Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 11 2004 9:40 AM

Out of the Picture?

What to do when an ex shows up in unexpected places.

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)



Dear Prudence,

I read your column every week and always learn from the advice you give others. This time I need it for myself. My husband's sister is going through a difficult divorce after having been married for just over a year. She is very sad and depressed about it, but she's doing it for the right reasons, and we're all supporting her decision. On the other hand, my husband and I got married about seven months ago, we are very happy together, and we just now got our wedding album from our photographers. Both my husband's sister and her husband were part of the wedding, and they appear together in many of the pictures. I cannot afford to pay for the album to be modified. (I don't even know if that's possible.) So my question is: Should we go ahead and show our wedding album to my husband's family, as if one thing (my sister-in-law's divorce) has nothing to do with the other (my wedding)? My husband's family has been asking to see it for many months. Am I making too big a deal out of this?

—Newlywed

Dear New,

Prudie herself has, um, occasionally cropped a photograph to remove someone from the festivities, but to "cleanse" an entire album of your sister-in-law's ex is taking things to extremes. Everyone looking at the album well knows that how things were then is not how they are now, especially your in-laws ... the ones dying to see the pictures. A wedding album is a record of how things were at the wedding—no revisions required. Your "as if" was perfectly correct, by the way; the in-law divorce has nothing to do with your wedding. So invite your husband's family over, take some wedding cake out of the freezer, and enjoy the pictures.

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—Prudie, nostalgically

Dear Prudence,

I need perspective. My wife is almost five months pregnant. Knowing how close my wife and her mother are (they talk at least once a day, if not more), I asked my wife if she wanted to have her mother in the delivery room. She said she didn't know and asked what I wanted. I said I felt that the delivery of our baby would be something we would share as a couple. She wasn't too happy with me. She said because she was going through the labor that she should have whoever makes her the most comfortable. We both backed off at that point. I love her mother, but am I way off-base wanting the delivery of our baby to be an event just for my wife and me?

—Confused in Boston!

Dear Con,

Prudie gathers that you asked your wife if she wanted her mother in the delivery room, she said she didn't know, at which point you announced your preference for only the two of you. It would have been wiser to open that discussion by saying what a wonderful event for two people to share and not bringing up the mother option. Given the physical and emotional stresses of the situation, your best bet now is to invite your wife to have things just as she would like them. Prudie, by the way, has watched customs change drastically regarding delivery room "support." She knows of whole families who have been present, and then, of course, there are those who take videos. (If anyone knows for whom these "movies" are shown, do drop a line.) In Prudie's day, should there be any social historians among you, the preferred delivery room contingent consisted of doctors, nurses, and a hairdresser.

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—Prudie, contemporarily

Dear Prudence,

Do you think it's appropriate for a married man to have a friendship with a young, single, sexy woman when the wife is not at all comfortable with their relationship? My husband is doing just that. He speaks to this woman with whom he's supposed to be having a "professional" relationship every day on the phone. (Yet he's lied to me about how often they talk; he forgets I get the phone bill so I see the long-distance calls to her every day.) They don't need to talk every day, believe me. Sometimes she just calls to tell him inane things that most girls wouldn't even bother their girlfriends with. When she calls our house and leaves messages, they are flirty and sexy in nature. Up until recently, she would seem very angry when I answered the phone and be very rude to me. To top it off, I found a picture of her with his stash of old Playboys. Think I have a right to be upset and suspicious? He will not sever ties with her and thinks I am jealous and overreacting.

—Confused Mom and Wife

Dear Con,

Prudie is a peace-loving person, but you are within your rights to lower the boom at the top of your lungs. You have played the good schnook long enough. Tell him you may be jealous and overreacting, but you are also considering calling a lawyer unless he tells "his associate" the jig is up, insists she stop phoning, and ditches the photograph. Clearly, something is unhinged in your relationship, making your husband think he can try to camouflage what is, at the very least, a flirt but more probably an affair. And for him to tolerate this woman insulting you on the phone is just this side of despicable. If he doesn't see things your way, let what's-her-name have him.

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—Prudie, exasperatedly

Dear Prudie,

Many of the questions posed to you concern the inappropriate behavior of other people and how to deal with it. I'm writing to ask your advice about my own inappropriate behavior. For the past year, I've been working with an extraordinary gentleman. We were close friends from the beginning, as I helped train him for his position. He is handsome and fun with a great personality. A couple months ago, I realized I was falling in love with this man. This married man. I would never consider intimating anything to him, but I have caught myself going overboard to be nice to him. For example, he oftentimes doesn't bring a lunch to work, so I sneak off on my lunch break and bring him back a feast, for which he is always appreciative. Or I prepare his work for him. Or I defend him to upper management even if he's wrong. What do I do about this? Do I confess? Do I sever any kind of personal relationship and lose a friend?

—Hopelessly in Love in Utah

Dear Hope,

What you do is get a grip and learn to be a chess player. That is, try to look ahead and tell yourself that if you do X, Y will happen. Prudie will give you a preview. If you "confess," he will either a) brush you off, nicely, saying he thinks you're swell, but he is happily married or b) he will leap at the invitation, and then you will be entangled with a married man who is also camped out in your workplace. Down the line, something will happen to break it up, and you will be in a most unfortunate position. If you totally deep-six the friendship, he will figure everything out—if he hasn't already. It is indeed possible to have a "personal relationship" without providing catering, work prep, and defender services. To salvage your dignity and protect your own job, stop with the fancy slave-girl lunches and carrying his water with upper management. Make an effort to rein it in and spare yourself some heartbreak.

—Prudie, professionally