Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 12 2002 11:05 AM

Good Boyfriends Gone Bad

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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,

What do you think of this situation? For two years I've been seeing one man. When we started, we were both involved elsewhere. He has a lot of women friends (several ex-girlfriends, one ex-wife). When we started, it was the loveliest, most romantic four months of a relationship I'd ever known. He said he had never been in love like this. (He was 50 at that time.) He has sworn over and over that I am his only lover. Knowing his track record of juggling women, I was always skeptical, yet I wanted to believe. Adding to my skepticism were the facts that during the last year and a half, on weekends (he cares for his invalid mother) he would shut off his cell phone, becoming unavailable to me; in public, his tongue literally hangs out when an attractive woman is near; we don't go out in public unless we are out of town; and after two years with him, I have gone to only one business function with him—at which he kissed a female business associate on the inside of the wrist. Recently, he tells me, he's been having an affair with his ex-wife, which he tells me I need to accept because she's the mother of their child and she helps him with his mother and his mother's properties. I accepted the affair because I wanted to be loving and understanding. What do you think a guy like this is thinking?  

—Hope I'm Not Making a Mistake

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Dear Hope,

Prudie guesses this guy is thinking he's got a live one on the string ... a woman who will put up with absolutely anything. He also might be thinking he's God's gift to everybody, so who are you to complain? If your idea of a wonderful romance is to tolerate a wrist-kissing, two-timing, manipulative jerk whose tongue hangs out at the sight of a skirt and who will only see you in public out of town (!), then you should just continue to take what you can get. Prudie would not be surprised, by the way, if this low-life were married ... perhaps to his "invalid mother"?

—Prudie, untrustingly

Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend of almost a year (and friend of several years prior to dating) is on a two-week business/pleasure trip to Europe. I have not heard from him by phone or e-mail during this time. Yesterday I told a mutual friend I was getting concerned/angry about not hearing from him (mainly angry), assuming he is just too self-absorbed to bother to pick up the phone and let me know he's all right. Since part of his trip takes him to the home turf of a much younger, very beautiful woman he dated two years ago (she dumped him for someone else), our friend asked if he was going to see her on this trip. I responded that my boyfriend no longer knew where she was. At that point, the friend said that wasn't true—that the ex-girlfriend had initiated e-mail contact with my boyfriend in May, so he is well aware of where she is. I am wondering how to react when my boyfriend gets home—first, how to address the fact that he didn't bother to contact me for two weeks, and second, how to raise the issue of whether he saw this woman he's been telling me is out of his life.

—Feeling Like a Fool  

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Dear Feel,

It's certainly Bad Boyfriend Week at Prudie's, isn't it? As to what to do, try the following. Upon his return, ask casually, and with no heat, about the absence of communication during his trip. Then inquire if he saw the old flame ... the younger, very beautiful one. If he trots out the I-don't-even-have-her-e-mail-address, and  his reason for no contact sounds lame, you will know this jig is up. Good judgment would suggest that, even if he fesses up and begs your forgiveness, his word is no good, and he'd be a poor bet for the long haul.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudie,

Recently, my 18-year-old sister confessed that her boyfriend's parents let them sleep together whenever she goes on vacation with them and also when she stays over at their house. She just left high school and began college this year, so most of the questionable arrangement occurred when she was in high school and my parents thought she was sharing a room with his sister. As a much older brother, in my late 20s, I am very torn—I want to tell my parents because I think they should know that their trust in his family was violated, and I worry about the pressure the family puts on the couple. But I also want my sister to feel that she can talk to me about anything. I am worried because I think that his family is pressuring them to marry—at such a young age!—and I think that she is too young and impressionable for these pressures. However, the fact that she is now "of age" makes me wary about jumping in. Please help!

—Upset Older Brother

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Dear Up,

Of course you are concerned. Let's be realistic, however. As you very well know, your sister is "of age," and for her to be sexually active is not statistically unusual. Prudie thinks you have a better shot than your parents to advise her and have her listen ... both because of your age and your big-brother status. Do not inform your folks, but articulate to her your fears about the boyfriend's family ... what you regard as their agenda ... and your wish that she not make a hasty decision of consequence while she is this young. And let her know you are not clueing in your parents. It will help her have confidence in you as an adviser.

—Prudie, fraternally

Dear Prudie,

I'll get right to the point. I am 40-plus and would be interested in knowing how to catch a cheating husband.

—Pauline

Dear Paul,

Wear a tight skirt and flirt with a married man. (Kidding!) Now, down to business. There are different ways. Prudie is assuming you know for a fact, or strongly suspect, that the husband in question is up to no good. A private investigator is one way to nail it down; following him, discreetly, yourself, is another. Phone records, charge slips, etc., can point to an extracurricular friend. Strong hints are "new" hours, many nights of working late, and, of course, that by now well-known giveaway: a new and improved buff geezer who's looking at sports cars. You do not say whether you want the proof for legal reasons, or just so you can confront him and throw the bum out. The best guidance would come from an attorney where you live because state laws differ on what constitutes proof ... sort of the legal version of what the meaning of "is" is. Good luck. 

—Prudie, investigatively