The “Too Late to Apologize?” Edition

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S1: Hello. Slate Plus members. We wanted to take a moment and say thank you once again for your membership and support, which has become more important than ever, especially in times like these. You’re helping everyone at Slate do the work that we do and we’re doing our best to put out the best work for you. Now, if you’re a reader at Slate as well as a listener, you may have heard that Slate.com recently installed a paywall. But as Slate Plus members, you have access to everything on the site. As long as you’re a member, you will not hit a paywall. All you have to do is sign in at slate.com, slash log in that slate, dot com slash log in. And if you have any questions about your account, you can send an email to plus at slate.com. Danny Lavery here, also known as Dear Prudence.

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S2: Please join me for a Dear Prudence Facebook live show on April 8th at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. I imagine at least a few of you will be at home already. And then it’s simply a question of logging on and finding me come for the questions. But don’t expect a virtual tour of my apartment. I have to draw the line somewhere. That’s this Wednesday, April 8th. At 7 p.m., I will once again be joined by the only guest I can possibly have. Grace Lavery, because she lives with me and we are sheltering in place together. Go to Slate dot com slash live for details.

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S1: This episode that you’re about to hear was recorded just as Cauvin, 19, started to appear in her newsfeeds, so you may hear a mention of the pandemic, but you’ll also likely hear advice that’s prior to the shelter in place order that many of us are currently experiencing. We hope that all of you are staying safe now on with the show.

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S3: You produce your prudence here, prudence, dear prudence, dear prudence here, prudence, these things that I should contact him again. Oh, how. Thank you. Thank you.

S4: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again. And as always, I’m your host, Daniel M. Lavery. With me in the studio is my dear friend Matlab Chance Key, the associate editor of the neb. and a cartoonist and illustrator living in Queens.

S5: Matt, hello. Welcome. Hey, Danny. How’s it going? Oh, pretty good. Fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing the boy, too, with you last night.

S6: I believe you. You mean brahms’ Colon? The boy, too.

S5: That was offensive, guys with adults problems. I’d never forget. I think one of my favorite moments in that movie was when you see the scary drawings the child has been doing and it’s just a drawing of his doll with all the little rules like floating around him, one of which is just kiss brahms’ his problems.

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S6: And then later in the movie, Spoilers Getting Homes as I go into the hallways of the movie from the ashram, the first movie. There’s a note that says Kiss Prom’s Goodnight. But nobody ever does kiss Brown. Nobody kisses Brahms. Maybe in the boy 3 Bromwell. Finally get that smooch.

S5: I you know, given that the movie has already made back twice its budget. I think there’s a very real chance that four years now we’ll be going to see brahms’ three together. Sorry. Brahms third movement. I apologize. I’m sure he’s sorry, but in the interest of fussy, boyish rules, I think I would love to go ahead and read our very first letter. And I’m very proud of that Segway. It’s really good. The subject is sick of dish duty. Dear Prudence, I make meals. Breakfast. Weekend lunches and nightly dinners for my family. One partner and one child. My partner is not a cook, so he normally does the dishes, but he’s horrible at it. We have great soap, scrubs and hot water, but he refuses to use much soap or hot water. He insists that soap is a scam and doesn’t do much. Perhaps he didn’t pay attention in high school chemistry. The results almost always is dishes with food caked all over them, drying on the rack. We have a dishwasher and I’ve encouraged him to use it instead. To me, that seems like a win win, but he refuses and continues to poorly wash dishes by hand. This bothers me for quite a few reason. Bugs ants have been attracted to our dish drying rack in the past. Contagious diseases, old food, mold, growing on dishes, etc. I’ve tried to gently talk with him, but he says that I’m criticizing him. He’s right. I’m critical of dirty dishes and I feel like for good reason. The result ends up being that he refuses to touch the dishes at all for weeks at a time, and I end up with double duty. Any thoughts on how to approach this with him? I can’t keep doing it all. I already do the rest of the cleaning, the laundry and the grocery shopping. I’m starting to feel like I have two children and not a partner and one child. I’m seriously tired of it. I agree that you are right to be caught. I think one of the things that’s hard about a situation like this is it’s such a blow to your own dignity to try to like, oh, let me scheme of ways to explain to my adult husband that soap works so that I can can like to use the dishwasher that you have. Yeah. It is so easy to use a dishwasher. I couldn’t agree with you more that what you want from his home is completely reasonable. Absolutely. And yet finding yourself in the position of having to beg him and like come up with like here’s a pamphlet I wrote for you about the importance of soap is. The good news. Yeah. Is again, just like an insult to your dignity. So from my perspective, if I would, I would spend less time trying to impress upon him the importance of soap. Like he knows that soap works. He sees that he leaves food up. You know what I mean? Like your husband can. He is capable of noticing these things. He is doing this on purpose. And I think it’s good to move forward with that as you’re sort of operating principle. He knows what he’s doing. He’s not misinformed about soap. He’s doing a bad job on purpose because he wants to not do it. And I need to figure out how I want to live my own life under those conditions.

