The “Not Quilty” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you. Danny Glover here and I have a special announcement for our listeners, some of you know that I published my latest book in February. It’s called Something That May Shock or Discredit You. And it’s a little bit about trans masculinity, a little bit about the rapture and a little bit about Anne of Green Gables today. I wanted to let you know that for a limited time only you can get a really good deal on the audiobook, which is read by me. Go to sleep Dotcom’s Danny. That’s just Slate dotcom slash. Danny. There’s also a link in the show notes of this episode. The audiobook will cost you just twelve ninety nine. That’s five dollars off the list price. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal. After you complete your purchase, you’ll be able to listen to the audio book and your preferred podcast player. That’s right. The one that you’re using right now. There’s no special app to download a no subscription fees. And there’s one more thing you should know. This audio book sale is brought to you by Slate. That means your purchase not only supports me, it also helps support the important journalism you depend on. So it’s a win win. You save money and sleep makes money. If you’ve ever thought about checking out my book, there’s never been a better time than now. This is a limited time promotion. So don’t just sit there, sit there and go to sleep. Dotcom slash Danny and buy my audio book today. One more time. That’s Slate Dotcom, Danny.

S2: You’re pretty your prudent defer to prudence, dear, dear Prudence here, pretty do you think that I should contact him again? Help. Help. Thanks. 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 M. LaVere. With me in the studio this week is Dr. Jennifer M. Buck, an assistant professor of practical theology at Azouz a Pacific University. Her books and research explore themes of global Christianity, Quakerism, gender, race and popular culture. She’s also a licensed minister. She helps pastor a church in Pasadena, California, where she lives with her husband and foster son. She’s also my former college roommate. Jen, welcome to the show.

S4: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a delight to be here.

S3: It is just an absolute delight to be here with you. And I feel like I wish that we could be eating easy, Mac and sitting on the same couch to really revive the old college experience, truly, that those were really the days, the good old good old days. They were certainly days. And it cannot be denied that when we lived together, we had days and also even. How’s it going? How are you doing? How’s the air?

S4: Yeah, the air quality is less than ideal here in Southern California, and we’re right on the edge of the evacuation zone, but feels unlikely that it would get all the way to our house. So we’re kind of keeping an eye on things, staying mostly indoors, but we are safe and we are, well, all things considered. Thanks for checking in.

S3: I am really glad to hear that. And I hope that you’re able to bring that same sense of peaceful preparedness to the number of people who have written in to the show today, because they’ve got they’ve got some exciting problems. I think they’ve got some interesting problems today.

S4: Yeah, it’s quite a range of situations that people are navigating even during this pandemic time.

S3: Yeah. Yeah. Like it ranges from like as relatively low intensity, as too many quilts all the way up to like I might have to move because my father keeps attacking my cars.

S4: Yeah. Really, really. The gamut of minor to quite serious.

S3: Well let’s get started with something that I think is right in the middle. It’s one of my favorites. Would you please read our first question?

S4: I would be happy to subject competition in a marriage. Dear Prudence, my husband recently made a statement I simply cannot get past. We are a gay couple who have been together for thirty nine years, married for 12. I recently lost some weight after changing my diet while lunching with our son at college, he asked how much weight I had lost. When I told him his response was What? I can’t weigh more than you. I was gobsmacked. He is an educated professional at a major university. This seemed petty and symptomatic of a strong competitive streak he’s had with me since high school. Our son seemed pretty surprised too, and he’s since apologized after I brought it up again later. But frankly, this has gone on for years. He also has to be number one in everything. I could just roll my eyes and say, oh, that’s just how he is, but I’m tired of it. I’m worried about what it’ll be like once we retire. I don’t want to raise another teenager.

S3: I felt this one like I know this couple, you know what I mean? I, I felt it. I didn’t like it, but I could feel it. I drew it up before my very eyes and I felt like I was there. Yeah. In my mind, by the way, this happened at a minute and they all had Cobb salad and iced teas that they ordered unsweetened. But that came with sweetener.

S4: That’s just me setting this. Yeah, I think that scene is fair. I noticed it was interesting. There wasn’t really a question at the end of it. I was left thinking, like, what exactly are you looking for us to do other than affirm your frustration, which I would absolutely affirm. But there isn’t really a pending dilemma on the table as much as maybe lengthier conversation needed about what teaming in a marriage might look like, what mutual support and mutual health and flourishing for both of you would be like. And also what conversations are appropriate to have in front of your adult son perhaps as well.

S3: But yeah. Yeah. And maybe to that I felt like kind of on the on the heels of that is the sort of question of like if he’s been like this since high school and we’ve known each other for almost 40 years, is there even a point to trying to have a conversation, both in the sense of like, well, he’s not going to change now? And also, is it kind of my fault for letting this go for thirty nine years? Do you have any thoughts on that unspoken question?

