Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 5 2003 11:50 AM

A Marriage of Inconvenience

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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 married for six years. I have a nice man for a husband and a wonderful child. But of course, I am not satisfied with my life. I say this because I married my husband when I was barely 19 after dating him for only a couple of months. I had doubts about the marriage before we were married, but I am a people-pleaser and don't like to hurt anyone's feelings. However, after six years of being a "pleaser" to my spouse, I find that my ideas about life have drastically changed. I am no longer the immature 19-year-old who needs a man to care for her. I am going back to school to get my degree so I never have to depend on anyone to take care of me or my child. I am very independent and starting to feel so smothered at home that I feel as though I'm going crazy.The more I pull away from him, the more he clings to me. I am no longer sexually attracted to him, and when he touches me I cringe. I do everything I can to avoid kissing him. He is a very good-looking man, but I feel a brotherly kind of love for him. I suppose I should try counseling, but how can someone teach me to be attracted to him again? I don't want to hurt him, but I feel he deserves someone who loves him. He has such low self-esteem that telling him what I have just told you would crush him. I am afraid to tell him (that's the people-pleaser in me), yet I'm afraid to live my entire life wondering what my life COULD have been. I am very sad and confused about what to do with this relationship. I am living a lie. Please help me. I very much value your opinion. I will be waiting to hear from you.

—Little Lost Sheep

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Dear Lit,

How very sad for you. While Prudie doubts that many people-pleasers would go the wedding route to avoid hurting someone's feelings, the consequences remain. What you need to do now is take action so you don't spend another six years feeling miserable but afraid to wound your husband. Because it sounds as though you've not yet given counseling a try, that would be a useful opening salvo in straightening out your life and finding out from whence comes your need to please everyone. Maybe you and your husband can go to counseling together; maybe separately. A qualified couples' counselor will know. There's a chance that your husband could change a few behaviors and that you could arrive at a workable modus operandi. There is, too, the chance that therapy will allow you to leave the marriage without a ton of guilt, if that's your decision. Do bear in mind that people recover from all kinds of hurt.

—Prudie, explorationally

Dear Prudence,

My quandary isn't
whether to get married to my mate of three years but rather how. I've been around the block once before, having endured the entire formal wedding routine, replete with showers, reception, gowns, and going-away clothes. If given the choice, I'd opt for a small ceremony on the beach with my love, our closest friends, and immediate family. On the other hand, my other half has indicated that she wants the usual weekendlong wedding extravaganza. My heart tells me to grit my teeth and endure the big wedding one more time—everyone's entitled to the big day. On the other hand, my mind tells me that it's a waste of time and money to drag myself—and my family—to another big, wasteful event that will most likely occur out of their home state. Your thoughts?

—Well-Groomed

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Dear Well,

It sounds as though your fiancee has never been married before, and as you said, everyone's entitled to the big day. Now you and Prudie know, once you've done it, that it's easier to think it may be a waste of time and money … but it's the kind of thing you must experience to really understand. If you're not making any headway with the bride-to-be about what else  you could do with the extravaganza money, then do it her way. And in so doing, you will not be listening to your heart so much as listening to hers. And mazel-ton … which, of course, means tons of luck.

—Prudie, blissfully

Dear Prudence,

I've been living with my boyfriend for two years, and still there are several members of his family who send us Christmas cards and the like with his full name and only my first, like this: "John Smith and Jane." I don't know if I'm being petty or not, but it honestly drives me nuts. I've asked him to say something to these people, but he refuses because he doesn't think it's that big a deal. Whenever we send mail to anyone, we include both of our names in the return address, and still the same mistake occurs. I really don't like the idea of having to wait until we share the same last name before I'm fully acknowledged. 

—I've Got a Name

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Dear I've,

You are being acknowledged, dear, just not with both your names. The shortcut these people are taking is not particularly correct, but it is a rather petty annoyance in the scheme of things. Also, you say this happens with HIS family, so just make peace with the fact that, for them, he is the main person in your duo and you are the add-on. (If it's really driving you bonkers, you could always hurry up the wedding—but then "Mrs." will simply be substituted for "Jane.")

—Prudie, proportionally

Dear Prudie,

I am 20 years old and am seeing a 23-year-old man; we'll call him Patrick. I met him through work, and we see each other periodically at work. (We don't work in the same office.) My problem is that he has a 7-year-old son who doesn't live with him. He is truly a reformed rebel (he is actually very responsible now), and this child was just one of his many youthful indiscretions. I have never had a "real" relationship before, and Patrick is pressuring me to be exclusive with him. How do I slow this down? I like him, and we get along really well, but I am definitely not ready to be in a serious relationship with anyone now, let alone a guy with a child.

—Troubled

Dear Trub,

There is no reason for you to feel you're at the mercy of Patrick's wishes. To slow things down, you just say that's the way it's going to be: slower. If he doesn't like it, well ... you finish the sentence. And it would be most unusual for a 20-year-old woman to feel comfortable making a commitment to a reformed rebel and his youthful indiscretion. By all means take your time, and if he doesn't see it that way, c'est la vie.

—Prudie, glacially