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S7: Yeah, that makes sense. Might my other thought was that he says that he you know, it seems like the Valetta writer does basically everything else in the house. So if he wants to not do the dishes or do them badly, he could help out elsewhere, perhaps like perhaps he really hates doing dishes and cannot stand it. So she could say perhaps, oh, how would you do the laundry or the grocery shopping or something else? Or help me cook what a writer says that the husband does not cook quote, which is. A little while to me, because anyone could ever learn to cook. You can.

S5: You could chop an onion mumum if you can physically wash a dish. You can do some sort of cooking. Yeah. So. So, yeah. I also noticed that like he has positioned himself as not a cook, as if that’s something you’re just born with, like being a Sagittarius. Like that’s Kenny. He’s not allowed in the kitchen classics and doesn’t go. Yeah. Whenever he tries to walk through the kitchen door there is a blinding flash of light and he is thrown backwards 50 feet. Yeah. This is awful. And again, just like an insult to your dignity and your personhood. He is behaving like a child to get out of doing, you know, something that would take him 20 minutes if he just did a good job. So I I just mostly want you to feel like the answer is not very patiently explaining to him over and over again how much this would mean to you, how important it would be, how much easier would make your day. How not that difficult it is to squeeze a little more soap on the dishes like he knows that. So. Yeah, I like the idea of trying to say like, OK, if you can’t do the dishes, take over the grocery shopping. My guess is he will respond to that by either saying no more doing a very, very bad job of grocery shopping. So give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, which I’m guessing it won’t. I think then the question is like, do I want to cook for him? And I know that it might feel like I don’t want to get involved in a sort of back and forth of like, fine, you don’t get my food. But I actually think it’s also really reasonable to just say, like, look, this is really frustrating. I’m giving up on trying to get you to change this year. But I also don’t feel met or recognized or respected in our division of labor at home. And so I’m going to put you on feeding yourself duty.

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S7: Yeah, I think in like the labor activism parlance, this needs to be escalated because you’ve already the trying to think of a nice way to approach it with him has been sort of what’s already been going on, it seems like. Yeah. Me see some sort of like the next thing needs to happen.

S5: Yeah. Yeah. But I think. Yeah. That that kind of escalation obviously is not what you want in the sense of like you want your partner to listen when you say like this happens every day. It would require relatively little energy for you to fix and it makes me feel really disrespected. Ideally a partner would say thank you for letting me know I do respect you. I understand that like the acts of self-replication are always a little difficult. No one has a great time washing dishes. We all do it because that’s how you have stuff to put food on. I will help better, but. If his whole thing is going to be, I will purposely do a shitty job at things so that you have to clean up after me and stop asking me to do them, stop doing things for them.

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S7: Yeah, I thought of Absol. Well, no, no, no. I thought of one very last nice thing, which is to offer to cook together and do the dishes together. In which case perhaps he can learn how to do both things.

S8: Yeah. Yeah. And you know stuff. If he’s responsive to that that’d be great. And if he’s like dragging his feet and like, oh, now you’re supervising me. Like if you say you’re doing the dishes badly, ladies. But you’re criticizing me. It’s just like, yeah, you’re not above criticism, man. Yeah. So I will also just say, like, if you try these other things, these other attempts and he continues to act like this is beneath him and something that you should just get over.

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S9: This is like every day. This is all the chores in your home. If he’s this shitty about it, it’s really worth hating. And you’re sure of your life? Yeah, it’s really worth saying. Like, I actually want a partner who is a partner at home. And this has been going on for years and years and it’s not getting better. And this affects how I see our relationship.

S10: And again, if that doesn’t move the needle, either you are not making a mountain out of a molehill or being like, you know, I don’t wanna be to like topical, but like we’re kind of in the middle of like trying to deal with a pandemic here. And the idea of somebody being like washing dishes, that’s for chumps.

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S5: Soap doesn’t work. So this game like that worries me in terms of health also. And it’s just again, it is beneath your dignity to try to explain to someone why it’s not good to leave food all over your dishes until they get moldy. It is self-evidently bad. Also, you. Yeah. You want to answer everyone? I do wonder how much help this husband is with the kid.

S7: I yeah. I just. I would. My advice is let would be to do expect better for yourself generally.

S5: Yeah. I like I think part of what I’m leaning towards is not like walk out tomorrow and never talk to him again. I get that divorce is difficult, but it is not too much to expect a partner who says things like let’s both clean the house or I can dry a dish, probably pie in the sky here. I truly don’t believe it. That’s asking too much. And even if somebody is like kind of forgetful about the dishes, it’s not too much to have a partner where if you say, hey, you’ve been really slacking in the dish department lately, would you help out? Who would say, oh, yeah. Thank you for letting me know who. Okay. I’m glad we started off with something that was like. I don’t know why I thought it was light. It’s not light. It’s like potentially, you know, marriage just trying. But this next one feels so sweet to me. I am glad that we give ourselves a bit of a buffer. Would you read this one?

