Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 14 2002 2:25 PM

Where's the Love?

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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Dear Prudence,

I have a dilemma. About a year and a half ago, I got into a relationship with a man I have known and loved for years. The only problem is that he is married. He never said he would leave his wife, and I am willing to continue on with the way things are. About six months ago, my daughter's friend told my lover's wife about our affair. Needless to say, things got a bit hairy. We did continue to see each other, though not as often. Now his wife is constantly monitoring his activities, and it is difficult for us to speak on the phone or see one another. In fact, it has been some time now since he has called me, and I am very upset. I keep telling him that even an e-mail would make me feel much better, but I continue to hear nothing. What should I do?

—Jealous

Dear Jell,

You are hearing something, hon ... you're just choosing not to understand its meaning. His silence is saying a whole lot of things—the most important one being that he chooses to stay married, and having a girlfriend is ticking off his wife (who, as a consequence, has now become a detective). Borrowed husbands are bad business, kiddo, so go forth and find a man who is unencumbered. This chap clearly does not want to become a wasband, so call it a day. And just as an aside, Prudie is wondering what's with your daughter's friend?

—Prudie, frankly

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Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I have been together for about six months. In the beginning of our relationship, we had problems with him leaving town whenever he wanted and not calling. When he came back to town, he always had a good excuse for why he was gone, and it was hard not to believe him. Things are better now, but just a few nights ago he claimed he was at night school, but a friend of mine saw him getting gas at a gas station clear across town. When I confronted him about it, he told me he had to go to the book store and that is why he was over there. Before we got off the phone, he told me he would come over around 10:30 p.m. after school. It got to be 11 p.m., and he wasn't here and hadn't called, so I called him to see where he was ... but he didn't answer. I called a few more times throughout the night and still no answer. I thought I would try calling his house to see if maybe he went home, but his roommate said he hadn't been home all day. He didn't call until 1 a.m. He claimed he was at church. When he finally came over, I noticed that his breath smelled of alcohol. How do I know if he is telling the truth? Do I just let it go or leave the relationship? Please help.

—Confused

Dear Con,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, on Valentine's Day, no less, but this chap has a lot of excuses that don't compute. He's either irresponsible, a drinker, a runaround, or all of the above. Prudie is unaware of churches that welcome parishioners late at night, and sacramental wine is not served in sufficient quantities to make one's breath smell of alcohol. (When Prudie visited a Protestant church, however, she mistook the Eucharist wafers for "refreshments," so she is not the last word on things ecclesiastical.) When you add the gas station and the cross-town bookstore to staying out all night—making him about 12 hours late—the tally is heavily in favor of giving Mr. Reliable the heave-ho. Really, what do you need him for?

—Prudie, certainly

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Dear Prudence,

I have been dating a wonderful guy for over a year. We love each other very much. He is thoughtful, responsible, attentive, and extremely intelligent. We've both talked about marriage being in our future. Because I'm 24 and he's 26, we both agree that neither of us is ready for that level of commitment yet. Here's the punch line, though: He's applying to law school for next year in places all over the country. Chances are, he'll end up in a school hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. I'm still in a degree program that will keep me here for at least a year. My problem is that I've never been in a long-distance relationship and have no idea how to go about one effectively. I've heard horror stories about how they never work. I know the situation will be temporary, but I'm the kind of person who likes lots of proximity. We both want to make it work, but I'm very nervous about it. Any advice for me?

—Anxious in L.A.

Dear Anx,

Chill. People who are worried the relationship can't survive distance and separation are holding on too tightly and have no underlying faith in the bond. A little air in a romance is a good thing. You do not have to be on-site, as it were, to hang on to the beloved. How one goes about a long-distance relationship effectively is to fine-tune the art of communicating, whether by letter, e-mail, or phone. And Prudie promises you the reunions will be something special.

—Prudie, maturely

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Dear Prudence,

If the measure of love is loss, then it is frightening to imagine the things I stand to lose. We met by the kind of serendipity that only happens in NYC. It was a misaddressed e-mail she playfully responded to, soon leading into an epistolary intimacy, the way only letters and words can reveal each other. Then we became friends. On paper, we pieced each other's letters like a Chuck Close painting against images of our own fantasies. But when we met, I was not-tall, Jewish, and rich, and she was beautiful, wild, and with open wounds that hurt when I tried to touch her. Intimacy is so much safer on paper. When we met, she had recently walked away from a wedding engagement, and independent of those broken pieces, she was finishing up her last year of school. When she finished school and came back to the city, we became something more than friends, less than lovers. Neither of us is a simple person. We are both overeducated, well-traveled, prodigal, strange, and sad. For either of us to have met another who fits the other's dark and jagged edges is a miracle. Simply said, she is utterly special and precious to me, waterfall and wine.

Now after these many years, it's time for me to walk away from her. She wants to keep everything we have but remain less than lovers. Her reasons range from the philosophical to the practical to the physical. The fact is I am in love with her, and this unrequited emotion has paralyzed me. We carry on for now, but out of respect for the idea of self-preservation, I don't think it can go on for me like this. It's a simple story, and it's not. Forgive my loquacious explanations. Here's my question: Is there a proper way to leave your best friend and your love?

—Searching for a Prosthetic Heart

Dear Search,

To your question, "Is there a proper way to leave your best friend and your love?" Prudie would tell you something that perhaps does not actually speak to the "proper way" part. You are right to extricate yourself. You cannot have what you want, and to continue in a state of longing will only diminish your life. Prudie thinks that a guy with your depth and sensitivity will stumble onto a woman who will love you totally and feel she's gotten a real prize. Prudie hopes the sadness you write of will not stop you in your emotional tracks. She also thinks you're a hell of a writer.

—Prudie, literarily