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S2: You produce your prudence here, prudent decisions you approve here. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help! Help! Thank you. Thank you.
S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I’m your host. Dear Prudence, also known as Danny M. Lavery. With me in the studio this week is Justine D’Souza, who is based in New Jersey and creates content for a not for profit organization focused on international education and global mobility. She also counsels youth, young adults and caregivers for a crisis helpline. Justine, welcome back to the show.
S3: Thanks and happy to be here.
S1: I am so excited. I am coming at you from my, like, increasingly elaborate recording in bed setup where I feel a little bit like onto Leesha in Jersey. You know how she like basically lives in that big canopy bed and is surrounded by trees and stuff. At any rate, I just that that’s what things are starting to look like more and more. I have a big elaborate tray. I’m tucked into the bedclothes. I have a cup of tea off to one side. Eventually, I hope to have a very formal dressing gown and never leave the house again and just have letters brought to me in my bath.
S3: That’s Plath, doesn’t he?
S1: I don’t really have a bath. So that’s gonna have to be like that, the second phase of this transformation. But I have faith in my ability to acquire a bath someday.
S3: It seems like now we’re going to have to acquire a lot of things at home. Right.
S1: Who is to say I the way I’m just like going through this, just like I am prepared for sheltering in place to last another 10 months. I’m prepared for it. The last nine months, you’d all just count backwards. I’m just totally ready to do whatever is required. Staying at home was. So in the meantime, I do want to get to these letters and our first one, I think, if you don’t mind reading for us, is perhaps the most topical one that we have.
S3: Sure. The subject is. Oh, now I’m essential. Dear Prudence. I’ve worked at a well-known grocery store chain for 10 years now. I went to college, graduated early and got a job teaching. I didn’t like the job for many reasons. When I left a quick money and landed on a grocery store job over the years and learned I could and moved up to a good position and made good money and amazing co-workers. I take pride in what I do. My family specifically, my mother has always looked down on my decision, choosing me online applications to further my degree and offer help so I can start a career that’s more substantial with the pandemic. I am now considered an essential employee. Another is now praising what I do on social media, posting that grocery store workers like her daughter are heroes. I really do appreciate this. Trust me, I’m scared. But it truly hurts that this pandemic had to happen for a mother to be proud of what I do. Do I try and explain this to her? I just thank her and wash my hands.
S1: I will. I love this. I swear. I love the subject line. It is like, oh, now I’m essential. Which is not to say that this is like a fun or a funny problem. I just I recognize the real humor and like the immediate pivot from like what kind of a job is this? When are you going to grow up and get a real jobs like, oh, my God, you’re a hero. Thank you. Excuse me, everyone. My daughter works at a grocery store like just that now that she realizes she can get a little social capital out of this one. She’s so proud of you. And it’s just like I hope you give yourself at least a little permission letter writer to just fucking suck it in.
S3: Yeah. I mean, I think the society as a whole is going to have to go now. And as this pandemic ends, revisit their conceptions of different work and value that they play.
S1: Yeah, I absolutely think that you have every right to bring this up to your mother. I think the most important thing to bear in mind will be it’s it’s about clarifying with your mother what kind of comments you’re not going to put up with in the future and letting her know how her behavior in the past is affected you. That, I think, is a reasonable and achievable goal. And then when it comes to something like I want my mom to understand and share my values, that is the sort of thing that you have to say. I don’t get to control that and let that part go. So I absolutely say, Mom, as happy as I am that you’ve been appreciative of my work, I just also remember that not that long ago you were really putting it down and that hurt. And I hope that you won’t do that once this particular crisis has passed, that you can say maybe her response to that will be a little defensive. Maybe she’ll say, oh, my God, you’re right. I’ll never do it again. And she won’t. Maybe she’ll say, oh, my God, you’re right. I’ll never do it again. And then in two years, she does it again. And you’ll have to say, like, hey, remember when we talked about this? But absolutely. I think you can do it.
S3: Yeah. I think that in any relationship, it always benefits from having more honesty and communication about what’s important. But I would encourage the letter writer to focus more on the relationship with the mother and how the comments made her feel, as opposed to why she didn’t value the work before and things like that. I think it should be more about the feelings and emotions than anything else.
