Disconnect Your Love

Disconnect Your Love

Disconnect Your Love

Advice on manners and morals.
July 20 2000 11:30 PM

Disconnect Your Love

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

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Dear Prudence,

What can I do? What should I do? I met a man on the Internet. I know you've heard all the horror stories about these situations, but ours is an exception. He lives 1,000 miles from me. I flew to his state to meet him, and we found, to our mutual pleasure, that we were both just as fascinated with each other and as compatible as we dreamed. He is the most wonderful man I have ever known. Unfortunately, he's married. I knew this and was dead set against any kind of relationship with him because of that. But Prudie, his wife has been cheating on him for the last six years! He knows this but stays in the relationship because of his unwillingness to break up "the parental unit." He feels that would devastate his children. I have my own opinions about what they're already doing to their children, but I don't feel it's my place to "henpeck" him about it. While he was with me this past weekend it was apparent (we had clues) that his wife was enjoying the same kind of weekend. I love him so much it hurts. Our relationship has been open and honest from the start. Should I continue loving him from afar, with only a few weekends a year to actually touch him? Should I insist he leave his wife if we are to stay in our loving relationship? Should I just get a tourniquet for my heart and end the whole thing? HELP!

—In Love,

Kalamazoo, Mich.

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Dear In,

Get the tourniquet. Prudie does not wish to add to your distress, but what are you smoking? The "mutual pleasure" is clearly exacerbating your JDD (Judgment Deficit Disorder). First of all, your relationship is not "open and honest." This man is married. And if he has tolerated a wife who's cheated on him for six years, Prudie doubts that he is henpeckable about that particular subject. As for the "parental unit" song and dance—a golden oldie, by the way—that is simply a dressed up way of saying, "I am hiding behind my children, have no intention of getting a divorce, so please forget about trying to pry me out of my marriage." In lieu of a few weekends a year with this cyberskunk, change your e-mail address and focus your energies elsewhere. Trust Prudie: What's going on is not exceptional ... it's a story as old as the hills and a lot older than the Internet.

—Prudie, absolutely

Prudie,

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I hope you can help me with two wedding etiquette concerns. My wedding will be small and on a tight budget. We are experiencing some issues in finalizing the guest list. First, my fiance and I wonder if we should invite "Tom," an uncle of mine by marriage. Tom's reputation at weddings is not good. He is an alcoholic and often becomes intoxicated. He has been known to engage in fisticuffs with one bride's father. Even sober he is obnoxious and attempts to flirt and grope various young females—myself included. He is usually uninterested in family gatherings, but I believe my aunt and cousin will insist that he attend.

Our second challenge is whether to invite my maternal (and only living) grandparents. On the one and only occasion that my fiance met them, they insulted his racial background. (I am white, my fiance is black.) I believe they did not intend to be insulting, but their biases are very deep. If we invite them, I know my fiance will be uncomfortable, and I worry they might even make an offensive scene or a speech. I have no desire to start a family feud, but I also don't want anything to spoil our special day.

—Bewildered Bride

Dear Be,

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Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event (we hope), so for this reason Prudie is going to take a hard line. She sees no reason why the focus of the day should be on a lecherous drunk uncle. Since he has done his alcohol-fueled belligerent number before, by all means leave him out. If you know he has a beverage problem, so does his wife ... therefore you can be direct and say it is your wish that only she and your cousin come. If her response is that she won't come without her husband ... well, tell her she will be missed.

As for the bigots—your grandparents—speak to them and say you are aware of their views about blacks. If they feel able to be silent on the subject, you would certainly welcome them at your wedding. If they find the issue too difficult for them, make it plain it would be better for them to stay at home. (If you think they are beyond controlling what they say, then don't invite them and live with the fallout.) Their antediluvian views are quite sad in this day and age, but you are wise to deal with reality. And once you are married, Prudie would not suggest visiting them, because who, after all, wants to spend a day at the racists'?

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudie,

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I am in serious turmoil regarding my mother-in-law. My husband and I have been married almost three years. We have a 17-month-old daughter. We have only lived in the same town as my husband's mother for 14 months, but the woman makes my life hell. She is rude to me beyond belief. She will see me in the grocery store, look right at me, then turn her head with a look of disgust. My husband is always defending her. I think he should have a talk with her about showing some respect for me, and if that's not possible, then we should put some distance between us. Another thorn in my side is that she never wants to see our daughter. I need advice about how to handle this situation, because it is starting to drive a wedge between me and my husband.

—Frustrated in Arkansas

Dear Frus,

Starting to drive a wedge? Your husband defends a woman who treats you like someone who is not acceptable in polite society—like maybe you robbed a bank? Prudie would be very interested in your husband's defense of this behavior. Of course, there is sometimes inherent rivalry between mothers of sons and the women they marry, so your take on all this may not be objective ... though hallucinating that she is looking right through you and turning away in disgust would be quite unusual. If things are as you say, you need to have a major powwow with your husband and discuss his relationship with his mother. Does he value the relationship with her over you and your child? Why does he think her shabby treatment of you is acceptable? Is he not concerned that she is not accepting her role as a grandmother? A rational discussion should yield an agreement that his loyalty is to you. It may be useful to sit down with her and ask what the problem is, though I suspect you may have tried this. A couple's counselor might be needed to help you sort this out. Some resolution is necessary, because otherwise, your marriage will be in the tank. And, alas, some mothers-in-law really are bitches.

—Prudie, certainly

Prudie,

When "Texas Newlywed" complained of an inadequate distribution of income in her new marriage, you gave her fine advice, but I believe you overlooked one relevant issue. The impoverished bride lives in Texas, which is a community property state. While I am not a lawyer, I believe this means that property acquired during the marriage (specifically including normal pay and income) is owned equally by husband and wife. While his paycheck may be larger than hers, under Texas law their incomes are, in fact, equal.

—D.H.

Dear D.,

Lotsa letters about this. Here's another response:

Prudence,

What does it mean that I am presently earning more money than my wife? Our salary roles could be reversed tomorrow! I believe that earning money, in a marriage, is a chore—like taking out the garbage or vacuuming. Perhaps when she cooks, she should give him smaller portions, since he didn't go to the market or stand over the stove. Better yet, since he wants everything to be "businesslike," she should present him with a weekly invoice itemizing the services she provided ... things such as cooking, ironing, etc.

—Appalled

Dear Prudence,

Tell "Tall and Lonely" to get in touch with Tall Clubs International. It's a social organization for women over 5 feet, 10 inches and men taller than 6 feet 2 inches. There are many branches throughout the United States and worldwide.