Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 10 2002 10:45 AM

A Reluctant Mrs. Robinson

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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 Prudence,

I am in the process of getting out of a 24-year marriage, and eight months ago I got involved with a single man 14 years younger than I. I fell insanely in love with him (and the sex is the best of my life), but he declared upfront that he would continue seeing other women, which he does. He calls me many times a day, and we meet every three to four days for incredible sex. But every time I show the slightest hint of possessiveness, he gets angry and makes terrible scenes, threatening to end the relationship. Of course my self-respect is at the lowest point ever since I can't bring myself to end this destructive relationship.

He has never said "I love you" to me; to the contrary, he has many times said, "I'm not in love with you." Yet, whenever he senses he has taken it too far, he backs down and shows that I'm important to him. In short, he acts like a sultan with a harem. I forgot to mention that he only has relationships with women older than him. He says he is unable to feel interested in younger women. My girlfriends say I'm sick, but how can I bring myself to bear the pain of not seeing him anymore?

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—Sandra From Italy

Dear San,

Mamma mia! Prudie wonders how you can bear the pain of seeing him at all! Your situation is masochistic in the extreme; you know you're being treated miserably, yet you cannot seem to make a break for it. Knowing what to do but being unable to do it is a problem for a therapist. Prudie wonders what you have done in your life to make you feel you're so worthless as to put up with this exploitative sex machine. It is Prudie's ardent wish that you find the gumption to unload this creep and rebuild your life. (Perhaps with someone more age-appropriate? Just a suggestion.)

—Prudie, healingly

Dear Prudence,

I fell in love with the guy that I thought was The One about six years ago. Our relationship had a wonderfully romantic beginning, a slow, delicious ebb into something that I thought was going to be the foundation for a life together. But one day, about eight months after we started dating, he called me out of the blue and told me he couldn't see me anymore. Boom. The end. Faucet on, faucet off. I never understood what happened. I asked more than once, and he just said that it had nothing to do with me. I was in denial about the end of the relationship for about a year and a half. And I grieved for three more years. Then I started recovering and pushing that whole experience to the back of my mind. I even dated again. But a year ago, I seemed to tap another reserve of grief, and it is rich in overwhelming anger and disappointment. I am so angry at him for not giving me an explanation. This was a good guy, Pru. My heart was filled with gifts, all with his name on them. Why would anyone run from that?

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—Not Getting Over It

Dear Not,

Prudie is sympathetic to your situation, but you have stayed too long at the fair. To be sad, angry, and in denial about a decamped lover for a total of five and a half years is, to put it mildly, not having moved on. When men unhook in this manner, to answer your question, it is because they are warring with things even they may be unaware of. In your case, Prudie would have no clue about what his demons are—or even the nature of your weak points. When, however, a car wreck like this happens to a relationship, there is no recourse. You cannot make a man tell you "why," and you cannot make him reconsider. As for recovering your equilibrium, your mental health requires that you repeat to yourself that it IS over—for whatever reason—and perhaps a good counselor is needed. Your situation may be like the song lyric, "It was just one of those things." Prudie wishes you luck and an even better romance down the line.

—Prudie, forwardly

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I are friends with a married couple we absolutely cherish. They are two of the most remarkably wonderful people I've ever met. The problem is their 4-year-old daughter. Admittedly, I do not care for children. (I am almost 40 and do not have any.) I have known their daughter since she was born and always used to enjoy her. However, as she gets older, she becomes more and more defiant. Among other things, she rudely interrupts every conversation (which her parents won't put up with, which results in more rude pouting). I find she requires so much energy, I simply cannot enjoy my friends. Whenever they have been invited to my home, they have brought her along. When I've invited them to parties and explained they were "for adults only," they never can find a baby sitter (go figure). I do not wish to insult them, and yet I would like to be able to spend time with them and have a normal, uninterrupted conversation without their attention-starved child needing to show off. Please tell me what I can do.

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—Sincerely Desperate

Dear Since,

You can tell these "remarkably wonderful people" that they need help as a family because, right now, they have a 4-year-old boss. This, admittedly, is not an easy thing to suggest to friends, so you may choose to take a pass on what is the constructive, though difficult, approach. The simpler two options would be to put up with the kid in order to keep this couple in your lives ... or ... to ease out of the relationship because you'd rather not socialize with a 4-year-old third wheel.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudie,

Many of my more well-educated friends and family send me e-mails that read as if they were written by drunken 6-year-olds. I know for a fact that these people know better—one of them is a lawyer, another one a journalist. Whenever I send an e-mail out—even something brief just to say "Hello!"—I always reread it and check for any glaring mistakes first. But some of the e-mails I get seem like the authors were drunk while writing them. I know that people are busy and don't have a lot of time to spend answering e-mails; I also know that people get tired and don't want to reread things. Would I be terribly rude if I flat-out asked them to at least go over what they write before hitting the "Send" button? A typo here, a grammatical mistake there, I can live with. But the e-mails I'm referring to sometimes read like code. Should I just ignore this?

—Going Cross-Eyed

Dear Go,

Prudie does not know where you got the idea that journalists turn out perfect, flawless e-mails, but it is a nice fiction. As for whether you should ask people to reread what they write before hitting "Send," well ... you can ask ... but Prudie feels certain you shall have fewer correspondents. You might casually inquire of the evildoers if they have spell-check. You might even encourage them to turn it on. If an e-mail actually looks like code, however, you have Prudie's permission to ignore the message and feel no guilt. And Prudie agrees there is nothing worse than a message written by a drunken 6-year-old.

—Purdei, jokngily