S1: Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense to me. And then also, I hope. You can give yourself a little time if you feel agitated about it. This is definitely a conversation you could have tomorrow. You could have in a week. You could have in a month. So really, I think it’s just up to you to decide, like, when do I feel kind of emotionally prepared? And when does my mom see, like, she’s relatively non agitated, given that you’re living in times of great crisis? But, yeah, absolutely. You can say something. And if in the future your mom sends you career advice that you don’t want. You have every right to, you know, say, I appreciate that you mean well, but I don’t want this anymore. And I will be deleting any future career advice you send me. And I you know, I have had a couple of, like, well-meaning parents don’t want to let me have this thing questions lately. And I think often what it comes down to is like, how do I convince my parents to let me have this space or this respect or this autonomy? And I think one of the hard things is they won’t ever give it to you. That’s why you have to take it for yourself. And their first reaction is not going to be. What a great idea. I’m so glad you’re taking this thing for yourself. It’s going to be, you know, resistance and the real struggle. The real problem is how do I go ahead with whatever I need, whether that’s setting a boundary, ending a conversation, declining to hear someone else’s, you know, unsolicited advice. How do I force myself to do it when I’m worried about making my parents upset with me or or, you know, risking their disapproval? And I think you’re well set up to withstand a little bit of your mother’s defensiveness or disapproval. And I think you’ll get through it beautifully. And I hope that you stay safe at work.
S3: Yeah. Based on this question, I wasn’t sure if they already had a conversation about this or not, but I think that now maybe the lines of communication and focus on gross triggers might also help to maybe she could talk more about what it is she does and why she likes it. And maybe that will lead to a change in the types of conversations they are having.
S1: Yeah. And, you know, I just I know lots of people who who work in food service and in grocery stores have already talked about the way that language, like the language of heroism, is often offered in lieu of like a living wage or decent health insurance or adequate protections in a pandemic. And so, you know, that might also be worth deconstructing with her, not in the sense of like you’re a monster for calling me a hero, but just like calling me a hero implies that there’s something unique about me. I’m actually just doing the job I already had because it has to be done and I’m scared and I need support and protection. So if there’s, like any legislation potentially on the docket in your city or state that would help protect grocery store workers, that you can kind of turn your mom’s attention to to say, like, here’s a great place to channel this newfound energy to help try to pass this so that we can get the things that we need in order to work safely. Maybe now’s an opportunity for that, too.
S3: Yeah, the mom’s active on social media. That might be a great way to use it for education and awareness.
S1: Right. Yeah. She’s got all this time to post about how great you are. Maybe she’s got time to post about, like, increasing the minimum wage and making sure that you all get, you know, protective gear. All right. So we’re jumping from something serious, but but relatively non, not immediately life threatening in the sense that no one is facing a crisis. And then this next one is I guess it’s also not life threatening, but it is. It does involve death and a pretty intensely dramatic death. So it’s a it’s a real switch for me in terms of what priorities I’m trying to keep holding as I answer this question. So I’ll just go ahead and read it. The subject is not just a memory, Dear Prudence. Years ago, my fiancee was engaged to another woman. She was murdered on her birthday. The case was never solved. I understand the disruption this brings to the lives touched, but he still sends flowers to the grave and to her mother every anniversary. He has it written into his will for his estate to do this until the woman’s mother passes away. He can’t remember his own niece’s birthday, and he only remembers mine because it falls near a holiday. He says he wants a life with me and loves me, but he has never sent me flowers. I get practical gifts, which I use and love. But the idea of my husband and the father of my children sending flowers to a dead woman for 20 or 30 years makes me queasy. Can I say anything? I think you can say things like to a therapist. About this, I would not encourage you to say anything about this to your fiance, say, until you have first talked it through with one or two other people who are a little removed from the situation, because I think there’s a way that you could tell him some of the fears or some of the anxieties that it brings up for you. But I worry that right now, the way he would bring it up is like it’s a little too much and you need to stop. And I don’t think that that is something that you should try to do.
S3: I think also these behaviors and the fiancee issue that this was really significant. And to me, five years is not a lot of time.
S1: Of course. Right. Like this woman was murdered on her birthday. That was his fiance, say, and has never solved the terrific. Yeah. That’s a nightmare. That’s. That’s a Batman origin story is is how brutal that is. So I don’t say that to make light of it. I just mean the fact that he is collected enough five years on to be in a relationship where it sounds like he’s pretty present and pretty caring and pretty thoughtful strikes me is really remarkable. The fact that he is a yearly ritual with his essentially his mother in law, his former mother in law that acknowledges their shared loss feels like a really healthy and appropriate way of acknowledging their shared grief. I’m kind of amazed. I’m impressed with this guy. I got to say.