S4: Yeah, the interesting thing he lays out is what it will be like once they retire. So I wonder what he thinks will exacerbate this situation once the workplace is no longer in the mix, if it’s they’ll be spending even more time together and maybe they’re like recreational hobbies will become even more competitive. And then that might be a good entry point to talk about, maybe finding a parallel, but not so much the same hobbies so that there could be ways of having separate identities. And things don’t have to feel like a competition, but spaces where they can each be succeeding. I wondered how much this conversation has been had already and the relationship. So, like you said, it’s been forty nine years or thirty nine years, excuse me, but they don’t seem to say I’ve brought it up over and over, but they do seem to say I could just roll my eyes and say that’s how he is. So maybe there’s a sense that this person has absorbed a lot and hasn’t necessarily communicated it. But your point being maybe the communication won’t change anything. I tend to be a believer that, like, hopefully we all would like to be kind of working towards being a little better and maybe didn’t realize how much this was hurtful to their partner by saying that, I don’t know. What are your thoughts?

S3: Yeah, I mean, I’m also there with you, I think sometimes, too, if somebody feels like they have gotten away with a particular dynamic for 39 years, there’s a real sense of like, well, that’s just how I am. Or like, you knew I was like that when you married me or like, why are you upset about this all of a sudden? To which I would just say, like, you were allowed to suddenly be bothered by something that didn’t used to bother you or you’re just allowed to kind of realize I’ve been trying to let this one slide for a really long time, and that’s no longer working. Or maybe it’s just as simple as like it made me realize that we’re going to be spending retirement together and I’m no longer interested in doing this, sort of like that’s ralfe routine that I’ve maybe done for a really long time. So, yeah, I mean, I think that really speaks to a certain mindset of like, I can’t weigh more than you that that says a lot. It wasn’t even just like an off the cuff, like kind of ungenerous moment. It was like I have to, you know. Yeah. Oh. Do you remember when they revamped the Sweet Valley High Series in the early aughts to be like Sweet Valley senior year? And then the first book, both of the twins had like their secret diaries and they were like, I promise to like always be a half inch taller than Jessica or Elizabeth and always two pounds lighter, if it felt like that to me of just like he’s keeping score in his head of like, which of us is like, quote, the fat husband and it’s not him. And that’s that hurts.

S4: Right. That was the part that felt like, OK, maybe that conversation was worth having with a therapist then, because this has been very, you know, unloving to your partner and. And not supportive of what seems to be a very strong, healthy lifestyle choice that he’s been making probably over time, you know, if this has been a change of diet and an effort, it probably hasn’t been unnoticed by the spouse because it’s probably gone on for a little bit. So that’s that’s where it’s disappointing that there couldn’t be a little more like your success. Is our success kind of a dynamic?

S3: And then maybe that’s worth bringing another voice into the conversation to help with that, or at the very least, just like polite neutrality of like I’m glad this seems to be making you happy. I will not have any more comments to make on this subject.

S4: Honestly, honestly, that character flaw, like you said, even if it has been ongoing and is now coming to the surface, but also is likely been annoying for quite some time, is really worth addressing because in this new season when you might be spending a lot more time with one another, you don’t want things to fester and get worse.

S3: Yeah, and I think I’ll just close with this, which is that I think, you know, the letter writer says that this was intentional weight loss rather than like incidental or something that was the result of an illness. And so I wonder if that coupled with the idea of, like retirements on the horizon, means that you’ve been doing some thinking lately about like, what do I want? What do I not want? What are things in my life that I want to change? What are things in my life that I want to keep? And regardless of whether or not or how long or or to whatever extent you you stay at this weight or change to another weight, I think it seems like part of what you’re doing right now is taking stock. And the fact that you open with like I can’t get past this is you’re saying like I’ve had my life in this particular way for a long time now. Are kids off at college worth thinking about retirement, what’s working and what’s not? And I think that’s the way to approach this conversation. Not like you’ve been a monster for almost 40 years. And you have to, like, make it up to me. Right. Or like everything before was a lie. So much is just like, OK, new time in life, new horizons. What do I want? What do I not? And you’re absolutely allowed to say. Like, I don’t want to spend our retirement figuring out who’s number one all the time. I don’t want to think of one another in that way. And I want you to actually do something to change this. And yeah, I think to that end, now would be a great time for therapy if therapy is not the next move, even just having some of these conversations, pointing it out to him when he’s being competitive and be like, go fucking join in over 60 like sports league if you need to get out from your competition. But like, don’t bring it to lunch, please. Lunch should not be a battle here.

S4: Here. Lunch should be very pleasant and jovial with our college son. And really it should be about the college some then about our competitive dynamic.

S3: You should be having a great time at Mamie’s and when they bring that big basket of muffins over, we should all have the muffin that we want.

S4: The muffins are really the reason to go to Mimi’s.

