Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 20 2003 10:31 AM

Getting Blasted From the Past

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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 have been dating a man off and on for nine months. We are both in our 30s and have a fantastic time together. The problem is his obsession with his ex-girlfriends. He will not shut up about them ... what they were like, what the sex was like, what they looked like, their full names, and on and on. He is still very hung up on one relationship that ended five years ago and one from high school. (They broke up with him.) I have shared only the basic details about past exes. He says I am being secretive and should open up more. I tell him to quit talking about his exes. I feel the past should stay there, and in order to have a future with someone, you have to resolve your feelings for an ex and move on. All this past business is ruining us. We never have sex (he says he's more into masturbation and doesn't like to be touched), and when we do, he wants me to share my sexual experiences with my exes. He says it turns him on. I've never encountered a guy like this before. Am I overreacting?  

—Completely Frazzled

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Dear Comp,

Prudie is having a hard time figuring out what makes for a "a fantastic time" with a do-it-yourselfer who is hung up on girls long gone AND wants you to spill the beans about beaus from the past as a sex aid. Nothing about this situation is going to get better. You should leave him to his memories and his auto-eroticism. It is almost a sure bet that you can do better—i.e., find a man who likes to be touched, is not obsessively living in the past, and doesn't need to be turned on by details of you and other people.

—Prudie, definitively

Dear Prudence,

I am a well-educated executive. I have been married for nearly 20 years. My wife recently told me she was in love with another man, a person employed at the same place as her. He makes less money than I, has flirted with her for the last eight months, and is married. She said there was no need to worry because he was not going to leave his wife. After telling me this, she began coming home with bruises in the WRONG places to have bruises. This is not the first time my wife has done this. Five years ago, she came home and said she was in love with a man she was working with (different job) and moved in with him for three weeks. We have three totally awesome children. The older children are totally fed up and are interested in the idea of Mom getting her own apartment. The youngest WANTS Mommy at home. We have read
His Needs, Her Needs, How To Survive an Affair, Love Busters, etc. She refuses to get counseling. She recently quit this job and is VERY angry if I try to discuss the affair at all. After all these years, I thought I knew who I was sleeping with, but to put it bluntly, this lady scares me to death. Truth is, I'm pretty fed up. Since I have become aware of this second affair, I'm realizing that the only reason I'm hanging around is for the sake of my youngest. Suggestions, ideas?

—No Signature

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Dear No,

OK, enough with the how-to books. How about a lawyer since counseling is out of the question? This serial wanderer is sending very clear signals that she does not view marriage the way you view marriage. It's too bad your youngest knows so much ... but onward. There's a good chance your two older children could choose with whom they wanted to live, and you might try for custodial control of the youngest, with visitation by the mother. That way, the children would all be living together—with you. Even if this arrangement is not legally possible, you really should look into living separately. The marriage is, alas, over.

—Prudie, realistically

Dear Prudence,

I am a newly separated working mom, long overdue in ending a long-term marriage to my high-school sweetheart. The very first day I stopped wearing my wedding ring (and filed my divorce complaint), I met a man. Long story short, he is ending his marriage also, we have lots in common, and there's STRONG attraction on both sides. Things moved along rather quickly, and I was feeling great. We couldn't stand to be away from each other, and I admit both of us were rather starved in the attention/sex department. Oh, did I mention that we were both still living with our respective spouses and children? When my soon-to-be ex discovered this budding romance, he went off the deep end—ranting, raving, smashing framed wedding invitations, and shredding my underwear. (I am not making this up.) He also played detective and discovered ALL about the new guy, including his address, etc., and tracked him down, threatening to confront him and call his wife, etc. OK—here's my issue. The new guy is totally freaked by this development. He says I need to keep him out of my ugliness. He went away on vacation (pre-planned) and said he would call when he got back. It's now a month, and he hasn't called. My husband has moved out and is behaving. I know I shouldn't call, but I am still thinking about this guy constantly. Shouldn't he have called to at least see how I'm doing? Do I just chalk it up to bad timing or try and find a way for us to continue what we started?

—From the "My Life Sucks" Department

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Dear From,

Prudie votes for the "bad timing" option. This man, not unreasonably, was spooked by your baggage—in this case, your wild-man husband. It is unlikely there is anything you could say that would paper over the carrying on by your spouse. If it makes you feel better, there's an old canard that the first person you meet coming out of a marriage is never "the one."

—Prudie, superstitiously

Dear Prudence,

My 1-year-old granddaughter has beautiful red hair. Of course, being her grandmother, I think she is adorable. She attracts attention everywhere she goes. People continually ask, "Where did she get that red hair?" Or, "With that red hair, she looks fake" or some such statement. As she gets older, I've no doubt insensitive people will start asking her those same questions. What can we say, and what can we tell her to say when people make such stupid statements?  Thanks.

—E.F. in California

Dear E.,

Prudie has a grandson with vivid red hair, and the comments of strangers were so annoying to him that for a while he wore a T-shirt pulled over his hair, like a ghutra, causing us to call him Morgan of Arabia. The attention eventually does subside. All you can do is help the child know that there's something special and unusual about red hair that elicits comment. You might add that it is more rare to be a redhead than a blonde or brunette. As for what your granddaughter can say—when she's able to talk—she will figure something out. But you might tell her, when such a conversation is possible, that there are people ... Prudie included ... who like red hair so much they go to a beauty salon and ask for it.

—Prudie, colorfully