S3: Yeah. I could wonder, based on the language in this letter, how much they’ve already talked about this. Have they already discussed this? And what did that fiancee mean to the letter writers fiancee? You know, how did the fiancee feel afterwards? You know, these kinds of things, because it sounds based on this letter in the language, a little bit distant, that maybe the letter writer doesn’t have a full understanding of really how much destruction and the emotional upheaval that might have come across after.
S1: Yeah, yeah. I feel like there’s maybe a missed opportunity here for the letter writer to ask questions. Not like, hey, explain why you care so much about this woman. Obviously, because that was his fiancee. He was in love with her. He wanted to marry her. That’s what he cared. But in a sense of wanting to know more about, like what it’s like when he thinks about her, how he feels on that day, what it means to him to get this and those flowers and asking not in the sense of explain yourself to me because you’re doing something wrong. But in the sense of I love you and this is a part of your life and I want to know about it, even if it’s not necessarily something that primarily exists between the two of us, but that that line about. Wow, how he can’t remember his own niece’s birthday. Okay. You know, like, I grew up with a couple of aunts and uncles and I think they mostly sent me cards around my birthday, but it wasn’t like, oh, no, my uncle didn’t prioritize my birthday this year like that. Never. That that it’s not like, oh, he forgot his kid’s birthday or something. You know, I mean, like a niece. I’m not so worried about that part. And then he only remembers mine because it falls near a holiday. Well, it sounds like he remembers your birthday then. Right. That struck me as such a weird attempt to make it sound like, oh, he almost forgets my birthday, but he doesn’t. He remembers it. And it doesn’t really matter how he remembers it. The point is, he fucking remembers your birthday.
S3: Yeah. And like, you know, I sympathize with the little writer’s feelings in this situation. It’s definitely very complicated. But there is also the possibility that, as you know, the anniversaries come up and as they keep going through milestones, that this is still something that’s really not going to go away and that might land a fiancee more at certain times and uncertain holidays and things like that. So that’s also something that the letter writer has to come to terms with and understand as it relates to the fiancee.
S1: Yeah, I really think your goal here in talking about it with either a friend whose judgment you trust or a therapist should be getting on board with this. He remembers your birthday. He gives you gifts that you use and you love. That’s fantastic. If you would like to occasionally receive flowers as well, that’s a reasonable request to make of a partner. That’s fine. But I think your goal should be to not be queasy when you think about him sending flowers to her grave for the next 20 or 30 years. I don’t want to shame you for your queasiness. I get it. But neither do I think that you should take that queasiness as an indictment of his choice and saying that he’s to stop doing. I think it sounds like you have a really wonderful fiancee who treats you really well, who loves you, and is it present in your relationship, but who also needs to be able to acknowledge the unbelievably shocking and traumatic loss of his first fiancee with a yearly ritual that doesn’t take time away from you. That doesn’t fall on your own birthday. That’s not holding him back from committing to anything about your life together. You need to let him have this. So whatever it is that you need to be able to process those difficult feelings in a place where you can do it. Judgment free. Maybe let it get a little ugly with a therapist. That’s OK. I don’t want to come down on you for that, but you need to work through that on your own before you talk about it with him. And when you talk about it with him, you need to make it really clear that he is not doing anything wrong and you’re not going to ask him to stop. So I realize I was like, I’m not judging you, but you can’t do the following five things. But like, I that’s how I feel about it.
S3: Yeah, I think there are two separate issues. One is gift giving and expressions of love. But to me, that’s quite separate from this fiance’s trauma and previous engagement. And so it seems like there are issues that need to be addressed completely separately.
S1: Yeah. And it’s just you’re allowed to have messy and unfair feelings. That doesn’t make you a bad person. But you need to be able to process those feelings like appropriately, sanely. Take a step back and put this in context, which the context, again, is just like this is a dead woman who doesn’t pose a real threat to you. He’s not like making you put her picture at the dinner table every night and pretend that she’s there. Like this is a very appropriate expression of grief. And if you say that, you know, the idea of you doing this is gonna make me queasy, I think you will run the risk of losing this relationship. Like, at least I would hope so. I would hope that his response to your saying that would not be I guess I better stop acknowledging my loss. I hope his response will be we may not be suited for a long term relationship. So, you know, if you really don’t think you can make your peace with it. Maybe don’t get married to him. But I think you should try to make your peace. Yeah.
S3: Everything else is going well with fiancee, right?