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S11: Yes. You’re too late for apologies. Dear Prudence, in high school, I was a bully. My friends and I would pick on people or ask girls in the corridors and shovel around guys that we thought were weedy or gay. I’m deeply embarrassed and ashamed of how I behaved. Looking back, especially when I remember participating in some really vicious homophobic bullying of Adam, the only openly gay kid in our class. A lot of my behavior was, in retrospect, my way of covering deep insecurities about my own sexuality. I came out as gay in college, got a much nicer circle of friends and became a much better person. Last month I started my new job. It is my dream job in publishing and I was thrilled to get a very competitive post until I met the colleague I need to share an office with. It’s Adam. He recognized me instantly and with visible horror. Another colleague saw how we reacted to one another and when she asked us about it. Adam just said we knew each other in high school and played it off as a standard surprise. To my surprise, he didn’t seem to have told any of our colleagues about what a nasty, violent jerk I was. He was a warm, funny, friendly guy and extremely popular in the department. So we now share a group of friends. I really like my work friends. I really like him. But unsurprisingly, he does his best to avoid me as best as he can in the circumstances. He never talks me directly in group conversations and is completely silent unless I try to hard to make polite conversation in our shared office shows the two of us. I feel terrible and I’m nervous every day about going to work with someone who has such a good reason to dislike me. Can I apologize to him? I’m really scared to raise my past behavior with him, especially after he recently said in conversation with another friend that he, quote, doesn’t ever talk about high school because it was, quote, the worst time of his life. I was definitely part of the reason for that, Baroody. So I want to apologize not to get myself off the hook, but because I just really think he deserves an apology. And I hate the thought of him thinking I’m not sorry about the way I treated him. Should I? I’ve wanted to tell how sorry I am since I first saw, but I feel sick with anxiety. The thought of it, which I even say I don’t want to off, is excusing my past behavior or trying to get anything out of him. But the current situation of frosty silence and festering guilt is untenable and his scripts or advice would be so welcome.

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S9: Yeah, this one is huge and just intense. I think my main thought here is that if you were to offer an apology, it would need like for it to be meaningful. It would also need to be kind of something that you would be prepared to back up with actions right now. Yeah. And and I think part of the reason that I’m hesitant to encourage you to do so is or at least without considering it carefully first is because it may be that if you open this conversation, that would make it impossible for him to maintain the defenses that have made work at least possible for him up until now, which is at least I don’t have to talk to this fucking guy. Yeah. And so if you say something like what you said here, lots of which is really good and necessary and important, and he said, you know, good for you. Whatever. I can’t stand being around you if you’re really sorry, Leif. And if you weren’t prepared to do that, then that would mean you would have apologized and then also additionally consciously hurt him again. And that, I think, would be worse than nothing. Yeah, you’ve got to be ready to switch offices or find a new job or something, and that may need to happen anyways. Honestly, you say that this is untenable. I don’t know. You know, it certainly sounds like Adam has been able to find a workable compromise, which is just he doesn’t acknowledge you unless you are having a work related conversation with other people, in which case he is professional. That strikes me as fine if you feel like you can’t bear that. Then I really do think, as difficult as it might be to start looking for a new job when it’s your dream job in publishing, which doesn’t have lots and lots of jobs to go around. You know, if you can’t see yourself for years and years at the same company, it may be better to start looking now.

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S7: Yeah, and I would say if you’re not prepared to do that and you really do. Are filled with the guilt of not apologizing. I was thinking about this as someone myself came out kind of late in my life and thought a lot about how I acted as a much younger person. I don’t think not to this degree and I wasn’t a bully in high school is mostly a way around for me. But I think about my previous actions and things that I’d said in the past while trying to fit in or whatever. And you know, you do feel like real regret over this. And it is, you know, maybe based on what what what the writer is saying about, you know, how he feels about it. I believe him. But I think I would say you could write something to them. And then like I would put don’t put them in a situation where they have to lie to your face. Except the fact that you want to apologize or not to put more pressure on him would be, I think, crueler.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. I think my main goal here is I want to make life as easy as possible for Adam. I do think at least right now, what he has what he has signaled to you is don’t approach me. I don’t want more than this from you. So I would say, at least for right now, the main thing that you should do is don’t try hard to make polite conversation, like greet him at the beginning of the day. And if you have to talk about him for settling for work, do that. But don’t ask him questions like, how is your weekend? Don’t try to say nice things to him. He clearly does not want that from you. And I think that’s fair. I mean, it sounds like, you know, you were pretty nasty and violent and it’s hard because on the one hand, I’m really happy that you’ve been able to come out. I’m really glad you’ve been able to make progress and you don’t treat people that way anymore. But that doesn’t mean that that undoes what happened with Adam. That doesn’t undo the pain that you caused him as a as a child. And I don’t say that to try to say so. You’re only the all you can do that without as hate yourself forever. But it does mean that I think working in even the medium term with Adam is just not going to be good for either one of you. And so, yeah, I would say right now my main thing would be look for another job. You know, it’s always easier to look for a job when you’ve got one and you’ve got a good one right now. So there’s something there. Give him as wide a berth as he seems to be asking of you. And I would say go to a therapist about this. Go to a therapist who especially can specialize in helping somebody deal with harm that they’ve caused and talk about possible ways you might be able to reach out with an apology when he doesn’t have to see you every day. I think that’s fair. Just because, A, I worry that like his only way of getting through the day right now is ignoring him, ignoring you.

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S12: And if you bring it up, it will open a lot.