S3: Surely they do have really good muffins. I do miss them. I don’t think that there are millions on the East Coast. Yeah, I don’t think there’s Mimi’s outside of suburban California, possibly not outside of like Christian colleges. I think we’ve handled this one as much as we need to agree. So the subject of this next line is guilt about looking to the future, Dear Prudence, I feel a combination of guilt and anticipation about the future. My wife has stage four lung cancer. She was diagnosed in twenty seventeen. For the past three years, I’ve been her caregiver. When I’m not at work, I’ve cut my hours so that I leave my office at about three 30. I check to see what she wants to have for dinner and stop at the market. The rest of the day is spent making dinner, cleaning the kitchen, some minor housework than watching TV until she goes to bed around 9:00. This has been our routine for over a year and on the weekends I do yard work. My wife is mobile, but only just. She has serious balance issues and generally feels not so hot. I should also mention that since my prostatectomy 13 years ago, she’s not wanted to have sexual relations with me. I should also say that she is the love of my life and we’ve been together for 56 years. I found myself checking who might be out there willing to connect with an old man. Seventy four such as myself. I feel alive and want to live in a much more active way, including having a sex life with another woman. I feel like a horrible person, but I am so lonely and feel totally unsure of myself. It’s to really like.

S4: Touched on my old heart strings, I felt so much love for this sweet, tender old man who has been caregiving for so long. This has probably been really all consuming for a few years and and very lonely and very sad season for him as he’s anticipating this kind of final chapter with his wife.

S3: Yet nothing about this struck me as like, oh, man, you really need to check yourself or you were on a bad road. I had a letter last week from somebody who was in a caregiving situation with their spouse and who’s legitimate frustrations had gotten them to a point that I felt like we’re possibly endangering their disabled spouse. So I was quite hard on them. But I’m kind of glad to have this letter this week to make it clear, like the problem is not that caregiving is a full time, very demanding job or that somebody who’s caring for a spouse who’s got a terminal diagnosis, sorry, I lost my train of thought, but basically just wanted to make it clear, like if that person experiences like stress, distress, a desire to not care for a while to think about something else like that is in no way bad ever.

S4: Yeah, I, I wanted to relieve him of a word like guilt. I think I’m assuming it’s a him. I can’t remember if that gets that or not. Yeah. He called himself an old man. That’s right. I think that’s right. Yeah. An old man such as myself. That’s right. I want to relieve him of the word guilt because I think it’s OK to say I have so much love and I’ve had this long, lengthy season with my spouse. But I’m also thinking about a different life and kind of the next chapter of my life in the future. And both can be true. And I would hope that this wife, who is the love of his life, who’s been with him for fifty six years, who has probably received so much care and love from him and feels her own maybe share of guilt about that, that she would only want good, good things for him in the next chapter of his life, would want companionship for him, would want him to be able to feel alive and live in a more active way, like he said. And that’s me wanting to be charitable towards her. But I could only hope that she would want that next thing for him. So then it maybe doesn’t have to be guilt. It can be both. You want to finish this chapter? Well, but you also are thinking about what your next chapter will look like. And that’s OK, because some of that is is the coping that we do in seasons of, you know, deep, deep pain and sadness right now.

S3: That doesn’t necessarily mean that the first thing you should do, say to your wife, I’ve been occasionally checking to see who might be wanting to date someone in their mid 70s, partly because that’s just even if in theory or as an idea, she wants you to have a happy life after she dies, she might not feel up to talking about life. And what dating sites would you like to use. So I don’t think that you need to start with that. But I think a couple of things. One is that I think you maybe need one day a week where you do not just come home early from work and cook and tidy up the house and watch TV with her. And that doesn’t mean like one day a week you just blow her off and do nothing, because it seems like this schedule has really been something you’ve both been kind of clinging to. So but like maybe one afternoon a week where you either tell a friend you two need help with dinner or you order takeout if that’s something that you can afford. And again, assuming definitely that she’s able to eat, I imagine somebody with stage four lung cancer is not going to be able to, like, eat a Domino’s Pizza that’s full of sodium necessarily. But maybe she can. I don’t know. But but think about what would it look like if one day a week right now so that you’re not just thinking I’ll only experience freedom and peace once my wife is gone and now that she’s alive, my only job is to go to work and then take care of her so that you have like a couple of hours in the afternoon to go see a movie. Movie theaters are closed. I’m sorry that I said that. I was trying to imagine life before even just like reading a book in your car, like something that’s not. Fixing up the house or making dinner?

S4: Absolutely, I have the same thought about respite care in some form, whether your insurance might provide someone that could occasionally serve as some help or if you have someone in your family or in a friendship that would feel like the kind of person you trust that you could ask for that support, because the the list of what his routine has been like, not only is it heartbreaking, but also the fact that he felt like listing it almost made it seem like I have earned this break. And it’s like, absolutely, we agree with you. You don’t have to give a reason for it. We just recognize that this has been a really hard chapter that isn’t over yet. So you do need something to help sustain you till whenever that chapter comes to it. And. Right.

S3: And I understand that if she has serious balance issues and is generally not feeling well, you might not feel like I can pick a day, a week where I’m just gone all day. Again, I get that. And if financially it’s not possible to get in-home care just yet, to plan ahead for like you’re going to leave her there for two hours with, like, some grapes and charcuterie, something that she can eat off of a tray, something that doesn’t involve like standing up and cutting a lot of things. But but just something that gives you time to yourself before she is dead, you need that. And I realize that sounds kind of brutal, but like you do need that.