S1: Yeah, it that’s just that to me, that’s the bottom line. If he were being neglectful of you or denying your emotional needs or saying, like, you’ll always come second to her, then I’d have a very different answer for you. But it just it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. It sounds like you’re just upset at the fact that he loved someone that he lost before you. And I’m sorry, but you can’t control that. Would you read our next letter?
S3: Sure, subject. Moving in. Dear Prudence, my 17 year old son wants us to let a 16 year old girlfriend move in with us. She is having serious trouble with her mother’s new boyfriend and has been locked out of the house overnight. Twice that we know of. We contacted CPS, but we’re told if she isn’t in danger of dying, there is little they will do. Well, family of her, as we have been able to get in contact with, will not or cannot take her. She is a nice girl. Her mother does not care about her. She and my son have been dating a year. I am tentatively OK with having her move in. We have a room, but I want her on a permanent form of birth control. We have talked to our son about this, but he gets read and denies they’ll be having sex. I am not an idiot as much as we have Toxi sex and given our son condoms to teenagers alone every day in the house while we work. They are going to have sex. And my husband and I are not going to be put in the position of having to raise a grandchild or bring up abortion. Teenagers are impulsive and I’m not going to help these to ruin their futures are being squeamish. We haven’t spoken to the girlfriend. My younger sister is calling me invasive and controlling and told me I don’t have any right to demand that this girl is my daughter. I’ll be doing the same if she’s going to be living with us. My husband. And going to be responsible for her. Am I over the line or holding the line? I find it a little bit unusual that the job that the girlfriend’s perspective is not being looked at at all, they’re litigating her reproductive choices without talking.
S1: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That also, Justy, that also struck me as quite wobbly, sexist and inappropriate to name, just like two of the 50 words that popped into my head when I first read this letter. And I think the other thing that’s important to address, like right off the bat, is that a bit about like if this girl was my daughter, I’d be doing the same thing. And letter writer, I just would like to remind you, even if this girl was your daughter, you can’t force someone to be on birth control just because they’re a minor. That’s not legal. So this whole like, don’t worry. Even if she was my own kid, I’d do the same thing. You’re still not allowed to do that, even if someone’s your kid. Children under age children have the right to decide whether or not they will take birth control. And any child of yours would be completely legally and morally in the right to say no. Fuck you. I’ll take birth control when and if I choose. Not at your convenience. So I would not go around advertising the fact that you’re thinking about attempting to force a minor into taking birth control in order to offer them a safe living situation, like just a I think right now you’re kind of really locked into your own set of priorities. And I think it would just help to say out loud, I’m considering forcing a minor to take birth control before I’m willing to offer them a place to stay that’s safe. Do you when you say that out loud, do you think I feel good about that statement, or do you think I sound like the bad lady in The Avengers, not the Avengers? The borrowers the rescuers do remember that movie. The rescuers didn’t really write. Yeah. And there was like that evil red headed lady who lived in the bayou and like, yes. Tortured orphans and made them work for her and stuff like that’s I think that’s on that level. To be clear, I don’t think that there was like a forced contraceptives plot in that movie, given that it was a cartoon for children, but like it could have been if it went on long enough. Yeah, it’s very, very bad. And the fact that you’re attempting to disguise it is like practical benevolence doesn’t make it any better. It’s fucking evil is what it is.
S3: Well, I think it’s also worth pointing out that I know that the letter writer says that this girl is my daughter, but this girl is not her daughter. So that decision making in the conversation and all of that has to be thought of completely differently. It has to be my 17 year old, 16 year old girlfriend who is in an unsafe situation.
S1: Yeah. I just like there’s so many leaps in this thing, which is like we’re taught we’ve talked to our kid about safe sex. We we know that they, like, have access to condoms. We’ve given him condoms. But somehow we just know that that’s not going to work. And beyond that, we know that they’re gonna get pregnant and beyond that, that we know that we’re gonna have to raise the kid. And it’s just like you are making so many leaps here and you’re so terrified of your kid’s sexuality. But trying to cover that up by acting calm, that it’s it’s just like, no, I’m totally calm. I understand. The thing is, we gave him condoms, but he’s not going to use them. And he says they’re not having sex. But I know that he’s like and they’re going to have sex and she’s gonna get pregnant and then we’re going to have to raise the baby because you’re not allowed to not raise a grandchild if your kid gets pregnant. We’ll have to explain what abortion is because they’ll never have heard of it. Like your chest going down such an intense road of trying to control a situation that you’re not actually in, that I do worry for this girl’s emotional safety, her privacy. If you do offer her the chance to move in, like if she were writing into me, I would honestly say checking with your other friends, like maybe consider your boyfriend’s house an absolute last resort, like a slightly better version than the House you’re in now, but. Talk to your girlfriends.
