Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 7 2003 11:20 AM

Reunited and It Doesn't Feel Great

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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,

I just ran into a fellow I dated two years ago. He just wasn't ready for a commitment then, but we were crazy about each other. To get to the point—he looked terrible. He has gotten quite fat and sloppy. The good news is that part of the weight gain came from quitting smoking, and we ended up having a really great dinner together. The bad news is we're not talking 10 pounds here. He also seems to have forgotten how to groom. At present I am undecided if I will continue to see him. I am just unclear how someone who is not yet 40 can let himself go. I do not want to end up in a relationship being someone's mother, reminding him not to eat so much dessert. Any thoughts?

—Confused on the Left Coast

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Dear Con,

Because you two were crazy about each other at one time, AND the reunion dinner was a success, it might be worthwhile to discuss your concerns … with no euphemisms, no tiptoeing around. Clearly, this fellow's Hindenburgian physique is a new wrinkle. Perhaps he's been depressed (maybe about breaking up?) and is without the motivation to get hold of the situation. Discussing his difficulties will clue you in about whether or not you would wind up in "mother mode." With more information, you might decide you want to help put Humpty Dumpty back together again, or you might choose to pass. Good luck.

—Prudie, candidly

Dear Pru,

My husband and I have been married for eight years and have a young family. He is a wonderful husband and father. We both have stressful jobs, but he is very active in helping to raise our two children (3 and 1). I am seven months pregnant, which doesn't leave "us" a lot of free time. So in the last year or so, our sexual relationship has been OK, but not what it once was. We are a religious family, which means we abstain from pornography and even R-rated movies. We also believe that "self-gratification" is a no-no. My husband has always had a fairly strong appetite (time permitting, two or three times a day wouldn't be too much for him). As you can imagine, three babies in four years has definitely taken a toll on my time and energy so that keeping up with him is not as easy as it once was. I thought I was still fairly active, but I think that my husband's thirst isn't being quenched. I have not exactly caught him red-handed, but I woke up one night to find him fondling himself. He's also spending a lot more time in the bathroom with the door locked. I'm trying to rationalize it, calling his needs natural, realizing that he has a stressful job and maybe it's a good tension reliever for him. The bottom line, though, is that I feel he is being hypocritical about the morals we believe in (i.e., we all need to control our appetites to make us better people). I also feel he is cheating on our marriage, just as if he was with another woman. I love him so much that I want his needs to be satisfied, but I want to be the one to satisfy them. What do I do?

—Jealous Wife

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Dear Jel,

If you want to be the one to satisfy him every time he, uh, has needs, just make yourself available two to three times a day, simply ignoring your pregnancy, your job, the two kids, and whatever else makes up your day. Self-gratification, you should know, is in no way cheating and is certainly not analogous to being with another woman. Your concerns are not all that unusual, but the wild card in your situation is the religious angle. Prudie does not wish to tangle with your pastor—or anyone else's—but regarding self-gratification as sinful is a benighted idea. It is an entirely normal thing to do. (And for whatever it's worth, no one's sex life is what it once was.)

—Prudie, progressively

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have been married for six years and have one child, though we've known each other for more than a decade. We've survived many things in our relationship because I have never given up hope that we could make things better. Recently, very close friends of ours broke up after six years of marriage, and now my husband has been hinting that he doesn't want to be married to someone in the music business, which has been my profession since before we met! I am not jealous by nature, but I sense that our woman friend "likes" my husband, and
he has made it known that he finds her very attractive and a "great catch"; also that our male friend is a "jerk" for letting her go. "If it had been me," he said, "I would have jumped on that a long time ago!" What a coincidence that her marriage breaks up, and now my hubby doesn't want me anymore. I've seen them get very cozy when she's been here for dinner, but I don't want to confront him for fear he'll become explosive and start a horrible fight. Should I get a lawyer or wait?

—Disenchanted and Confused

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Dear Dis,

Although it does sound as if this woman's handwriting is on your wall, it would be precipitate to engage a lawyer without any discussion. Perhaps it is only your husband's subconscious speaking, but Prudie thinks even that voice should not be ignored. His new displeasure with the music business is a sign that he in fact may be looking for an excuse to head for the door. Because you are fearful of an explosive fight, be very controlled when you bring the subject up. This means no hollering and no frying pan in your hand … though Prudie might be tempted to adopt both of these tactics. It is important for you to ask him, not tell him, what he is thinking. Should he deny any interest in rearranging his life, give it a little time to see if his vocal admiration for this woman abates. Women know, my dear, when something's up—no pun intended—so take some time, and then decide what you want to do.

—Prudie, searchingly

Dear Pru,

I have been going with "Larry" for four years. We really should be married by now, but he likes things the way they are. Which is not exactly my biggest problem. I wouldn't mind the "going with" part if only he were more considerate. He's a lot of fun and very good to me, but he's immature in more areas than he should be at the age of 34. I've thought of breaking up, but I actually like my life with him. I would just like him to make our relationship BETTER. Any suggestions?

—Solution-Challenged

Dear So

Given the big picture as you describe it, Prudie thinks this chap is worth continuing with. Time usually will graft on maturity, and the being considerate part is discussable. You might want to try launching your stealth upgrading program using humor: Get your fella a copy of Me vs. Everybody (by Slate's own Dahlia Lithwick and Brandt Goldstein). This clever and hilarious collection of "contracts" for relationships will provide a great way to start talking … once you stop laughing. It's the price of two cappuccinos, Garry Trudeau loves it—as does Prudie—so what are you waiting for?

—Prudie, confidently