Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 30 2003 11:55 AM

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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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've been married for almost 12 years. My spouse is always in some kind of crisis: bad allergies, sick, dying mother, ill or critically ill siblings, in danger of losing his job, and on and on. I gave up trying to teach him anything in the bedroom—he can't seem to learn those skills. He does make a steady income, so I stick around to raise the children. (He's not home a lot.) I pretend to be a loving spouse so he and the children are happy. My questions are: How ethical is my staying in this situation? Is happiness that important?

—No Boat-Rocker

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Dear No,

You have asked about two things, ethics and happiness, which philosophers have debated for centuries. Some people might say that putting on a good front to have a stable home for your children and to keep your marriage vows is ethical behavior. Others might say that totally faking it with an accident-prone lousy lover is unethical and dishonest. There are people who think happiness is the absence of pain; others think it's nonstop joy, 24-seven. Only you can make the determination as to what is ethical and how important happiness is. These are not issues anyone can decide for you. You're obviously thinking about this a lot, however, so it's a good bet that the answers will come to you. Good luck.

—Prudie, supportively

Dear Prudie,

I have recently started a relationship with a wonderful guy whom I adore, but his past isn't so wonderful. Not only does his reputation reek of "womanizer," but he also dated my friend a few years back and cheated. I'm afraid he'll do the same thing to me. I've been told that I shouldn't judge him by his past, but I'm afraid of getting hurt. My motto has always been, "Love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching." Should I stick to my motto and give this player a chance or dump him before he follows his womanizing instincts?

—Need Some Advice and Fast

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Dear Need,

My dear, when it comes to making a judgment about a man's character, what else is there besides his past? It is through one's history that you learn about judgments, morals, and choices. This kind of behavioral DNA cannot be ignored. You could give Romeo a chance, but only if you're prepared for the worst, which is what Prudie has a hunch you will get. "Forewarned is forearmed" did not become a cliché for nothing.

—Prudie, historically

Dear Prudence,

I am in my early 30s and have been dating a man in his early 50s for the past three and a half years. I have never been married; he has been married three times. We have a wonderful time together, have traveled extensively, and enjoy a lot of the same things. He is a wonderful, kind man, but I believe that three and a half years is plenty of time to decide whether or not you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. I've come to realize that he has no intention of marrying me. I'm not desperate, but I would like to get married someday, and the older I get, the less likely it is to happen. I have decided to break it off with him and want to know what I should say to make him understand that I think he is great, but that we aren't a match. Please help me!

—Moving On

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Dear Move,

Well, "fish or cut bait" isn't right for the occasion, so why not just say what you wrote to Prudie—that you think he's great, but the two of you aren't a match? That's as gracious a goodbye as anyone could wish for. And how smart of you not to try to stick it to him. Your thinking is very mature, and odds are that you will land on your feet ... most likely next to someone who's not 20 years older, with three ex-wives on his resume. You should look at this development as a chance to trade up.

—Prudie, forwardly

Dear Prudence,

I am a 35-year-old woman and have been married for four years to a wonderful man. My problem is that I'm rarely "in the mood" anymore, which is causing some tension in our relationship. My husband feels rejected and thinks that I don't find him attractive. The thing is, I do find him quite attractive and love him very much, but I just don't have the urges that I used to have. I've discussed it with my doctor, and hormone tests have been done, but apparently everything is fine with me physically. On numerous occasions I've given in just to please him, but he can tell I'm not into it and gets upset. I'm worried that if I don't start feeling sexy more often, my husband will go elsewhere for attention. What can I do?

—Frustrated

Dear Frus,

Thirty-five is way too young to be "rarely in the mood," especially with an attractive, wonderful man. Because you say your medical doctor finds no physical problem, it's pretty clear that the next visit should be to a psychotherapist. Something has stalled your sex drive, and you need to find out what it is. Despite what teenage boys think, most of sexual interest comes from the head. With a good referral, you can get to a shrink with expertise in this area, and you'll be back in the boudoir in no time.

—Prudie, restoratively