S3: Yeah, I think a generous read of this other is to say that maybe the letter writer actually isn’t as comfortable with this idea as she wants to be so that, you know, this is actually just a front for something else. I mean, I do think it’s good that the letter writer contacted CPS and tried to reach out to other family. But, you know, maybe if the letter writer has this many issues, maybe they want to, like you mention, contact some of her friends. I would say the school guidance counselor might also be someone who has some local resources that might be helpful.
S1: I think that’s a great idea. Yeah, I would say get the girlfriend and the son and the guidance counselor. I get obviously check and make sure everyone’s okay with that first. But like, get a meeting together, come up with a list of other people who would potentially also be resources. It’s totally appropriate to say, like, I know it came down really hard on this letter writer, but I also understand why you would say, like ideally it would be better for her to be staying with a friend and not moving in with her boyfriend like that’s reasonable. The whole leap to like they’re gonna get pregnant and die. So I need to, like, force. Birth control pills down her throat every morning is totally baby town frolics. But the other stuff does make sense to me. So if you can have, like, a calm, rational meeting where you discuss her options, I think that’s gonna be the way forward.
S3: There’s also a national runaway helpline that might be helpful or Covenant House. I know that there are also shelters on HUD’s website, the government department. So going through options, maybe consulting some of these resources, that might be a good direction to the letter writer doesn’t feel able to take in a girlfriend.
S1: That’s really helpful. Those resources are great because I just think her moving in with you, with you in this state of mind could potentially be really dangerous and help. The girlfriend is listening. And I hope that, you know, if this person tries to force you to take birth control, you can just tell them to fuck off. Maybe you don’t use that language because I don’t want you to endanger your your newly, slightly increased safe living situation. But you can’t force this person to take birth control. Stop. Get that idea out of your mind. That’s off the table forever. So, yeah, I think that’s that’s the best of my advice. Your sister is right. You are being invasive and controlling. You are wrong in thinking that it would be okay if you were doing this to your own daughter. Your idea of parenting sounds very, very controlling. And I don’t like. I’m not surprised that your son turns red and just like tries to shut down conversations about sex when you initiate them because you sound like you bring a really intense, frightening energy to the table. Maybe see a therapist.
S3: Right. All of them sound like they could benefit from some extra support right now.
S1: Yeah, yeah. I think that that is excellent and true. I hope those various potential resources prove helpful to you. I hope there’s another family that she can stay with so that you don’t have to deal with this concern. And I hope that once your son moves out of the house, he’s able to make his own decisions about his reproductive choices and doesn’t feel like he has to talk to you about them ever again. Good luck with your whole deal, OK? I will move on because I’ve been very mean to this letter writer and I want to let them take a minute to kind of catch their breath. I’m sure you have other good qualities and I wish you all the best in dealing with this part of your personality. This next one. This one’s this one’s rough. This person’s at a rough place. I think the subject is what a girl wants versus what a girl needs. Dear Prudence, my boyfriend makes significantly more money than me, but I pay almost all of our living expenses. He has no savings and is always broke. He’s definitely an impulse buyer and asks me to help him to point out his unnecessary purchases. But then he gets defensive and says he feels judged when I do. I’ve never considered that my business anyway until five months ago when we found out that we were unexpectedly expecting all of his impulse. Spending is now on frivolous stuff for the baby. Most of which I fear will never be used. He just says that we have our own styles when it comes to money because of our different upbringings. My parents and buy me nice things because they were saving for my college education. His parents provided only the bare necessities and then threw him out at 18. I’m not proposing living like paupers to bankroll our babies future. But if we could easily afford college for them by sticking to a reasonable savings plan, then why wouldn’t we? He’s excited about buying her lots of stuff because he never had nice things as a child, as an adult who had the great privilege of starting out in my adult life debt free. I know she won’t miss any of that stuff. Would it be horrible of me to take him for child support and use it to start a savings account, even though we are very much still together? My state’s laws would allow it since we’re not married. I fear he’ll accuse me of bulldozing his values, which I sort of feel like I’m doing. But I think our daughter will think us when she’s grown. Financial disagreements aside, I think he’s going to be a terrific dad.