S10: And I get that that’s difficult. I get that that’s difficult for you to contemplate being around him every day. And that’s part of why I think a job change would be good for you as well. But but be very, very careful and test drive any potential apologies you have to offer through at least one mental health professional and at least five other people whose judgment you trust and sit on it for a number of weeks and write and rewrite before you ever think about bringing something to him. I think it would be worse to do something impulsive and in the moment. And I think it would be best. Again, this is all like in the future if you’ve already taken the new job. And I think it would be better to start with even just something like I’m truly sorry for the way that I hurt you as a child. I know that it was awful and unconscionable behaviour. I will not attempt to bring this up again if you don’t want to discuss it.

S13: But I’m you know, I’m truly sorry. And yeah, just the tricky thing there is if you open that up and then you’re not prepared to leave. You would have hurt him again by saying, I’m sorry. And he’s like, well, here’s what I need from you. And you say, I’m not going to do that.

S7: Yeah. Because the possibility is either he’s giving you giving the wide berth because he thinks that you either don’t remember or are not sorry. Or is just, you know, he’s over. It has anything to do with it. Yeah. And it sounds like the latter to me. Yeah.

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S5: Yeah. Especially because of that thing where he said to someone else, he doesn’t talk about high school because it was the worst time in his life. He clearly remembers, you know. You know, it’s it’s it’s not something that he just is kind of like fine about.

S13: And so I think that’s why it’s important to really take his cues here. So I understand your impulse right now, but if you can’t back it up with action, it would be better to maintain things as they are. And even if that means taking a new job, that’s slightly less than a dream job. If that new non dream job meant you weren’t in like terrible uncomfortable silence every day with someone you hurt deeply, I think that would be a better. I don’t think this is ever gonna be your dream job again. I guess that’s what I mean. Like, I don’t think anyone’s dream job involves sitting across from someone they hurt badly. And it sounds like sometimes physically as teenagers, I just don’t think that that’s good for you. And I definitely don’t think that’s good for him.

S6: GROSS find a new job than not. Take it until you’ve given the apology and then take it. I guess if you really want to hedge your things. But it seems like. If you’re not interested in really repairing, you’re not interested really doing the reparative work.

S14: Yeah, well, I just. I just also think even if even if it was a best case scenario and said that means a lot to me, I really I don’t think this is ever gonna get so repaired that they’ve exclusively office all day together. Yeah. I think the best thing that you could hope for here is some version of it doesn’t change the past, but I appreciate hearing it. I’m glad that you don’t treat people like this anymore. And I’m glad that you’re sorry. You know, go on in your life, but leave me alone. That would be a good outcome, frankly. Yeah, but I don’t think there’s the kind of repair possible here that’s like let’s hang out, let’s get coffee. And so I know there’s a part of you that feels like, well, I’m out now and I like him now.

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S10: And if he knew the kind of person I was now, we’d probably get along. But I think that’s a fantasy. And I don’t think that that’s really going to happen. And you need to I think, let him just not think well of you. You have to accept that he will always remember the way that you treated him. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a different kind of life now, but it does mean with Adam. You need to have very low goals. But yeah, please start with a therapist. I think that’s going to be the most helpful and the most important thing. I understand you won’t be able to find a new job tomorrow. So for right now, figure out ways that you can respect the boundaries that he has put up without intruding upon them. And then once you’ve been able to do some of that, I think to start looking for another job and then to consider offering a written very basic without going into a lot of details. Apology. So you’re not just like. And then there was this time in this time and this time that’s too much when someone hasn’t yet signaled that they’re ready to talk about it. A brief written apology that you could give to him after you had left would be the best way to approach it. But it’s really hard. It would be so different if you would just run him on the street and you wanted to, you know, test the waters. I would I would definitely be more inclined to give you a cautious green light, but not when, not when his livelihood depends on his ability to keep it together throughout the day around you.

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S15: Who you. Please read the next letter man subject.

S11: This one is spouse is rude to waitstaff. Dear Prudence, recently my husband has started being rude and passive aggressive with restaurant waitstaff. One time he is upset there wasn’t enough meat in his meal. Another time he didn’t like where we were seated. And most recently he thought it was taking too long to get a beer. He accused the manager of spitting in the extra meat he brought out, announced, I’m not sitting there and went on about how the hostess tried to give us the worst table in the restaurant and rudely asked the waitress, Can I get another beer? Or Is it going to take another 30 minutes? I don’t let these things go. Our pre-teens are with us, so I ask them to stop, label the rude behavior and emphasize that it’s not OK to treat other people that way. Once when I add my own transportation, I left with one of my kids. The other decided to stay. He tries to justify his behavior by saying he’s treated much worse at work. He’s self-employed. Each time this has happened, he’s been drinking. Actually, he drinks a lot and often takes his frustrations about work out on us by berating the kids if they have a bad game or picking a fight with me about my job or political beliefs. Other times, he’s happy and supportive. I’m sick of his erratic behavior and now being embarrassed by him in public.

