Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
July 1 2004 11:18 AM


When's the appropriate time to reveal a disease to your mate?


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Dear Prudence,

I am a single woman about to turn 30, and my children's father cheated on me five years ago and gave me herpes simplex. I have read up on it completely, and I am well informed about my STD, but what I would love to know is: When is the proper time to tell someone that I have this STD when dating? Should I tell them when first meeting, or wait until they get to know the "real me" and we are going to get intimate, or what? I know there is no third option of "not tell at all" because I pride myself on being honest and letting a man know what he is getting into. If you could please help me, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

—Perfect Timing

Dear Per,

Prudie would not suggest communicating this kind of information upon first meeting. It would just seem odd to be having that initial, getting-to-know-you conversation and then, all of a sudden, to throw in, "And I have herpes, thanks to my ex." Prudie would also suggest not offering this bulletin just as you are turning down the bedspread together. By process of elimination, the best time to impart your news would be when you both know you're interested in pursuing the relationship, and it seems likely that the following date might be the time for ... whatever.

—Prudie, approximatingly


Oh Pru,

Where to start? A little over a year ago, my dumb-ass husband had a one-time fling with two girls. I didn't find out till nine months later, and in the nine months, he completely changed: quit drinking, started being a better father, and basically became a much better person. I wasn't sure quite why until I found out about the affair. We broke up twice and are back together again. OK, here's the thing. I really love him and am not the type to stay for the kids' sake. I just don't know if I can get past it. We went to marriage counseling, but there is only one marriage counselor in our small town, and he's Mormon and believes in polygamy, which REALLY didn't make things better. We have been together since I was 16 and he was 17; we are now in our late 20s. Every day the pain of the whole thing is so much I can hardly bear it. Do you think I'm wasting my time?


Dear Dev,

Prudie doesn't think you're wasting your time, and here are the reasons. Your husband felt genuine contrition about stepping out and tried to make the marriage better—and succeeded. It is not as if you caught him and he had to shape up because there was a gun to his head. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the only marriage counselor in town was a fellow who still believes in a religious tradition that is now illegal, but at least you both knew that was odd and dismissed him. You might consider going a few towns away or perhaps trying a clergyman of another denomination. Your ages also militate against throwing in the towel now. Many couples overcome serious hurts when they're your age and go on to long and fulfilling marriages. No one would say it was exactly a blessing that your husband got together with the Bobbsey Twins, but it did bring about some positive change. Try to find a professional therapist, social worker, or clergyman who can help you put the past to rest and to feel genuine forgiveness. Wiser heads than old Pru's have said that forgiving is not so much letting the other guy off the hook as it is freeing yourself to go forward. Good luck.

—Prudie, healingly


Dear Prudence,

I've always marveled at the bizarre situations your readers face, and now I'm in the middle of some bizarreness myself. I'm in my mid-40s, living with a man I've dated for nearly five years. We've been an incredibly perfect match in all ways. Two months ago, I found out he was planning a bisexual tryst. It never took place, perhaps because I discovered it before it was finalized. My boyfriend admitted it, said it was simply extreme curiosity and that he never intended to go through with it. He called it merely "an Internet flirtation" that got carried away. He begged me to forgive him and said he'd spend the rest of his life trying to restore the trust he'd broken. So we gave it a try. Six weeks later, he joined an online "dating" site, only the dates you seek are purely sexual encounters. He established a profile and said he was seeking bisexual men for sex only. He doesn't know that I know about this. So far, nothing has come of this activity. For all I know, maybe he IS only flirting and won't actually go through with it. But this makes twice now, especially after he said he'd stay away. My questions: How do I approach him about this? Is there any point in trusting his reply? I know that if it were possible to turn my head and pretend nothing was happening, we could be happy and have a great time. But I know. And I can't pretend I don't. Help, please!!!

—Sexually Confused

Dear Sex,

The "except for ..." you speak of, the big "IF," reminds Prudie of an old saying: If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a streetcar. Some things are easy to pretend out of existence, but sexual identity and trust are not among them. Your fella is obviously drawn to, and conflicted about, sex with men. He hasn't yet resolved where he belongs, and that is the question you need to consider when deciding whether you can live with the situation. Also, you have to think about spending your life wondering if he's slaking his "curiosity," as well as what that would mean for your sex life. Only you can make the call. Good luck.

—Prudie, realistically


O Wise Prudence,

How does one form a good relationship with one's in-laws? I've been happily married for five years and have smiled and gritted my teeth through every family encounter trying to be the polite, well-mannered daughter-in-law. My mother-in-law is a gossip whose main topic of conversation is people I don't know. My father-in-law prefers asking about our personal finances and criticizing our expenditures. They've both told me that I need to take better care of their son, and they blame me for health problems he developed before we were married. Lately the subtle disapproval has turned to out-and-out spite; canceling plans at the last minute and "forgetting" to invite us to a family birthday party. I'm facing a summer of weddings, reunions, and other family events. What can I do to get on better terms with my husband's parents?

—Dutiful Daughter-in-Law

Dear Dut,

You have Prudie's sympathies. This pair sounds awful, and you must be a saint not to have told them where to go and how to get there. And the "subtle disapproval" ain't so subtle. In the situation you describe, Prudie does not think it IS possible to improve the situation, so why even subject yourself to this kind of treatment? Regarding the upcoming events, try to hang with others in the family. Your giving them the cold shoulder might wake them up. Frost sometimes has that effect.

—Prudie, protectively