S4: Oh, it absolutely does. Not only time to himself, but he says he’s so lonely and there can be ways that you develop companionship and friendships and community even in this season as well, too. It isn’t always necessarily that you immediately start dating somebody else or there’s an overlap or anything like that. But there can be ways that you find, you know, friendship, companionship, even in this season as well. And it might be in some nontraditional ways.

S3: Yeah, yeah. And maybe to also talk about, like, given how intensive your at home caregiving routine is right now, any progression in her illness might mean that she could pretty quickly move to a place where you could not do those things for her. So I think it’s it’s kind of like wanting to get pain medication and as they say, like stay ahead of the pain when you’re recovering from surgery to to stay ahead of her diagnosis such that you’re not waiting for like one day when she falls and you have to move her either to the E.R. or to hospice care immediately to think about, you know, let’s get somebody in maybe a few weeks or months before we think we have to have them so that we never have to make a decision because we just suffered an accident or something awful just happened. And again, I say that like, oh, you just snap your fingers. And an incredibly qualified hospice nurse starts coming around three afternoons a week and then just magically knows when to up it to seven days a week. And then you just have this flawless transition into end-of-life care. But I do think that now is and again, it’s not just like you come home and you say, I’m tired, I’m exhausted. Take a hospice. You’re going to think about how do we how do we go from seven days a week? I do this to six days a week. I do this, too. Are there friends who have offered maybe to make dinner that we didn’t want to take them up on it because we were, you know, didn’t want to impose and now it’s maybe time, you know.

S4: Yeah, I think all of that’s a good word, starting some of that planning might help alleviate some of the guilt that he’s feeling and help like he says, he doesn’t feel totally sure of himself. And that might start to help him feel like, oh, now I’m developing a little bit of a sense of what the future might look like. So there can be a little bit of certainty under my feet, even in this very uncertain time.

S3: Mm hmm. Yeah, and if you find yourself periodically, just like double checking, are there still dating sites for people in their 70s so that when my wife is gone, I might hop on one of those? I just don’t think you need to beat yourself up over that one. That’s not a sign that you want her to die. It’s it’s pretty natural reaction. All right. Let’s move on to something on a totally different scale. I’m very excited that you get to read this one.

S4: Oh, yes. Subject quilted out. Dear Prudence, my partner and I just moved into our first home together and it much larger than our tiny studio apartment with more available areas to decorate. My partner’s mother is obsessed with quilting and my partner wants us to feature prominently in our home decor. I don’t just mean one bed quilt, I mean frame quilts on the walls, quilts on the couches, quilted coasters, the whole nine yards. My house looks like a quilt threw up on it. It feels like a cross between a hoarder’s home and a nursing home. I’m much more minimalist and I hate having clashing colors everywhere. Plus the quilt sometimes have a musty smell. I feel like a jerk for pushing back on displaying some of my partner’s mother’s lovingly handmade art, but I hate walking into my own home. Generally, we communicate well, but they just have a blog about this. For some reason, they are also extremely close with their mother. In a way, I’m not with mine, so perhaps that’s playing into it. What can I do to respect my partner and their mother while not living in a quilted horrorshow?

S3: Well, I want to look on the bright side here and say, like, it’s fine if your partner has a blog on this subject, like, who cares? Just fight about it. Like, what do I do to respect my partner and their mother? You already are doing that. Don’t worry about that. Unless unless you are like ripping down the quilts and saying, like, your mother is a Muste bitch with no talent, you’re doing great.

S4: Yeah. I wondered why there couldn’t be some middle ground here where there’s like a part of the house that that partner can have more of the quilts and that’s kind of their office or their corner or their room for some purposes where they could still display them. But you could feel like the shared space. You also get to have some say in the decor because that feels completely reasonable.

S3: Yeah, I think the key here is I feel like a jerk for pushing back on displaying my partner’s mother’s lovingly handmade art. So for whatever reason, the dynamic in your home right now is unlimited quilts. And anyone who says anything other than more quilts like Giles Corey getting crushed to death during the Salem witch trials, shouting out more weight doesn’t love my mom. And that is outrageous. Like that is a wildly unreasonable stance. So, like, again, as long as you are not calling your partner or her mother a bitch with no taste and a terrible sense of smell, who doesn’t realize that her home smells like death? Don’t say those things and you will be in the clear. And if you just say to your partner, I love you, this has been driving me insane. We have too many damn quilt’s in our house. I hate it. It’s driving me nuts. One quilt is fine. Fifty quilts is too many. We need to figure out the number of quilts we’re going to display in our home. I need to tell you right now, that number is going to be lower than you’d wish it was like that just has to be the fight. Anything other than like all quilts all the time. Your partner’s going to be like, oh, no, but mom just made this amazing new quilt. You won’t believe it. It’s made out of fucking quilted material like all of the other quilts. He was going to change the game.