S16: Do you think this is our first letter writer writing? Like three years in the future? Like he stopped washing the dishes, so we agreed to compromise and just eat out. And now this is what he’s doing. It’s possible. You know, as the saying goes through the home and away, you throw the baby out with the bath, like put him in a bath and then for the bath out the window. Yeah. I don’t like the headline here to me is not spouse is rude to waitstaff. The headline here to me is my alcoholic husband is cruel. Yes, right. You know, that was yeah, that’s that was my thought.

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S7: I mean, like.

S6: It’s not like drinking is an excuse for behavior, but it’s so it’s not at all so like someone who’s rude to a waiter to me gets put in a special little notebook I keep in my breast pocket called people that are bad. I don’t like them. Yeah. Don’t don’t be mean to a waiter. Yeah, easy.

S5: This is this is not a little problem. No, this isn’t happening around the edges. You know, he says he’s treated badly at work and he’s self-employed. To me, this sounds like a person who is looking for an excuse to be angry and cruel.

S6: Yeah, I don’t enjoy it. No, no, no. I get it. You know, I like I like that. It was the parents medical that said you self-employed that was put right there. But I think the letter writer was trying to tell you, yes, he’s wrong.

S10: Yeah. Yeah. I think you know that. And so this is a person who wants to be mad all the time. And he will look for any reason to justify it. He’s not interested in changing that.

S17: You know, you say he also treats the kids badly and picks fights with you. I think you should leave him. Because I don’t think this is just sometimes he’s rude to waitstaff. I think he’s a bad father. I think he’s a bad husband. I think he’s an active alcoholic who has no interest in getting help. I think on top of it all, he’s also rude to like underpaid service employees who are doing their best to make a living as like a waiter or a bartender, which is very difficult. So that’s just like the icing on the cake. Like you regularly have to tell him to stop in front of your kids and tell him how to act, which is a lot to have to do for an adult. And it also doesn’t work. So you started having to leave, which isn’t working either. I think you should leave more. You know, you like instead of just leaving lunch, like leave a lot, right? Leave the house, take the kids, file for divorce, take your kids to Al-Anon meetings, you know that like other times, he’s happy and supportive. Look, everyone who’s not no abusive person is abusive 24 hours a day. No asshole is an asshole 24 hours a day. Most alcoholics can’t pull off being drunk 24 hours a day until they get to like real end-stage stuff. Of course, he’s not like this 24/7. No one’s like anything 24/7, but he’s like it a lot and he’s like it consistently. And he doesn’t stop when you ask him to or when you point out the behavior, you explain why it’s cruel. Or when his kids get upset with their dad is yelling at them. So I think you can say he’s like it enough. You just round it up to all the time, you know.

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S7: Yeah, I would say that he knows that he’s doing something wrong at this point, if you’re like leaving meals with the kids. Like, that would be a real wakeup call for most people. And this fellow seems content to sleep.

S17: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t hear anything in this letter that’s like my husband is open to change here or my husband listens to me when I say that like there’s a limit to. I think people will often write in asking for scripts and I’m happy to do the script. And I think the script can be helpful when you’re like establishing a new policy of like, hey, if you yell at me, I’ll leave.

S14: And now, you know, or with somebody who who basically cares about you and your well-being and is willing to listen to constructive criticism. But there’s also just a limit to how effective a script can be. You can have the best script in the world. And if the person you’re talking to is committed to being unreasonable and not listening, it doesn’t matter. You might as well be saying goo-goo Gaga.

S8: And I think you’re at like anybody who’s willing to say, like, hey, manager, bring me extra meat. Hey, manager, I believe you spit in this. Hey, I need a beer to have to wait an hour for it. Like this is not a guy who’s committed to, like, reasoned debate.

S7: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve met the odd person who is normally fine and bad with waitstaff. And you could just talk to them about it normally. But this seems way outside of that. It seems like it’s a symptom of a massive problem and not like this thing that’s suddenly wrong with my husband.

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S4: Yeah. And honestly, like if I had a partner who was regularly treating waitstaff like this and didn’t stop even have to like I would eventually get to a point where I would leave anyways, like even if or for all the other stuff, just because that’s such a telling example of how they treat people they see as being powerless.

S13: And that’s a bad indicator of someone’s character. So I think you should call a divorce lawyer. And I think you should hire them to help you with your divorce. And I think you should never go out to eat with this man again.

S4: And I’m sorry. I’m sorry. He’s the father of your kids. I realize that you will still have to co-parent together and there will still be ways that you have to see the way his behavior affects your kids and that’s going to suck.

S13: But, you know, you’ve already established a good pattern of not letting things go. I think this is just the next step. This next one you get to read and I am worried subject.

S7: My parents opened credit cards in my name.

S11: Dear Prudence, a few years ago, I was living in an expensive city, working a low paying job and had very severe mental health problems related to depression and PTSD. All this compounded into an unstable financial situation and I moved in with my parents to help get back on my feet. My finances are now much more stable and I am in a place where I can move out and plan on purchasing a home this year. I’ve been monitoring my credit score more actively and realize that there are two credit cards in my name that my parents opened when I was aware of when I was not out to make sure these cards don’t affect my credit score negatively in the future. So I am planning to have a conversation, my parents, about how they use the cards moving forward. I don’t want them to close these cards because the credit limit on them is high. I just want to make sure they in use regularly or maxed out. However, conversations I have had with them about money in the past have not gone well. They usually end with my being told I’m ungrateful for everything I’ve been given in ridicule for getting myself into a mess in the first place. I feel a lot of shame of my past financial situation, but I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made and want to ensure a financially stable future. Do you have any scripts or advice for how I can navigate this conversation successfully?

