Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 12 2002 11:57 AM

Meet My, Um, Committed Companion

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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.)

Dear Prudie,

I have been living with a man for two years. We are deeply in love and committed to each other. However, we don't wish to get married ... we just want to live together as we have been doing. (He was married two times before, which he regrets; I was married once to please my family and have a baby. If I had it my way, I would only have had the baby.) This man I am living with has given me a ring signifying unconditional love and commitment. Do we refer to each other as life partners or significant others or what? If I say he is my fiance, everyone keeps asking when we are getting married. Could you please help clarify this situation by telling me what is the new millennium terminology for situations like this?! (He is 55, and I am 52.) I doubt that we are "going steady" or boyfriend and girlfriend. I would appreciate an answer ASAP.

—Thanks,

In a Quandary

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Dear Quan,

Prudie had the same quandary before she recently married. Middle-aged people sound silly talking about "my boyfriend" or "my girlfriend." "Partner" sounds like you own a business together—or are a same-sex couple. "S.O." sounds a little stilted. "Lover" sounds French—or too melodramatic. "Companion" may be all right, though this always reminds Prudie of a paid helper for someone who is older who cannot live alone. To say, "this is my friend" works and is seldom misunderstood in the proper context. The thing to remember is that people usually get the drift of the relationship no matter what you're calling it. And you're right ... we do need new millennium terminology.

—Prudie, nominally

Dear Prudence,

I am friends with an ex, and we talk fairly frequently on the phone and see each other once in a while. He often hints that he still cares for me and if given the chance, he would make things right between us. I'm also a friend of his current girlfriend, and we see each other at least twice a week over lunch or golf. I am fine with this arrangement until I see them together. Then I get extremely jealous and anxious, and subsequently sad, because I begin to question my choices. My friendships with the two of them are ones I would like to keep for a long time, but what would you suggest I do to get over this jealousy? This has been going on for almost two years now.

—Getting Over It

Dear Get,

How interesting; it is hard for Prudie to discern whose friendship you value more—his or hers. The jealousy you speak of can have two sources: a genuine desire for him, or not wanting anyone else to have him. Perhaps a session or two with a psychologist might help you pinpoint exactly what it is that you are feeling. Prudie will tell you this, however: Unless you three are most unusual, if you do patch it up with your ex, forget about golf and lunch with the other lady.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

I recently started to read your column, and you seem to hand out some pretty good advice, so here goes with my "problem." I'm hoping to start up an advice column in my college newspaper, but a close friend (who is senior editor) brought up some good questions, and I was wondering how you would respond. What do you do when someone writes in about their underage drinking, drug use, and the like, all of which are rather illegal on campus and can easily result in expulsion? Besides referring them to the appropriate resources if they wish to seek help, would I be considered an "accomplice," should the person get caught, since I knew about it and did nothing? Granted, an anonymous signature would provide for some protection, but still.

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