Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 16 2002 12:04 PM

Actually, I've Met Your Wife Before

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,

In response to "
Numbers Revealed, or Not?" I think you've given bad advice. I don't know how to put this without sounding like a "typical" male, but there was a time when I asked a similar question of my now ex-wife. I was told that her sex life before me was limited. To say that this was an understatement is an understatement! There were times after we were married that I would meet a man who had known my wife before we were married and be told by that man something like: "You sure are a lucky guy. She's a good one in bed." Do you have any idea how humiliating and embarrassing that is? I could have been prepared for it if she had given an honest answer to an honest question!

—Burned and Still Smoking

Dear Burn,

The point you raise is at least unique. Prudie heard from many people disagreeing with her advice, saying partners had a right to know if the new amour had a transmittable disease. These correspondents, however, were confusing revealing the batting lineup with a request for an AIDS test and a clean bill of health. However ... regarding your point, I'm not sure a woman would be able to provide what you call an honest answer. Some women don't keep a tally, so the actual numbers might be unknown ... and from sheer self-preservation no woman is going to volunteer that the numbers are incalculable. The most Prudie would expect a woman to volunteer is that she was, uh, experienced—or the opposite. As for your particular situation, what kind of idiot lowlife would tell another man that his wife was great in the sack? Prudie doesn't think one would ever be prepared for a zinger like that, no matter what his wife had told him. But in your case, as you point out, all that is water under the ex-wife.

—Prudie, clarifyingly

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Dear Prudence,

I'll get right to the point, I despise my fiance's children. They are ill-mannered, clumsy, and poorly educated. I can't stand to look at two of them because one is hideously obese (very sad) and the other just looks plain stupid, like his mother. I am embarrassed to be out in public with them, and to top it off, my fiance wants his 2-year-old grandson to attend our after-5 p.m. wedding! I am mortified. Should I come right out and tell him? They are, in general, very nice to me, but I would be happy if I never had to be seen with them in public again. Am I wrong not to want small children at an adult affair? I do not know what do.

—Wildly Ambivalent

Dear Wild,

Prudie will try to clarify your ambivalence. You not only don't like your intended's children, you are embarrassed by them. In a remarriage, however, you become part of the family that is already there. The situation you describe is an explosion waiting to happen. A 2-year-old at the wedding is the least of it. Do everybody a favor, and call it off with your fiance. A little band of gold is not going to make you feel more warmly about his "ill-mannered, clumsy, and poorly educated" children ... especially the one who "looks plain stupid, like his mother." A great deal of hostility and a marked lack of compassion are evident in your letter. With luck, you will find another man, sans baggage, who is as presentable and flawless as your own self.

—Prudie, bluntly

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Dear Prudie,

Three years ago, my wife's brother died in a freak accident that may have been a suicide—she believes it was so, and I do think it's possible. His life was not working out too well, and he was certainly not in the best of spirits. Anyhow, the problem is that she squarely blames me for his suicide—because this guy really looked up to me, almost in a hero-worship kind of way. In wanting to be like me (successful and popular, as he saw it), he gave up a salaried job at a reputable company to go pursue a dream of quick money in another country, though I advised against it. That didn't work out, and he had to come back, but then couldn't get his old job back. My wife feels that at this point I was the one person who could've helped him get over it but that I wasn't there for him. Even after three years, she still blames me for his death and throws it at me in every argument, and it's causing me to feel huge guilt. This is putting a great strain on our marriage. What's your perspective, and what can I do now about this?

—Stuck in the Past

Dear Stuck,

It is a tenet of suicide literature that, in most cases, friends, relatives, and associates cannot stop a person bent on doing themselves in, nor can they be expected to predict who may be planning what. Occasionally there's a cry for help, but, in that case, the person is not totally determined to check out. A good counselor can work with someone who feels guilt about another's death or is blaming it on someone other than the deceased. Your wife needs some learned input on the subject, so perhaps you can call the suicide hot line in your town and ask for recommendations for a suitable therapist. And bear in mind, as you say in your letter, that you do not know for a fact that a suicide is what actually happened.

In a broader context, suicide is a complex phenomenon involving biological factors as well as psychological and social components. (Ninety percent of all suicides occur during a psychiatric episode involving depression, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.) Among psychological factors can be a sense of spite or extreme revenge, and there has to be some trigger or precipitating factors that kick in on predisposed persons. Blaming a person or a situation is a not only cruel but an unjust reaction. Something useful for you both to read would be Night Falls Fast, by Kay Jamison. (Prudie would like to thank Dr. Leonardo Tondo for his input on this answer. Dr. Tondo is a psychiatrist in the United States and in Europe, specializing in and having written about suicide.)

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—Prudie, constructively

Dear Prudence,

I am a faithful reader of your column and deem your advice as very helpful and full of insight. And man, do I need some insight! I've been dating a wonderful minister (not from my home church) for two months now, and both of us find each other simply divine. We enjoy our friendship and date according to our moral principles (abstinence). The kicker: He's 35 years older than I (and widowed for a while) while I'm in my mid-20s and going for my master's. We both wondered about the logistics of telling my parents (who are nominally Catholic, by the way) and who we're pretty sure would freak out at the age gap and try to put the kibosh on the relationship. Luckily, his colleagues are more open about May-December relationships. What would be the best thing to do? Break off our dating and remain friends, or should I bite the bullet? And if the latter, how? Thanks for your time.

—May

Dear May,

Your choice depends on what your definition of love is, and how determined you are to become this man's wife. Being afraid of your folks should not figure in. What might be more useful to consider is the age difference. An educated guess is that your intended is about 60, so that when you're 40, he will be 75. Sometimes this is workable, and sometimes not. What you must do, now, is try to think ahead about many factors ... your wishes for a family, a marriage to a man who could be your father, the potential severing of relationships you already have. This is not to say that a pairing such as yours can't work, just that you both should discuss every aspect in depth and then make an informed and determined decision.

—Prudie, thoughtfully