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S5: Families are not showing up. Well, today in this in this episode, I went over the concept of family. Yeah. Bad, bad show. Just when it comes to like ties back packet and try again next week, families. Yeah. So this is identity fraud. Yeah. And you can’t this is not the kind of thing where you say like, hey, don’t do any more identity fraud and be sure to not spend too much money on these cards.

S9: This is the kind of thing that could absolutely like ruin your future financial health. And you need to file identity fraud report like there’s literally identity theft. Dot gov, go to that Web site, click the get started button below, report identity theft and get a recovery plan. You will probably have to file a police report. Part of the reason that family fraud is so effective is because most people who are the victims of it feel two things. One, I want to not have to make up for this other person’s failures and to I don’t want to get mom in trouble, and that’s impossible. You cannot keep the secret for her. You cannot keep the secret for them. I promise you, if they were willing to take out credit cards in your name without telling you, they are also willing to go into credit card debt.

S6: Yeah, well, it’s as if there’s one that the what are a knew about. Well, yeah. Yes. I’m curious what the reaction order there was. Yeah. I mean like clearly they were like did it happen in like by the way, my child, I’ve opened a credit card and.

S9: Yeah. Either way there was one they didn’t tell you. Yeah. Was. I’m not disagreeing with that. Yeah. They will like it if you don’t file this report. They will affect your credit score negatively in the future very negatively. And it will be incredibly difficult to come back for that if you don’t claim it right now. If in the future you try to say, you know, this debt’s not really mine, the odds that the credit card companies will be like, I don’t know, it’s got your name on it and you haven’t filed anything. So guess what? You’re liable. And that’s not gonna be good for you. And that’s not going to be good for your parents. So file that report. File that police report if you need to freeze your credit. I think you can do that for something like 90 days. That might be a point worth talking to a financial planner about. You’ll def. want to keep monitoring your credit reports and your credit cards. You can do that for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Read overall your banking credit card statements. You know, now is also a great time to ask if there’s anything else that they they need to tell you about. But like your parents didn’t earn this by being your parents. They didn’t earn this by helping you out when you had PTSD. This is not something that you owe to them. This is identity fraud that they did that seriously, seriously harms you. They took advantage of you. It was wrong. And the only way to stop it is by fuckin snitching. And I don’t often advocate for that on this column and I’m advocating it now. Snitch on your parents. They put you in an unbelievably difficult situation. And I just don’t think like they’re telling you that they’re ridiculing you. They’re telling you that you’re ungrateful. They are trying to bully you into taking on their debt as your own. And this just does not sound like a situation where you can trust like owner. They’re going to handle these secret credit cards really responsibly.

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S6: They clearly don’t take you or your concerns seriously. Is what I’m getting from this from the from the bit where, you know, like you that you’re now it seems like probably doing better than them. I would imagine. Which is like, you know, not like we should all be crabs in a barrel fighting each other. But this is some serious breach of trust.

S14: Yeah. And there’s a huge difficulty for identity. Yeah, there’s a huge difference between saying like mom and dad, I’m willing to like send you such and such amount of money a month and then them saying like we’re going to mortgage your future by racking up debt in your name. These people are ridiculing you for your ideas, mental health. You know, if you say mom and dad, please just promise me you’ll stick to Alema and Don up and open up anymore cards. Like I have no faith that they will abide by that. I have no faith in that at all. So the one bright side here is you don’t need their permission to file that report. You don’t need their permission to get those cards close down. You need to get those cards close down. I know you say that like I don’t want to because the credit card limit is high. Which, again, that’s worrying. That’s not good. You know, like that’s not a thing. A mitigating factor if like. No, no, no, don’t worry. They can rack up a ton of money on these cards. That’s very worrying. Yeah. You do not want to be on the hook for their credit card debts for the rest of your life. And that’s the position that they put you in.

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S6: If this could go very, very poorly, this could only go poorly. And if and if it goes poorly, you’re not going to have somewhere to go again to get back on your feet because they’re gonna be the ones that did it to you.

S9: Exactly. This will, frankly, I. Part of me wonders that they did this because they were upset that you were starting to get back on your feet and they wanted to try to tank that. And they wanted you to be struggling and doing badly and to need them. These people do not deserve your trust. I understand that you might love them and you might decide that you want to maintain some kind of an emotional relationship with them, that it’s your choice. They also may, you know, flip their lids so much when you actually draw a boundary here and file those reports that you lose that relationship anyways. They fully started it. Yeah. To which I would just say, if somebody says the only way that you can maintain a child relationship with me is if you let me commit identity fraud and you like credit card debt racking up in your name, I would say nobody has the right to ask that of you. But. You know, this is just you can get debt collection calls, you could get like you might never be able to. I mean, not that everyone’s like on the verge of being able to buy a house anyways. But there’s there’s a lot like you could get denied rental applications, which are ever everyone kind of needs to be able to do that. Even if even if buying a house isn’t gonna be possible, you might not be able to open a card of your own in the future.

