recognize that and maybe be interested in opening a line of communication that’ll be fruitful for both of you. But if not you know you made the effort and you’ve done your due diligence and I think that’s really all you can do. Yeah well Conner I think that this was easily one of the most fun I really got to do in a while. I am so narrow that we just like if I gave terrible advice please don’t yell at me on Twitter because I’ll get I’ll cry. I won’t would. But not you I met you I met some fans I met the fans I’m very sad that’s a secret like that be such a dick move if I took to Twitter. I just like Danny is just like wow I just I think I just I’m horror as the guy said he was awful like Wow terrible advice. I didn’t say anything on the air but I mean I tell you I’m not going to put him on blast now on the no no no I just mean this is my first time as an agony aunt so please be be gentle gentle readers Fabrice and I’m so glad that we just have the same intuitive response too like if I found out the person I married was actually my first cousin I would you know I just don’t see the problem with that I would not again. It’s not ideal but it’s not. I don’t know what this was I mean I kept having this argument with people about Game of Thrones. I was like it would be an I’m sorry. So this is a tangible but like if you watched Game of Thrones or you know anything about it it was like the question that people are arguing about on Twitter. There were these people who wanted John engineers to be together and then there were these people who wanted John and Sonia to be together. And their point was like John and so-and-so are secretly only cousins. They’re not spoilers for like a 20 year old book sorry. They’re not actually siblings. And then dangerous and dangerous is John’s aunt and that’s weirder. And I’m like but dangerous and John don’t know that they’re related. And John and sunset grew up as siblings. That’s so much weirder than actually being.
S17: Anyway the point is yeah no if you were again instinct you couldn’t read Tabu is about like the people you grew up with who are in your immediate family like it. And that’s an intrinsic taboo that you should feel and that we mostly do.
S9: But like someone you never had any idea you’re related to and is younger than you but is your aunt. I’m sorry that’s just like a weird unique situation and you should just get over it. Maybe if you weren’t in like medieval Westroads you could like do some DNA like consultation just to make sure everything’s going to be fine. But then again her that her parents were siblings so like the really the cat’s out of the incest bag there. As far as I’m concerned anyway we’re tangent but Country I Love You saw the point really is yes I agree. I’m glad that we had the same insight on that. I’m glad that we got to tackle some of this stuff. The one I’m like most nervous about is the is the teenage sister one because I just don’t. I was just not sure how to quite approach that but I think that we offered a lot of options and I hope that that works out. And I hope that we hear from. I just hope it works. That letter writer with you know an update and I just hope that they have like she has the support system that she needs because both of them do.
S14: How lovely to because I feel like I so often hear from people were like my parents always tried to turn us against each other and it worked. We have a really right yes show but that the two of you have both been able to say like No this is not how I want to live my life. I love my sister on your end that you can recognize.
S9: I really Again I’m impressed that because I have two siblings. And like luckily my parents are not like that but you know my siblings and I now as adults in our like they’re in their late 20s I’m in my 30s. You know we have a better understanding now of like how we grew up and like the way we relate to one another. And we have interesting conversations about it but I’m not sure we would’ve had those conversations at 20 and 17. So I think it shows a lot of like emotional intelligence and maturity to be dealing with that and maybe you just had to grow up real fast because your parents suck. Right. But yeah yeah well I’m wishing all the best for for everyone and I I think that. Yeah. Yeah I’m just really I’m glad I had this opportunity it was really nice. Thank you for inviting me. If people want to follow me on Twitter I I’m just unplug myself without asking. No. My name is Connor Goldsmith Connor likes Jeanette Goldsmith like a jeweler. And my Twitter and Instagram handle are it’s just one weird dream of organ on dream of then O R G O and O and it’s a lyric from Kate Bush’s cloud busting because I’m a homosexual and follow my clients. You can see fuse literally dot com to see like who I represent my client Heron Walker was on this podcast not long ago. She’s great. You are a treasure. I try. I mean I you know I just try to be enjoyable. You are fantastic. You’re very enjoyable Get out. OK I’m leaving. Thank you so much. Dear Prudence listeners it’s been and it’s been a real treat.
S20: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producers Phil circus and our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show head to Slate dot com slash Dear Prudence to subscribe and remember you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate Plus.
S21: Get a slate dot com slash pretty pod to sign him 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 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 30 seconds a minute tops.
S22: Thanks for listening.