S4: Well, I think, um, they have different styles.
S3: But either way, if they’re called parenting, they’re going to have to figure that out. And even if they’re not together while they parent, they are still going to have to have agreements based on money. So it sounds like a conversation is required regardless.
S1: Yeah. And my read of that line, I couldn’t quite make it out because I think there might be a word missing. But my read there was the question the letter writers asking is, can I take him to court for child support? Can I sue him for child support while remaining in a committed romantic relationship? Was that your read as well?
S3: Yeah, I think so.
S1: How do you think that would go over her?
S3: I don’t think that would go over very well.
S1: I’d love to like obviously, my instinctive reaction to that is also that’s a bad idea. But I would love to maybe let’s just like walk through, like, why we think it’s a bad idea. Just just so the letter writer can have a little bit of feedback there.
S3: Yeah. Well, I mean, for one thing, I don’t think that it would they’d be able to make much of a case based on financials styles that differ because it’s a process to go through all of this. And I think that it would fall apart very quickly once put under more investigation and scrutiny.
S1: Yeah. I also think just when it comes to the logistics of it all. I think if you sue someone for child support, doesn’t sound like you’ve run this idea past him. My guess is he’s not going to hear that and say what a great solution to both of our problems. He’s going to hear that and say, you want to fucking take me to court over this? Let’s break up. I’m very angry with you.
S3: Like, yeah, that was my second point, I think. I don’t know that their relationship would really withstand that kind of a lawsuit, you know?
S1: Yeah. And I think there’s a particular style here that feels very avoidant and kind of Pollyanna ish to me, which is like, well, talking about it really hasn’t worked. Maybe we can just let the court system settle it and then we don’t have to talk about our really, really different values and priorities here. And my money can just be mine and his money can just be his. And we’ll never have to talk about it again.
S3: Yeah. I guess I was kind of curious about the last line, financial disagreements aside. I think he’s going to be a terrific dad. I think given the letter writers concerns that the letter writer felt that they had to sue the boyfriend in order to have a comfortable financial cushion for the child. I’m kind of curious what would make him a terrific dad and what is it that’s really balancing your very. Forget worries.
S1: Yeah, I was right there with you, like, I don’t mean to suggest that he’s a terrible person because I know lots of wonderful people who are lousy with money. But this is actually a pretty big issue, I think. I don’t think it’s like an urban legend that most divorces are like one of the most commonly cited reasons for divorces, like financial disagreements, like this is a very real issue, that tares marriage is apart. And what you’ve described is like he makes a lot of money, but you pay for everything. And he he like wastes money on frivolities that don’t support either of you. He’s buying stuff your baby doesn’t need. He asks you to talk to him seriously about this and then gets mad at you when you do like. Again, I’m not trying to say this guy’s an asshole, but like that doesn’t sound like someone who is an otherwise amazing partner. That actually sounds like someone who’s really, really falling down on his end and expecting you to pick up the slack. And then also getting mad at you for picking up the slack.
S3: Yeah. And I also wanted to point out that as parenting goes along, you may have different styles in many things. So that’s also something to consider. Yeah, it sounds like financial division of labor and how money is spent and managed. That sounds like an issue. So I would be curious about how the letter at a glance have conversations and move on when parenting is going to bring out a lot of questions that might raise to different other differing styles.
S1: Right. So I have to say, I think there may very well come a time letter writer that you do have to go to court and demand child support. But unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be part of an otherwise terrific partnership. I think it’s going to come when eventually this racial relationship blows up. And he tells you, I bought too many couches last month. I don’t have any money for diapers. And you’re going to need to get a court to step in and, like, take that money directly out of his paycheck so that your kid gets diapers. And so I hope that’s not what happens. But I think that the most that you can do right now is is have an honest conversation about like, are you really OK with paying all of the living expenses? Do you want to ask him to be responsible for a bill and not one where you, like, suddenly take over his spending habits? Because that’s clearly not working, but where you two can agree like this is now his responsibility. And it’s up to him to figure out how he’s going to budget for it. If he’s totally unwilling on that front, then I think the next best thing that you can do is to say, OK, here’s the things that I am willing to pay for and here’s the things that I’m no longer willing to pay for. I don’t know how you’re going to, like, square up that difference, but that can’t be my problem now. And a really meticulously treat your own money. Letter writer as your own money. Do not please don’t marry him while you’re while this is unresolved. Please don’t open a joint account with him. Please don’t give him any access to any of your banking. Please don’t loan him money. I think the first thing you need to do is say, look, we need to have a serious conversation about a budget. We’re gonna have when we raise a child, we need to have one. And then if that doesn’t go well, to start thinking of yourself, at least financially as a single parent. And obviously that’s not a great emotional place to be starting a parenting relationship off with. If you two are able to make time for right now, maybe seeing a couples counselor particularly want to kind of specialize in talking about the emotions that money can bring up. Not somebody who’s like a financial planner on the side, but who has experience working with couples who fight about money a lot. I think that might be a really useful investment right now.