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S6: You know, we unfortunately, in a system where this is like possibly like life destroying. Yeah. And you shouldn’t let them do that to you.

S14: Yeah. You say you’re planning on purchasing a home this year. I promise you, if you don’t stop this right now, you will never be able to. Sorry. That was a big promise. I don’t promise that. I just like I think the odds of that being able to happen if you don’t file those reports right now is just.

S5: Unbelievably low, the bank could take your house, like if you bought a house and then your parents racked up a ton of debt and it was in your name and you never father. Report. They could take your house like this could be so. No, no. There’s not a way through this where you have a nice, tidy script with mom and dad. You set a boundary. They dutifully never go above the limit. The only way out is is going over their head. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. This is such a double whammy of like financial and emotional manipulation.

S18: And it feels like a great Segway to our last question because it’s at a different kind of money problem. It’s the subject is struggling to empathize with partner who grew up wealthy. So I feel like we’re kind of closing on a note of like emotional avoidance coupled with financial intensity, I guess, anyways. Dear Prudence, I’ve been dating one of my closest friends for almost a year and it’s been amazing. He doesn’t shy away from challenging conversations, including his physical health issues, my mental health issues, my gender identity, etc. He’s so supportive. The only conversation we struggle with is about money. My partner grew up with a nanny, a vacation home, access to his parents money, nice new cars and his spending habits. As a result, wildly different from mine. I grew up fairly poor and spent part of my childhood couch surfing with my mother. My parents are doing a lot better now and we’re recently even able to buy a house outside of town. But I’ve never known someone with such a wealthy background, even though I now make a bit more than our boyfriend. Our lifestyles are really different. His car is three years old. Mine 17 years old. I used to love it, but now all I notice are the clunky sounds it makes and the lack of fancy features. When we go out to eat, he doesn’t hesitate to get add ons, but I usually look for the least expensive items. He lives way beyond his means and often talks about being stressed out about money. Before we started dating, he didn’t know much about cooking and mostly eat in restaurants. Now that we’re in a relationship, I eat out much more than I did before and I find that really stressful for my budget, but I’m not quite living beyond my means. He spends a lot of money on his own hobbies and I want to be encouraging of that. But I feel like I’m enabling something. He’s communicated to me that he would like help reining in the budget. But he also gets incredibly uncomfortable talking about his own financial privilege. And I said before, I don’t want to talk about it. We’ve discussed moving in together and we’ve even talked about marriage and kids. Eventually we’ll probably want to share finances. I feel so stuck. But I can’t even tolerate the idea that there should be a dealbreaker. Besides the financial stuff, this is by far the most nourishing and healthy relationship I’ve ever gotten to be part of. How should I approach this with him? Is it better to continue to avoid asking him how he can afford his lifestyle? Or should I make a point to ask for more information? Offer to help drying up a budget? If so, how do I avoid leaving him feeling judged?

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S7: Even though I do honestly feel pretty judgmental, I don’t know any other rich kids who I think the good news here is that he’s loved. You open a pretty big window and that he has asked for help with his budget.

S5: Yeah, I think that that’s also a good opening place. And yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

S11: No, it’s fine. I was just saying like, oh, my. You know, that my first thought was like, oh, you know, he he says he asked you that he’s having a hard time, his budget and he wants help. And you could just say to him, hey, you, let’s like sit down and talk about your budget.

S6: If you’d asked me about this, like, here’s some tips that I have from growing from like having to be out of my own, you know, longer with less money. And I think beyond that, it’s also you know, it sounds like your relationship is pretty healthy, otherwise decided to say to him, oh, like it’s been a real strain on me to eat out so much. Can we start eating at home, I think. Or at one of our places or cooking or whatever? I think that’s totally fair. And it sounds like he would be receptive to that if he’s if the relationship is so nourishing and healthy, which it seems like it is.

S14: I think that’s a really good idea. And it’s also fine. Like I think it’s fine for a relationship to kind of figure out, oh, these are the topics that we might disagree on, but we feel like pretty comfortable talking about. And here’s one or two areas that we know are really hard. Emotions run high. We both tend to get a little bit avoidant. It’s not at all uncommon for couples for money to be that thing. So like you’re in great company there. Nothing here strikes me as like insurmountable. Definitely. Like if he was like, I want to have kids tomorrow and I want to get a joint account tomorrow and I never want to have a conversation. It’s like pump the brakes. But you also don’t have to share your finances ever. You could stay together and be committed and have shared financial goals. But if you wanted to keep a bank account in your own name, you could still do that. That’s allowed. That’s legal and everything. Absolutely. So don’t feel like you have to do that, especially if you realize like, oh, we’re actually kind of better off with separate budgets. But I would yeah, I would say maybe like, you know, you said you’d like help. Talking about a budget. I’d love to help you with that. Here’s a good place for me to open with, just like one thing I’ve noticed ever since we got together. I’ve changed my eating habits to match yours as I necessarily like good or bad. It’s just something that has happened. I noticed that I feel a little anxious talking about it. I eat out more than I might like to otherwise, and I want to talk about possible compromises. And maybe you love the amount of times that you eat out a week. And I just want to say for myself. I like to have dinner at home like an average of three nights a week. And I hope you’ll join me. And if some nights you don’t, that’s OK. I’ll make dinner for myself. That might be one option to start with, I think. But I really think even before you get into the details of like a lot of budgeting is fairly straightforward. It mostly just means like looking. How much money you have coming in and apportioning how much you want to spend on other things, like if you can do basic math and he can look at his if you can track his expenditures. He’ll be able to do that. It’s really about the like. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t acknowledge it like it’s not a crime that he grew up rich. But it’s true that he grew up rich. I mean, it is a crime, but it’s not a crime that he’s primarily responsible for.