S4: I, I just I can’t get over it like it’s it’s really fine to say you don’t want them on display. That’s not unloving. That’s not disrespectful. Like, it’s absolutely OK to say this is how I’d like my home to look. And of course there might be some. What about this or what about that with your partner. But you don’t have to just say either I don’t love you both or it’s all quilts everywhere.

S3: Right. And it’s just like your partner gets still love their mom and be super close and be like, hey, mom, eight is enough. You know, like none of this is weird or unreasonable are like, oh, yeah, you know, they are really going to have to fight about it. And like, if the mom does freak out. That’s a fight they need to have, like if the alternative is you being like, well, everything in our home is quilted, including like our condoms, but, you know, my partner loves her mom. So what are you going to do? Like, you fight about it. You fight about it now and you say too many. Quilt’s pick three.

S4: Yeah. And you’re generous to try to say maybe it’s because I’m not close to my mom, but I don’t think that has anything to do with this situation whatsoever.

S3: Yeah. I mean, look, I used to be close to my mom and now I’ll never talk to her again until she dies. So that’s obviously a factor. But like, even when I thought we were really close, I would have felt pretty comfortable saying No one more than two quilts.

S4: My mother also makes quilts as a hobby, but it feels a completely appropriate for us to have one on display, some folded in like a kind of chest that are unseen and still tell her that we love her and we love her quilts, but we don’t plan on putting more out in our house. You can draw some very healthy boundaries around still loving the quilt making mother in law or partner of your mother excuse me. And, you know, also have your home. Look, the way you want to do this is a fight worth having. If they have a block that’s on them and you might as well dig to the bottom of it, maybe you can get them to really say what’s under the quilt obsession. Maybe you can get that.

S3: Yeah, I just keep picturing that scene in Fantasia where the magician’s apprentice keeps making more and more Senshi and brooms, but with quilts. And it’s just like, yeah, just because someone loves you and they like quilting does not mean that your entire life has to be given over to that project. And if it does need to do some healthy reconsideration of what your idea of love is and gifts are, and honestly, if it were me and if I weren’t going well, I’d start throwing away the quilts because I’m a real shit stirrer sometimes and I like to fight. And I’m also nervous about conflicts. So sometimes I like to do things that I know will mean a fight has to happen so that I can’t chicken out, you know, and it seems like a real me shit where I would just be like, oh, we almost talked about it yesterday. You know what I’m going to do, burn nine of the quilts, then they’ll be super pissed off and there’s no turning back. So you can always try that.

S4: I mean, different strokes for different folks.

S3: But if that works for you, that’s not me at my best, to be clear. That is it’s just a thing you can do. But we should move on. Yes. This next one, much more serious. And it’s my turn to read it. The subject is parental misbehavior. And yes, it is. Dear Prudence. My nephew recently demolished his adult daughter spare car that was parked on his property. He did this because she’d been unable to accept an invitation to someone else’s birthday party that he had extended to her. She had good reason to declined. The invitation as covid-19 is still a real concern. After that, she filed a restraining order. My nephew was subsequently arrested for possessing multiple unregistered weapons and violating his restraining order. Now my grandniece feels guilty that her father is facing serious time for weapons charges that ensued over the service. A restraining order. My advice is that she isn’t responsible for that, but she should move out of the area as he’s clearly unstable. And who knows what will happen between now and the trial. What’s your advice? That’s rough.

S4: Yeah, I I immediately went to the safety of the grand niece. I think that’s really important and that’s paramount. I, I agree with the letter writer that he does seem pretty unstable and he seems pretty volatile. And we don’t quite know what kind of actions he’s going to possibly take with demolishing a vehicle already on the table. And now things have escalated in terms of possibly his anger at her because of the restraining order. So I do think she needs to do what she feels is appropriate to get herself into a position of safety.

S3: Yeah, yeah. I’m right there with you. And I think to whatever I know that the letter writer can’t force her to do that. But I do agree that the letter writer should really encourage her and just say, like, given that he has already done some pretty intense stuff and we know he’s pretty dysregulated and not interested in complying with the restraining order, I think it sounds like he’s also out on bond until the trial. So, yeah, I think both saying I think that you should, if nothing else, stay with friends, stay somewhere where, you know, he doesn’t know the address and start taking additional precautions. Like whenever you have to go run an errand by yourself or do something alone, text a friend where you’re going and what time you think you’re going to be back. Always make sure that somebody you trust knows where you are, which might feel a little over the top, but could end up being pretty critical, not doing things alone if you can avoid it. Maybe the letter writer can also ensure that if there’s other relatives who they’re worried might be a weak link, like if the dad reaches out and says, like, do you know where she is? And the letter writer suspects that they might tell him either get them in order, get them in line, or make sure they don’t know where she’s at. Yeah, I mean, you can’t undo the restraining order. That did not seem like a situation where somebody went to the police, like, precipitously or too soon or frivolously. And I just think. You can’t unring that bell anyways, so there’s just there’s there’s no point in wishing that you had done it differently, it’s over. And, you know, it feels like the lesser of two evils here. If your options were either file a restraining order or don’t. I think my advice probably would have been to file a restraining order to, you know, letter writer.