S3: Yeah. Couples counselor. And I think actually it might be beneficial to have some type of financial advising. Yeah. Even if it’s like, you know, a webinar, if they can’t meet with someone in person or, you know, a phone consultation, maybe it would help the boyfriend to hear it from somebody else, too. Just the facts. I know the question that the letter writer asked was at the end about child support, but I actually think that the significant part of this letter is that needs to really be discussed and explored. The letter writer is the beginning about the things that you mentioned before with the spending habits, with the bills, and with how money for the baby is already being doled out.
S1: Yeah. So I agree that it’s not the right move to try to take him to court. But like, if you come to him and you say, like, I’m going to start a savings account, that’s for our daughter that neither of us can touch. And he says, you’re bulldozing my values, then you don’t have to buy that. You know what I mean? Like, if he gets defensive, you don’t have to say, like, oh, my God, you’re right. You can disagree. You can say like you’re getting defensive right now. I hear that. I get that. This is fraught. But we actually need to have a conversation, even though I know emotions run high. I don’t want you to be working out your own childhood trauma by trying to surround our daughter with toys. That’s not the place to work out that trauma. Yes. A therapist for work. Good luck. I. I feel nervous about this, but, you know, people can turn things around. And I really hope that he’s able to realize the degree to which his avoidance has. Has burdened you financially and ways in which that really can’t continue if you two are gonna raise a kid together. So we’re just keeping keeping the pace going with them just like difficult family members. That’s, again, the subject of the next few letters, actually. But it’s your turn.
S3: Next subject.
S4: Creeping La Dear Prudence. I’ve been with my husband for almost five years now. I love his family and I thought they loved me too. My father in law is really bad at social media and often makes off the wall comments. Normally they’re benign, but for the last two years, his comments in my posts, especially pictures of myself, have moved further and further into the creepy old man territory. This week, he made a really uncomfortable comment on my new profile picture. Among other things, you called me you sexy thing with a wink emoji. It made me uncomfortable. I told my husband I wanted to finally tell his dad to back off. He told me you would talk to his dad for me last night. That conversation happened. My father in law ranted about how is too fragile and he didn’t understand why I’ll be offended in any way. My husband, not wanting to fight with his dad, told him that I was fine with the comment. The problem is what other people think. I’m crushed. I thought that my husband had my back. I thought that my father in law had more respect for me. My husband and I talked and he understands why I’m so upset and apologize for minimizing my feelings. I don’t know how to handle the next time I see my father in law. Do I tell him I’m upset to act like nothing is wrong? Do I just try to avoid seeing him?
S1: I don’t know that I agree. I don’t know that I agree that the correct description is that he is really bad at social media. I think the way that I would phrase that, as he says things that he believes on social media and he does a slightly better job some of the time in person of pretending not to think those things. But I found that particular phrase kind of evasive of like, oh, he’s just bad at social media. He just forgets that you’re not supposed to sexually harass your relatives on it.
S3: Yeah, I mean, this is definitely inappropriate, and I don’t know that the letter writer should avoid seeing him. I think the letter writers should actually take a stance and refuse to see him because for her own safety.
S1: Yeah, I think it’s incredibly straightforward. Your father in law is sexually harassing you. You know, he like he knows you don’t want him to. He knows it’s unwelcome. And his response to that was you should welcome it. So he’s made it very clear that he’s super committing to super committed to sexually harassing you again in the future. And so your husband’s value of not wanting to fight with his dad is a bad value. It’s a cowardly and evasive and a pathetic value. He’s a grown man who’s so scared of fighting with his dad that his response is like, oh, actually, my wife loves it when you sexually harass her, like, is your husband like an adult person? Like, is he proud of himself right now? Does he look back on that and think like who? I really behaved well in that conversation. Like. I’m so curious to know how he feels about himself right now.
