Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
June 24 2004 9:10 AM

All in the Family

When your in-laws are too cozy with your mate's ex.


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Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have been together for two years, and he's been apart from his ex for the past four years. They have two children together. Some of my husband's sisters and sisters-in-law still invite his ex-wife to family gatherings (i.e., Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, etc.). Many of my husband's other sisters and brothers have ex-spouses, but they are not invited to family events. His family has made me feel very welcome when we are face to face, but inviting his ex to these gatherings makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I understand that some of the family may still have a friendship with her, but I do not think it needs be displayed at family events. How can my husband and I handle this situation? We do not want to "boycott" the events because family is very important to us, and we want our children to know and enjoy all of his family. We do, however, want his family to know this is uncomfortable for us without starting World War III.

Thank you,

—Part of the Family Now

Dear Part,

The wild card in your situation is that your husband's children are young, and it is usually difficult to have two little kids come to a family function without their mother. Your only hope is your husband picking up the kids and bringing them to these gatherings. Voilá! No mother necessary. Without making a big to-do, perhaps your husband could point out to his relatives that since no other exes are included, you'd both be more comfortable if your situation conformed. Offering to bring his kids himself would leave no excuse on the table. Should the various family members balk, then suggest that they see what's-her-name on their own time because not everyone is comfortable with former partners waltzing around family parties. Stick to your guns and hope for détente.

—Prudie, pragmatically


Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I spend a lot of time with another couple in our circle. The woman tends to be gossipy, and I have tried to keep things to myself that I didn't want broadcast all over our small town. She often tells me things about other people that I know she shouldn't. Recently she chose to confide in me about being in love with a man who is not her boyfriend. It was a big deal to her, and there was a lot of crying and desperation. I told her I would never tell anyone about it, and I have kept this promise. Now comes the interesting part. I stupidly, stupidly confided something about my own attraction to another person who is not my boyfriend and asked her to show the same discretion I had shown with her secret. She even said to me, "Don't worry, with the dirt you have on me, I could never tell a soul." I have just discovered that she blabbed everything I told her, and I think there's a good chance it will get back to my boyfriend, and I will have a bit of a mess here. My question is: Since she showed no discretion with my secret, am I obligated to keep hers? Part of me wants to take the high road, and part of me really wants her to pay for her gossipy, hurtful behavior. What should I do?

—Kicking Myself

Dear Kick,

Prudie recommends that you take the high road—but with one little detour. Just as two wrongs do not make a right, two big mouths will not do much for your state of affairs. You would not feel good about repeating the behavior you think so little of. Perhaps you can "pay her back" by telling her that you have no plans to respond in kind because YOU know how to keep a confidence, but you would be interested in why she felt the need to double-cross you. Now here's where the detour may come in. If your boyfriend confronts you with your confessed attraction, simply say that after her confession, Miss Motormouth pressed you to come up with a fantasy hunk of your own. You just picked a name out of thin air. And don't act guilty.

—Prudie, tutorially

Dear Prudie,

I have recently become close friends with a woman who perplexes me. She is an attentive friend who has been there for me several times when I have needed her, and I know she means well. The problem is that this woman is highly critical of EVERY aspect of my life, from the way I raise my kids to my husband's weight. She makes rather snippy and inappropriate comments in everyday conversation, and when confronted about their offensive nature, she always says she "didn't mean it that way" or that I "take things too personally." I have repeated some of these comments to my other girlfriends, and they've confirmed that they are way out of line. Do I continue to put up with the comments under the assumption that nobody's perfect, or should I discontinue the friendship? Good friends are hard to find.


—Conflicted Friend

Dear Con,

With apologies to Bill Clinton, it depends on what your definition of "good" is. This woman sounds bossy and insensitive—like maybe numb. When you hear from a friend that your husband is fat and your mothering skills leave a lot to be desired—without your having asked for an opinion—there is no way to take such remarks BUT personally. Prudie's father often said that we all need protection from those who "mean well." As for this woman being continually critical, some people are just wired that way, often because they were never given compliments and were criticized themselves. Your mentioning "snippy" and "inappropriate" would incline Prudie to undo from this woman and let her shower her wisdom on someone else. Her mouth is a WMD.

—Prudie, resolutely

Dear Prudie,

I am 15 years old, and, well, I'm gay. I'm not 100 percent sure how to tell my mother. I have tried to tell her many times, but when I get to telling her, I lose my cool, and my wording, and I end up not telling her. I've tried writing letters to her but have never given them to her. I feel like if I don't tell her, I am going to be in the closet my whole life with her. But I want to tell her so that I can be happier. I know you may get letters like this all the time, but I really need help trying to find the words to tell her without being scared.

—Hopefully Coming Out

Dear Hope,

Actually, Prudie does not get letters like yours all the time, so these ideas are just for you. It is hard to know the nature of the relationship between you and your mother, but your desire to tell her means that you should. You're probably having trouble with the words because of feelings of shame, as well as the fear of disappointing her. This might be useful for you to know: Prudie has a lady friend who knew before her son told her, and her response was, "What took you so long to talk about it?" So there's a chance your declaration may be easier than you imagine. In any case, just say your own version of, "Mom, there is something very important to me that I want to discuss." Then go for it. You are not announcing you're a Republican, after all. (Kidding.) Closets are, as you know, dark places, so come on out and know that the world is becoming more enlightened every day.

—Prudie, encouragingly