S4: You clearly have a deep sense of care for your grand niece and her well-being. And I I would encourage you to continue with that. Whatever relationship you have that you can not only just help her to not feel guilty about the situation and at least you can maybe reassure that out of your relationship. But absolutely any ways that you are able to continue to look out for her safety and well-being, just like some of the advice that I was giving, I think that’s really what needs to be important as trials are getting delayed and covid. And this might be a situation that goes on longer than even anticipated. I’m so very sorry that all of this unraveling is happening in your family during this time, that’s got to be really heavy on you as the great aunt. But whatever ways that you can care for her, I would encourage you to do that in whatever ways you can help her to be safe. I would encourage that as well and kind of keep her protected because it seems like your nephew. Yeah, a bit volatile but unstable in this season of his life, for whatever reasons.

S3: Yeah. I mean, anybody who’s willing to smash up your car because you said I can’t go to somebody else’s birthday party is somebody who it is hard to anticipate what may or may not set them off. And so not that I want to make it the letter writers concerned to make sure that he’s getting mental health treatment. But if you are if you think he is likely to listen to you or if there’s another relative who you think he might listen to, anything that you can do that would encourage him to, you know, take his lawyer’s advice, I’m sure his lawyer is recommending to him that he may not try to contact his daughter or to attempt to threaten anyone else if he can start seeing a therapist, if he can go to a doctor and a psychiatrist to see if there’s some sort of diagnosis that’s that’s gone unnoticed. Anything that you can do in that way?

S4: Yeah, any movement towards treatment would only benefit him for the possible upcoming trial. So anyways, they you can encourage that letter writer based out of your relationship. He may not take it, but at least that’s you giving him the best advice possible, which is moving towards help not only for himself, but for the best future outcome for his, you know, upcoming legal proceedings, but then your primary concern being for your grandniece. And so whatever whatever you can do to protect her, I would encourage them. Especially I kept continuing to think we don’t know her age, and so that was another thing I was concerned about as well, right?

S3: Like the letter said, daughter, adult daughter. But it was just like that could be 18, you know, like she might not necessarily be very financially, you know, spare car could mean anything from like it’s a it’s a relative’s hand-me-down, like a used car to like she is in her 30s and has multiple vehicles because she’s quite well off, in which case, like, she’ll have more resources to get away, which is a good thing. But yeah, I agree. If if she’s younger, if if this was a spare car because she needed it to get to work because her other one less reliable, if anything that you can do towards making this less financially disastrous, that would be great. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. OK, this next one is just like a classic. Classic, I think it has like a slightly pandemic inflected update, but it felt just very much like this is why advice columns were invented, which was like the problem of heterosexuality. And why does my boyfriend not want to marry me?

S4: Yeah, I felt like I was watching an indie film with this one, like a little. Yeah. Has a little bit of a romance, but it’s going to have to have a little bit of sadness to it as well. Yeah, OK. Subject in sickness and in health. Dear Prudence, I’m a woman and have been with my partner for about two years. We were both twenty nine. We were well suited and generally very happy. We want the same things for our life together. I thought we make a great team and are already living in a house that we bought together with our two dogs. However, there’s one problem. My partner is currently working, but his job doesn’t provide enough health insurance and we can’t afford private insurance. I get great insurance through my job. He’s looking for another job, but he has no immediate prospects. I’m concerned about him not having insurance in general, but especially during a global health crisis. The best solution would be universal health care. But that isn’t an option right now. I propose that we get married at town hall, not a big ceremony, so I could add him to my insurance policy. He dismissed me out of hand. I tried to get him to tell me why and he couldn’t give me an answer other than I don’t know, I just don’t want to. Every time I’ve tried to bring it up since maybe three times total over the past couple of months, that’s all he will say on the matter. I’m not trying to trick him into marrying me. I’m ambivalent on the point of marriage myself and offered it as a practical solution to a pressing problem that affects us both. His refusal to even think about it hurts me. It feels like he’s saying I’d rather risk getting coronavirus with no insurance and possibly die or at least go into significant debt than marry you. I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable feeling, but it’s the one I’ve got. I’d be devastated if he got sick and had no safety net other than our somewhat meager savings. Obviously, I don’t want him to marry me if he doesn’t want to. And the idea of being the stereotypical girlfriend, nagging her reluctant boyfriend for a ring is revolting to me. But the lack of explanation has me filling in answers for myself. What should I do? Should I try again to get him to tell me why he doesn’t want to marry me? Should I drop it forever? Should I be OK with a flat? No, with no reason behind it. I honestly think that I’d be OK with whatever happens or even if it meant we didn’t want the same things for our lives. After all, the not knowing why is the worst part.

S3: My my first thought here was like, you do not have to pretend not to care about this, like. I get that what you’re saying is you’re like, I’m I’m aware that marriage is an ideal institution. I’m aware that there are real downsides to it. I’m not living for marriage, but like you’re you’re not ambivalent at all. Maybe you’re ambivalent about marriage in theory, but in this situation with your current partner and his current need for health insurance and your current desire to help solve his problem, you are, in fact, so far from ambivalent here. You want to marry him?

