Granny Dearest

Granny Dearest

Granny Dearest

Advice on manners and morals.
March 24 2000 3:00 AM

Granny Dearest

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

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Dear Prudence,

My problem is my mother. She tries to tell me how to raise my children (interestingly, differently than she raised me). When I resist, or the children do not do what she wants, she withholds things from them. For instance, when my son didn't do something her way, she sent my daughter the Christmas present of her dreams, but sent nothing for him. Should I tell her just to get out of our lives? I have been trying since my kids were born to see that they had a good relationship with their grandmother. She's always favored my daughter, but this is getting ridiculous. I am at the end of my rope with her. Thank you.

—Troubled Daughter

Dear Trub,

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My sympathies. Your mother is certainly in touch with her inner control freak. It is one thing for a mother and grandmother to have suggestions about child rearing, quite another to act out one's displeasure if ignored. Prudie's mother, for example, when Prudie's children were young, made occasional remarks suggesting her grandchildren were being raised by wolves (Prudie being somewhat permissive) but that was the end of it.

Your mother is guilty of two serious infractions here. One is to overtly favor one child; the other is using gifts as payola for behavior that she issues by fiat. It is hurtful when grandchildren realize a sibling is favored. The emotional response is to wonder, what's wrong with me? Prudie gives you permission to inform your mother of your new rules: Gifts for one child and not the other, excepting birthdays, will be returned to her; and gifts are not to be given or withheld according to whether the children do as she instructs. As their mother, you are—in the now famous words of Al Gore—the controlling legal authority. If Grandmother does not see it your way, do not hesitate to lop off the relationship until she can behave in the best interests of the family.

—Prudie, resolutely

Dear Prudie,

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My husband and I have been married for 19 years and have three children. We've had our rough spots, but I always thought we could work through them. I thought our problems stemmed from money (we never have enough). We've also had high stress levels due to my husband changing his career and our moving to a new state. But, again, I thought we could work through the difficult times. Then, two weeks ago, we were talking about how we just weren't making it and that we may have to consider divorce. In that heated discussion he revealed he's been sleeping with other women since the first year of our marriage. He admitted to five different affairs and countless visits to massage parlors for "full-body" massages. He says he never told me because he knew it would be too devastating.

I've been in a state of shock since. I've gone from feeling hurt, angry, depressed to longing to work through this, then back to anger and hurt. He's agreed to seek counseling, but I believe it's too late. Truly, I thought (as did family and friends) that he was a wonderful husband—that he loved me and the kids so much he would never let anything come between us. How could I have been so wrong? Right now, I don't know what I'm going to do. What do you advise?

—Broken-Hearted

Dear Broke,

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Prudie will not advise you about what course of action to take with such a major life decision, but she will offer some observations. Cheating from the get-go is lower than a snake's tail in a wagon rut. This early-on philandering means your conscience-free husband never thought marriage meant boundaries … at least not for him. His sexual pattern seems to be established. The fact that you—and everyone else—thought things were fine means he knows how to camouflage and deceive. His willingness to go into counseling may have some value. If  he has never been in counseling before, it might be worth a shot—provided you are willing to give him a chance. Clearly there is a screw loose, forgive the choice of words, in a man who has been married for 19 years and has run around for 18 of them. Although sex addiction is a recognized problem, Prudie feels that sometimes a sex addict is nothing more than a guy who gets caught. There really is such a thing as a narcissistic, ego-driven bum. In the end, either before or after therapy, your decision will hinge on whether you want him in or out of your life, whether the damage he has done is irreparable, and whether trust can ever again be possible.

—Prudie, consolingly

Dear Prudence,

I recently met a wonderful man via Internet personals. (He responded to my ad.) We are really progressing as a couple, and I am very happy to have him in my life. So, what's the problem? He doesn't like people knowing we met on the Internet. It's not because he met me, he assures me, but because of the "stigma" attached to Internet personals. I don't have any problem telling people how we met. I believe the Internet is a wonderful way for busy singles such as Mr. Perfect and myself to find romance. His close friends know how we met, but he has told some inquisitive co-workers that we met at a club. I am OK with that, because it's not really their business. However, I am worried about future explanations.

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People love to hear "How we met" stories ... so what am I supposed to do? He gets upset when I tell him I've told my friends the "us" story even though they think it's romantic. I think he is making a big deal out of nothing. It's not like I'm the Julia Robert's character in Pretty Woman, and he's in love with a prostitute. What do you say, Prudie?

—Cyberlovingly Yours

Dear Cy,

One thing Prudie has to say is that you and Mr. Perfect should get your stories straight. With both of you telling different versions to different people you will soon sound like pathological liars or a couple who met in a way that does need to be covered up. As for resolving the issue you write about, Prudie thinks if it's so important to Mr. P. that people not know yours was an Internet personals situation then you should go along with it. (Though the real story, already known to some people, is a complication.) If things progress to the point where you become a permanent couple, perhaps when people ask how you met you might just say, "We were introduced." Which is kind of true. All you will be leaving out is that you introduced yourselves to each other on the Internet.

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—Prudie, compromisingly

Dear Prudence,

Two months ago my beloved son took his own life. He was 25 years old. Along with the everyday agony of his loss, I find that many people we know do not even acknowledge my child's death. Please let me tell your readers that a card would be better than nothing, and an "I'm sorry for your loss" would be greatly appreciated. Suicide unfortunately is far from uncommon, so why do people act like the survivors are lepers? Thank God that I do have some close friends, but what of those who are truly alone in life? Please think on this, readers.

—Heartbroken Mother

Dear Heart,

What a great sadness for you. Your letter is another reminder that an old bromide is true: "Sometimes life can break your heart." As for people acknowledging a death, and a survivor's sorrow, they are often unsure about what to say ... so they say nothing, which is too bad. Your situation is complicated by the element of suicide. This particular kind of death makes people skittish, thinking suicide either a shameful or unmentionable kind of death. Prudie joins you in urging people to support their friends who've had a death in the family, including suicide, with a note, a soothing word, some blooms, or a casserole. There should be some recognition of the loss, even if it's a wordless arm around the shoulder. The bereaved never forget it.

—Prudie, supportively