What Would Buddha Do?

What Would Buddha Do?

What Would Buddha Do?

Advice on manners and morals.
July 2 1999 3:00 AM

What Would Buddha Do?

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

My significant other is driving me berserk. He changes religious beliefs like some people change clothes. This might be only peculiar (and therefore tolerable), but he expects me to accompany him, as well as get into the philosophy of the moment. I really do not have time for this and, to be truthful, do not share his passion for religious theory. I gave it a try but can no longer play along. How would you recommend I deal with this? (And him?)

--Pulling My Hair Out in Chicago

Dear Pull,

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Your trendy friend sounds like a handful. If you are interested in maintaining the relationship, you need to spell out that lovers need not share every interest, and that his searching for new belief systems is particularly tiring for you.

It would be helpful if you had a religion that you started with and said you wished to retain but, failing that, tell the theologian that you are making a new beginning: that he has your blessings, pardon the expression, to pursue the religion of his choice ... alone. If he throws it up to you that you used to go to all the various services with him, tell him that was Zen, this is now.

--Prudie, individually

Dear Prudie,

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My wife of eight years is starting to make me wonder if she is mature enough to even be married. She spends more time with her girlfriends, most of whom are from high school, than she does with me. (We have no children.) I wind up doing many things alone on weekends and in the evenings because she always has plans with "the girls." My wish is to make this marriage work because I love my wife, but I am feeling like second fiddle to a gang of girls. Any ideas?

--Stumped

Dear Stump,

Do you know the saying, "We're all grown-ups here?" Well, that seems not to be the case in your life. Your wife sounds immature to the max. Prudie is at a disadvantage, however, not knowing the details and the dynamics of your marriage.

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Just regarding the complaint about reliance on girlfriends, though, Prudie suggests you have a loooong and serious heart-to-heart with your wife, outlining your disturbance with her choices. Ask if she wishes to be married. Ask if she has complaints about you. If she is willing, a couples therapist might be helpful. One way or the other, you have to resolve the situation.

--Prudie, amicably

Dear Prudence,

My father was married once before my mother and has three children from his earlier marriage. I am 25, and my stepbrothers are in their late 30s. All three are intelligent (two are lawyers, one has an MBA) but have never found themselves in stable situations. All three have been bankrupt at one point during the past three years. All three apportion a great deal of guilt to my father, who did not win custody of them when they were younger. Their mother was not a good one, and I recognize that they have emotional scars. However, my father never fails to bail them out of a financial crisis. While my father has done well, he is by no means wealthy. I know he has dipped into his retirement fund several times to help my siblings out.

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What bothers me is that while my childhood was far more "normal," I demonstrate more responsibility in my financial obligations (school loans, etc.) than my elder siblings and, frankly, would be embarrassed to ask my father for money because I couldn't get a handle on life. My father came from a poor family and I would like him to enjoy his retirement. Is it appropriate for me to say anything to him regarding this matter? I do love my elder sibs but feel they are exploiting my father with guilt.

--Concerned in D.C.

Dear Con,

It sounds as though you have your father's well-being at heart, so you might gently engage him in a conversation about your concerns. Do articulate that you do not feel competitive with your half-brothers and try to bring up the question of "making reparations" out of guilt. Also mention that bailing out these boys may not be in their best interests. He cannot help but be touched if you tell him of your concerns for his comfortable retirement. He may be amenable to what you have to say--or he may not. Once you've brought the subject up, however, know that you can take it no further. In the end, it is his money ... and his guilt.

It is admirable that you regard responsibility in a different way than the three boys you write about. It is interesting, too, that the two lawyers and the MBA display financial incompetence. Prudie recommends, by the way, that you not bring up this subject with your brothers. That way lies fireworks.

--Prudie, gingerly

Dear Prudie,

This is going back a bit, but I was struck by the letter from Carpe Diem. As a psychology professor, a previous psych major, and an avocational singer, I agree with your advice to "Go for it" but think there's yet another option that Carpe should consider before running away from home or from college. Since Carpe is already enrolled in college, why not take a minor in music or even double major in psychology and music? Surely Mom and Dad can't object to that, but more important, Carpe has this wonderful opportunity to increase her musical skills, develop her talent, and make important connections that could lead to jobs. Why not take the four years to do all that and then "run away" to pursue her dreams, fully prepared?

--Sincerely,

One Who Has Her Singing Dream and Her Psychology Job

Dear One,

Why not, indeed? What you suggest is very sound advice, and Prudie thanks you for being a Prudie.

--Prudie, rationally