S4: I had the exact same thought. You don’t bring something up three times just for practical reasons. You bring it up because you want this. And maybe some of why you want it is altruistic. But yeah, you don’t need to feel bad about that.

S3: Yeah, like it’s not shameful. It’s also you to downplay and I say all that because you are working I think very hard to downplay it because some part of you thinks if I act relaxed enough about it, he will see what a good idea it is. And then I’m not actually trying to trap him, which again, I understand where you’re coming from in that, but it’s not working and it’s not necessary. So it’s like you were trying to act incredibly nonchalant about something that you, in fact, feel incredibly urgent about. It’s not working, obviously. And so the frustration here, I think, on your end comes from pretending to care less than you do.

S4: Right. And to that point, then he is trying to communicate to you. He is not interested in doing this. And now it is up to you how you would like to respond to that information. You cannot make him feel differently than he does. You have presented your case. You have brought it up multiple times. Maybe it’s worth you bringing it up with the actual level of passion you feel for it. And then he realizes, oh, I didn’t realize you felt so strongly about it. That might change his mind, but it seems like all evidence points to the fact that his mind is not going to be changed on this issue. And so now what would you like to do with that as a result?

S3: Yeah, and like, I feel sympathetic to this, too, because there’s the real frustration of, like, listen, man, the jig is up. We live together. We have dogs together. Like if part of you was thinking, oh, well, marriage, that sounds like a big deal. It’s like, well, too fucking late, man. If we split up, we’re going to have to go to maybe court over some dogs or at the very least have some awful conversations like. If your hope was to avoid commitment and keep your options open, that ship has sailed. If we break up, it will be a whole thing. We are going to have to divide assets. And, you know, I also solved this own problem in my life by getting a sex change. But I also really relate to, I think, being in a, you know, a relationship with a man as a woman, where it’s just like sometimes I want to fuckin save the day. I want to be burdened and I want to be competent and suave. And I want to, like, pick you up off of a pirate ship and Dipu and kiss you and have my hair blowing in the wind and maybe I have a sword and like leather trousers and I also have a beard and my name is Fernando. But that’s not the point. Like just because I ended up being a transsexual doesn’t mean you are. And I think part of that frustration is that sense of like I would like to be ardent and save the day and impressive and do something fucking cool and that displays how much I care for you. And I want your response to that to be like, oh, that’s hot. That’s amazing. Yes. Give me whisk me up in your strong arms. Let’s run away. You know, like I don’t think that’s an exclusively, like, trans masculine feeling. I think lots of people can feel that way and it can feel like sad and demoralizing if it feels like your partner doesn’t want that from you. Do you think I was reading too much into that? Does that make sense?

S4: No, I think that totally makes sense and. That’s definitely giving this very charitable view to her, like I really do want to do something for you and I get that. I also think it’s fair to say, OK, you don’t want to get married. I hear you, but I need you to have health insurance. And that’s a fine also line in the sand to draw with your partner. I, like you said, you’re you’re obviously very invested. You have built a life together. You’ve built a home together. Their health is the health of your unit. Right. So I think it’s absolutely fine to say if marriage is not the way and you do not want to receive my health insurance that I want to give to you, then we need to figure out another way for you to get insurance, because that it feels very important to me that you have that safety net under you should anything happen. I think the pandemic is like heightened that for a lot of folks, no doubt. But it’s a good practice. Just because you’re young and twenty nine does not mean that there would not be other reasons why health insurance would be really important for your partner, you know, so I think that’s a totally reasonable conversation to have separating the marriage, one aside from it, and then just say, OK, how do we figure this out? Do we need to start putting some of our meager savings into, you know, a COBRA plan or some kind of basic health insurance plan for you? Do we need to buy COBRA so fucking expensive, right, that. I know. I know you’re absolutely right. When you say the sentence of, you know, the best solution would be universal health care, but that’s not an option. So if he’s not interested in partnering with you to receive your health insurance in a legal way, then you’re going to need to get creative and figure out some other ways that you can get him health insurance, if that feels like really important to you, because I think that’s a very reasonable ask of your partner, that they super be responsible with their health as much as they’re able.