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S16: We got it. We got to address it.

S6: Yeah. I’m trying to look outside of my own feelings here, but I guess it’s not like I think it’s it’s you said like, oh, he’s happy talking about sexism or white privilege or whatever. And this is just sort of like the third head of that beast. Yeah. And for him to the third rail baby is the third rail of that beast. That’s that was the metaphor. But generally, like I think it’s something you can over time talk more about slowly, but not all at once because people are people are touchy about this stuff. And I think especially in America where we’re kind of raised to not talk about money, period, especially if you have a lot of money. Absolutely. I think that’s mostly comes from your heads to protect rich people from. You know, activism. Yeah.

S9: Anything you maybe help to say, look, I’m not accusing you of saying you grew up rich. It’s just you grew up rich. It’s not an accusation. You don’t have to apologize to me because I grew up poor. You don’t have to throw yourself out a window. It’s just we need to be able to acknowledge it. Yeah. So, you know, you say, I don’t want this to be a dealbreaker. It doesn’t have to be. You’ve never really had a serious conversation with him about finances yet. He’s been defensive. Yes. And he’s like kind of shut it down. But he’s also signalled other forms of availability. So I think basically just say one thing that I’ve noticed is this is really hard for you. You often get kind of anxious. And I would love to talk with you a little bit about like, what are you afraid of in those moments? Why don’t you want to acknowledge that? What are you afraid might happen? See what happens.

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S7: And it’s scary because, you know, when you’re a good relationship, you don’t want to, like, rock the boat too much. Yeah. If you got a nice partner who’s cool about your dinner at ENELE. Yeah. And someone who’s got a generator and that I feel like you have to be cool with for some reason, like, you know, it’s it’s it’s scary, but.

S18: You know, yeah, I demand that everyone’s cool with my gender identity. Sure. Mine’s the best one. Congratulations. Thank you. I looked at all of them and I picked the nicest you into the store. I went to the store and I said, bring me your best one.

S6: And I said, Coathanger floated out of the coating and they were like, we have this one.

S14: And I said, I’ll take it. It’s good. It’s not the best line. It’s just my favorite. Yeah. And I would also my last thing of advice there would be like, don’t put yourself in a position of like doing all the work for him. Like, if he’s like, I don’t really want to talk about this, but I do want a budget. And you’re like, well, here’s a great budget that would help you save X amount of money a month and then you hand it to him and he never does it. You’re just gonna feel like a chump. So I would say any budget that he needs help with, you can be there to process the emotional stuff and certainly offer tips that have helped you or suggest he get one of those like, you know, money tracking apps, of which there are many like spending tracking app. But don’t do it for him, because if you do it for him and he doesn’t do the emotional work, he will resent you for it. He will avoid sticking to your budget.

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S17: And then you’re going to feel like an asshole because you’re just like, why did all this work? And now he just, you know, bought a new lacrosse field. I don’t think you should buy a new crossfield. She said he had expensive hobbies, so I assumed I am a crossfield. I assume he is a character from Teen Wolf and he is an expensive werewolf who plays lacrosse.

S16: Or maybe he buys antique vintage dolls that are haunted and have fancy rules. I find mine in the woods varied. Yeah, that’s a great way to cut back on money. Just look for haunted dolls out in the woods.

S6: Yeah, you could just find them and you don’t go on eBay spending almost one in 100. Don’t look in the woods near haunted manners.

S14: Look for a tiny China hand sticking up out of the woods. Check that mold number. Check that. Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for having such a good time. You are a delight. I hope that you have a fantastic rest of the day. You too.

S19: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, a producer, Phil Circus.

S20: Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show. Head to Slate.com Slash. Dear Prudence to subscribe. And remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate dot com slash pretty pod to sign up.

S21: If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message at 4 0 1 3 7 1, dear. That’s 3 3 2 7. You don’t have to use your real name or location, and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short. 30 seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

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S22: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I’m right now on the EEOC Web site, which is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And there are actually laws about trying to mandate English only in the workplace. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the law is not on your side. The EEOC has data that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace. Violate the law unless the employer can show that they are justified by business necessity. So I’m not suggesting that you will be clapped in jail the second you say something, but I am saying legally you’d be on very shaky ground if you attempted to convince any of your co-workers that they have to speak English.

S18: Every time you to listen to the rest of that conversation, joint slate plus now at Slate, dot com forward slash prudy pod.