Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 5 2002 1:00 PM

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

9_dearprudence_01

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.)

Hi Prudie!

I love your column but never thought I'd be writing. I am a 22-year-old woman, almost divorced, with a beautiful toddler boy whom my husband and I share custody of. I have a successful career and future goals that I am working hard to achieve. My husband and I have been separated for six months. Our final divorce hearing was scheduled for today, but we have not reached an agreement, and therefore it was postponed. My hubby has had more than 10 jobs in the past three years, has cheated on me at least twice that I know of (once with a 14-year-old girl—which he is on probation for now), and has put me down regarding my weight, looks, etc. All of that aside, he loves our son and vice versa (although I am concerned about the example he is setting for him). Well, since he moved out, I have been dating a wonderful man who is in a situation quite similar to mine, including having a toddler of his own. He treats me like a princess; we share many of the same future goals and talk seriously about the future. I think we would be great together. But for some stupid reason, I am thinking to myself that I should take my husband back and try to work things out for our son. I know I can't change him, and I have a lot of anger toward him about our past, but somewhere deep down I think I still have feelings of love for him. I am afraid to take him back and then regret it—or finish with the divorce and regret
that. I am sure you are rolling your eyes, along with anyone else who reads this!

—Possibly Regretful

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Dear Poss,

Your Prudie-cam is working well. Prudie is, indeed, rolling her eyes. Anybody who is undecided about whether to trade in a prince of a guy for a soon-to-be ex who puts her down, can't hold a job, is unfaithful, and is on probation for statutory rape clearly needs more help than Prudie can provide. If you would present your dilemma to a therapist—or even 10 strangers on the street—Prudie feels sure you would get the same answer from everyone. Whether or not you would take it is another story.

—Prudie, wonderingly

Dear Prudence,

I'm a married man. I'm also in a relationship with a married woman. We have been dating for some time now. She's lately been talking about leaving her husband, and she wants me to leave my wife ... but I can't leave my wife for her. Who is to say it's going to work out between us? Who is to say she wouldn't cheat on me? I guess what I need to know is, how can I end the relationship without losing her as a friend? And would it be a good idea to end it with a last night of hot and passionate love-making?

—Double Guy

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Dear Dub,

If Prudie did not write in the third person, she would be strongly inclined to tell you, "Give me a break." It might seem like a good idea to YOU to end it with "a last night of hot and passionate love-making," but for her it would be a terrible idea ... one that could possibly earn you her highly focused effort to get even. And forget the keeping-her-as-a-friend business. It doesn't work that way when a married man dumps a girlfriend, hon. Go look up "woman scorned" in your Bartlett's.

—Prudie, disgustedly

Prudence,

My boyfriend and I have conflicting schedules. (I work days; he works nights and weekends.) We do a pretty good job of seeing each other a couple times a week and talking every day, but it's never really "quality time." We usually just spend time at a neighborhood bar or with friends. I hate spending my weekends alone, and I miss him. How do I make the time we have together more intimate? How do I overcome the feeling that he's not there for me?

Tempus Fugit

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Dear Temp,

Well, uh, he isn't there for you. Prudie is assuming he's unable to change his shifts, and also that you value the relationship. If these assumptions are correct, you can do a few things to make the situation more to your liking. Time in the neighborhood bar can be reduced. Unless your guy's idea of a good time is sitting on a high stool, drinking, and probably talking to strangers (or at best casual acquaintances), that's not the place to spend precious time together. Make plans when he is free to have a life outside work. Friends certainly fit in, as do movies and events. Prudie thinks that romance at home, even television, is the way to wean him from the neighborhood bar. And by all means, tell him you're interested in spending more "couple" time together. If he tells you he's happier on the high stools ... then you've got some thinking to do.

—Prudie, hopefully

Dear Prudence,

I am getting married next spring. My fiance has been married before and has two children. I love both of them dearly. They are 3 and 4 years old, and I have a wonderful relationship with them. They have a wonderful mom who does not like me very much ... but is a great mother to them. I am not interested in taking her place; however, I do want to be part of the girls' lives. My dilemma is how do we—or do we—explain the marriage/wedding to the children? Everyone keeps asking us if we've talked to them about it yet. We kind of feel they are too young to understand a big explanation about us getting married.  They know we BOTH love them very much, and they have made it very clear that they love me. Would a deep discussion just confuse them more?

—Soon-To-Be-Stepmom

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Dear Soon,

Luckily for you, a "deep discussion" is not possible with 3- and 4-year-olds. This puts Prudie in mind of the old joke about a little boy who asks his mother where he came from. She launches into a discussion of fallopian tubes, the womb, fertilized eggs, and all the technical jargon. The kid finally cuts her off and says, "No—I mean, Johnny from next door is from Ohio. Where did I come from?" The little girls seem to know, now, all they have to know: Their father and you have a loving relationship, you will be living together after a "party," and for their purposes, they will have two mother figures—only you are not their "real" mother.

As for being part of their lives, you are automatically part of their lives when you marry their father. Prudie, in fact, recently read about a movement called "co-mamas." The idea is for the children's mother and stepmother to bag the competitiveness and pull together for the good of the child. It is wonderful, by the way, that you and the children have such a good relationship ... and also that you're able to acknowledge that their mother doesn't care for you but that she's a good mother. Best of luck.

—Prudie, approvingly

Elvis impersonators, continued:

Prudie,

You are very off-base to think that a marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church unless it is performed by a priest (though many lay Catholics believe that). Check with a canon law expert—a marriage is a marriage for the Catholic Church, and divorce from any marriage is a sin.

Elvis has left the building, and Prudie is leaving Las Vegas. Thanks to one and all for checking in.