S3: Yeah. And I also in that I also relate to him because like I think the first time I got laid off, I did Cobra for like a year and I was like, this is the most expensive thing in the world. And so after that, I was just like, my plan is just I’m not going to think about it and I hope I don’t get sick. And so for like many, many years, like, I didn’t have health insurance until, like two years ago. And I would like once or twice buy it through Obamacare because my tax person would freak out and then I’d forget to pay after a month and I can’t afford to pay this month. And then it would lapse. And this is not I give advice. All right. I start because I’ve made mistakes in my life. And I certainly if I had to speculate about his state of mind, it would be something like mine at various points in my twenties, which would be like, yeah, I should really get a job. I will look into that later and I’m just not going to get sick until I get my next health insurance. And that’s going to work out great. So it’s not a great strategy and it’s especially not a great strategy when you were like a home owning living partner who’s responsible for dogs. But yeah. And then I think just beyond that. Whatever’s going on, I don’t think that you can say like unless you can give me a good reason we should do it, but I do think it’s fair to say. Listen, here’s what I want. I’m not ashamed of it and I’m not embarrassed by it, like I’m not playing it cool. I live with you. We bought docs together. I like you cats out of that bag. I want to know what you were thinking. And if the answer is just you kind of don’t think about it, that would be painful. But I would like to know. So just, you know. Think a little bit last time we talked, you said, I don’t know, I just don’t want to. OK, give it some thought today. Think about it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’m not asking that you feel the same way about this, but I am asking that you expend some emotional energy in my direction because I’m expending a lot in your direction. And that, again, is not embarrassing. It’s not shameful. I shouldn’t feel like a dweeb for thinking about you, the man I live with and want to sweep up off of a pirate ship. And so just really say, like, I would like you to meet me here where I am thinking about you and your well-being a lot, dedicate some of your emotional resources in the direction of our relationship. And then even if what you have to say to me is I like living together and I like our dogs, but the idea of marriage freaks me out because it makes me think that getting broken up is going to be a big hassle. And so for that reason, I just don’t feel like it at least then have the honesty to say something to me that, you know, will hurt my feelings and we can deal with it together. But don’t do the whole like, gee, I don’t know, I never thought about it. It’s kind of dumb that you’re giving it all this thought. Like, I’m not stupid for thinking about you. We’re in a relationship. I sound like Carrie from Sex and the City at this point. It’s just like yelling at Big in the Street, like I’m not an idiot for thinking about you. Big.

S4: Exactly. I was going to say there’s a way to have a conversation and not be a nag. You don’t want to be the stereotypical nag and don’t be that, you know. And that doesn’t mean your only other option is don’t have the conversation. You can have a very healthy conversation where you you give them the space to think about it and you talk about it like the twenty nine year old reasonable adults that you are. But yeah, it isn’t unreasonable to say I’m considering your health and like the future of our family unit here. And that’s that’s totally appropriate. And there’s a way to do that without being a nag. But and then going back to the very, very original point, don’t pretend like you don’t care that much. You care very deeply and you care very deeply about marriage and you care very deeply about their health. And that’s worth like talking about both those fronts, maybe together, maybe separate.

S3: Yeah. And like to me, the problem of nagging is is of strategy and not of like, you’re dumb to care. Like part of what I think creates conditions for some nagging, not all nagging, but nagging of this varieties the sense of like, do you think about me? We are in a relationship and sometimes it feels like you are in a competition to care less. And I don’t understand where the value is in that like. And so to that, I would say, you know, if you don’t want to be in a relationship with somebody who nags, think about that person’s inner emotional experience and tell them how you’re feeling once in a while. And then if they agree on that, then they’re probably just being a jerk. I will let this one go, because at this point, I think I’m talking to some of my boyfriends from 81 and, you know.

S4: Yeah, it was I felt myself in the sun a little bit in a way that was not pleasant.

S3: Yeah, it all worked out. We’re doing great. You’re a pastor. I have a beard.

S4: We’ve got the things dyed. Healthy relationship now. Yes. Yes. Thank goodness.

S3: OK, and that’s it. I think we did it. How do you feel?

S4: I feel good. I feel like we you know, we got to tackle some that were quite significant all the way to, you know, quilts and lunches and Maemi. And so we really ran the gamut.

S3: Yeah, I feel I feel hardy and robust and like everyone just needs to buck up and throw some quilts away and have some tough conversation, make somebody else cry. Yeah, exactly. And it was a delight. You were a great roommate in college and you’re a great advice giver now.

S4: Oh, thank you so much. This was the best part of my day, probably of my week. So thank you so much for having me. It was lovely to give advice to total strangers. I would I would happily do it any time.

S3: Right. It’s weirdly fun. It’s very fun. It’s weirdly terrific. And I’ve just been such a great Zohn lately. Yeah. Where I’m just like, you could just stop talking to your whole family and it’s fine. So you can definitely tell your partner that you don’t want any more Quilt’s either, right?

S4: Yeah. You are in a unique spot with all this, but I love it.

S3: I’m here for you, Jen, as always, a delight. Thank you for tolerating my gallows humor and have a fabulous rest of your day.

S4: Oh, you as well. Thanks so much.

S5: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate dotcom slash Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate Dotcom Prudy part 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 two 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.

S6: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. Honestly, based on what I’ve seen here, to me, it just seems like either give your mother a financial gift or don’t, but trying to pay off her mortgage in order to get her to amend her will in your favor is clearly not working. And this kind of like hope of like maybe I can just keep fighting with my mom until she gives in is just like like this is how you get knives out. And that’s that that line about like my mother pretended to have a breakdown, saying she didn’t want to play favorites with her kids, but felt so much pressure, like, I don’t know that she was pretending. That seems like a genuinely stressful situation. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.