S3: Yeah. I mean, he lied to his father, who is sexually harassing the letter writer to avoid conflict. That sounds like a worrying behavior.
S1: Yeah. I got to say, like, it’s not just I mean, I understand why you feel upset and crushed and that your father in law doesn’t respect you. He he doesn’t respect you at all. He he he could not more openly or obviously disrespect you than the way he’s behaved. But this bit about my husband and I talked and he understands why I’m so upset and apologize for minimizing my feelings like that to me. Reads like you’re trying to make this OK, because, you know, kind of nobody’s on your side right now. But like, just look at that sentence. He understands why you’re upset. Great. And then he apologized for minimizing your feelings. Two things there. One, he didn’t minimize your feelings. He lied about them. And to this apology doesn’t mean anything unless it’s backed up by his behavior. So if his apology is not immediately followed by I’m going back to my father right now, I’m going to tell him that I’m ashamed that I lied and backed down. In fact, my wife is bothered and so am I. And he needs to never do it again. And if he can’t commit to that, he can’t see us again. If your husband’s not willing to do that, then you didn’t actually receive an apology from your husband. What you got from your husband was, hey, if I say I’m sorry, I’m hoping you’ll calm down.
S3: Yeah. I think when I read this letter a second time, I get the impression that a letter writer has been feeling this way for a while because of how it was written. I could sense the urgency and frustration and it’s been two years, she says. Yeah.
S1: So, like, it only finally got overt enough this week. But he’s been doing it for two years. And I am so, so, so sorry that for this long you have been without support, that nobody else in the family has asked him to stop. That he himself hasn’t stopped. And that now when it finally got to a point where you could no longer minimize it and you objected that your husband behaved in such a pathetic, cowardly, spineless, unloving fashion and just, you know, threw you to the wolves in order to make sure that his dad still thought he was chill. Like, that’s truly painful.
S3: Yeah, I definitely feel for the letter writer, and I don’t think that the letter writers should have to engage with the father in law ever again.
S1: Yeah. So I realize that this is more than you thought you were asking us. Letter writer. And I realize that nowhere in the questions that you end your letter with. You ask, what should I do with my husband? Because you kind of wanted to feel like, OK, things are OK between him and me, but things are not OK between you and your husband. That’s the place to start, really, I think is is the fundamental need for trust and safety in your marriage is broken right now. And if your husband’s not committed to fixing it, I mean, then one of the things you know about him is that he’s willing to stand by while other men sexually harass you. His own father. And he’ll make sympathetic noises when it’s just the two of you about how he’s really sorry that happened. But he’s not going to do anything. He’s not going to help. It’s not going to support you. He’s not going to affirm the fact that you have a right to not be sexually harassed by your relatives. And if he can’t give you that, then I got to say, you know, I think the question then becomes, do I have to avoid seeing my husband? This is such a fundamental issue of safety and respect. I don’t think acting like nothing is wrong is going to be good for you. I don’t think you should just stop at telling him you’re upset. I think it should go straight into you either make this right. Or I can’t trust you. Those are the options. Make it right or accept the consequences of your actions. Yeah, it’s not a hard one sort of gray area. I’m really sorry. Yeah. Good luck to the letter writing. Yeah. Really, really good luck. I’m really glad you finally let yourself say something. I’m glad that you’re avoiding your father in law. I hope you continue to avoid him. I hope he’s not your father in law much longer. Justin, as always, you are the very light of reason. Well, hopefully it works out for the letter writer. I hope so, too. And I’m just really grateful that you were able to join us today. Thank you so much for taking the time and have a fabulous rest of the day. Take care of yourself. Thanks. You too. OK, bye for now.
S5: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence. Our producer is Phil Circus. 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.
S6: Plus go to Slate dot com slash pretty pod to sign up. If you want me to answer a question. Call me and leave a message at four zero one three seven one, dear. That’s three three two seven. You don’t have to use your real name or location and we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.
S5: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. As somebody who is reading your description of events, your relatives are all deeply, gravely wrong. No one is owed more pregnancies. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions about their own reproductive future. But nobody is owed anything that she would dismiss your intensely traumatic six month Mitt. I mean, that’s a serious miscarriage as as an act of selfishness, as if you just handed her a great like that’s just half. I’m horrified by this woman. I’m so glad that she’s not a mother. I hope she never has a child. This is not a well woman. It is a cruel and vindictive and frankly, evil and entitled woman. I don’t think she should be anywhere near a child to listen to the rest of that conversation. Joint Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy Pod.