Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Questions may be edited.)
I love reading your column, even though I'm just 21 and haven't had a lot of the problems people write about. The reason I'm writing is that I'm currently involved with a wonderful girl and have been for an entire year. I am in love with her, she's in love with me, and neither of us takes that word lightly. We've lived together for about eight months without any serious problems. She left to go to another part of the country for the summer to make some money for the coming university semester, and I stayed here. We talk on the phone and write each other long letters to help make the time pass faster. The problem is that I asked her about other guys she's been with, and she wrote me a four-page letter detailing what I'm assuming is every guy she's made out with, given oral sex to, etc. In it there are the names of three or four guys that I absolutely despise, the scum of the planet. I have a really active imagination, and the more information that gets fed to me, the more active and colorful it gets, to the point where I have trouble sleeping. And what's possibly even worse, I don't have any interest in sex anymore. Am I just freaking out in a normal way, or is this something more serious? I asked for the bloody info in the first place, so should I stop being such a pansy and ignore it?
—Drowning Here, Help!
Prudie is happy you don't have a lot of problems; however, the one you do have is a doozy. This young woman is certainly literal, isn't she? (Talk about too much information.) Prudie thinks writing a long, detailed letter with the names of the players along with, shall we say, the bases covered, is simply brainless. A smart man once explained, "No one needs the pictures." It is enough to reveal to a partner that one is experienced or inexperienced. Both of you have made serious errors: you, in not knowing yourself well enough to realize that this information would haunt you, and she for naming names, going into detail, and turning your question into an assignment. It does not help matters that some of the dramatis personae are, um, the scum of the planet. It is possible, unless you can somehow adopt a "that-was-then, this-is-now" attitude, that the relationship may not make it. The images may be too powerful for you to overcome. Prudie feels confident your libido will return. You may, however, need a new girlfriend with whom to welcome it back.
Love your work; need your help. My brilliant boyfriend and I have been together three years and lived together for two. We are both in grad school working on advanced chemistry degrees. (We know; we're nerds.) We're exceedingly happy together and plan, after grad school, to get married and bring some little nerds into the world. My problem is this: I've been thinking about buying a house in this area for the duration of grad school, as I have good credit and would like to build up some equity, but my scientific significant other practically loses his lunch whenever I bring this up. I realize it would be a big step for us to buy a house, but we already live together, have a dog and a cat, and are committed to each other. This would make financial sense for us, and I'd really like to be able to spend our monthly housing money on a house rather than a landlord. I bring it up every so often just to test the waters, which are getting less chilly, but he still evinces quite a bit of hesitation. How can I decrease his trepidation?
You might tell your brilliant boyfriend that every month, when paying the rent, you feel as though you're watching H2O trickle down the drain. He may tell you that it might not be so smart to become mortgage-holders in a town where you do not plan to stay. As strong as your personal chemistry may be, the marriage thing may have him spooked, or at least the part about buying a house before you're actually married. Try one more serious, unemotional discussion, state your financial case, and then let it go. A cat, a dog, and a commitment may be all that your boyfriend can handle at this time.
My boyfriend and I were together for over four years when he decided to move out because he felt I wasn't in love with him. I thought we were going to try to work things out and in fact had planned on proposing this Christmas. I am beyond miserable now, and to make things worse, I know he's already moved on to a younger, prettier, woman who wants sex constantly (an area we had problems with). I just got laid off so I literally have nothing to do but separate our stuff and mourn while horrible images of MY boyfriend gleefully shagging away play through my mind. My family can only tell me to snap out of it. My usual remedies are proving useless. Do you have any pointers on how to get through the worst part of a breakup?
—Shocked To Be Alone
This is always a terrible time for the one who didn't want the breakup, but try to take it on faith that you won't always feel like this. While not saying what your "usual remedies" are, Prudie hopes they are not bourbon, 24-hour poker games, or playing Peggy Lee go-to-hell music. What you need is the gift of acceptance, in a couple areas: 1) that there were problems with the relationship and, for whatever reason, you were not able to make him feel loved; 2) he is with someone new. To get through it, you need ways to get your mind off his new flame and what you think they are doing all the time. This can be helped along by looking for a new job, old friends, volunteering, and maybe even a change of scenery. In other words, get busy, if only to distract yourself so that your main activity is not sawing sawdust. Time really is a great healer.
I have been a widow since 1991, and I haven't remarried. I find my situation quite enjoyable. I don't date and have been celibate for 10 years or more. I have two daughters who live with me, and we are like roommates; my third daughter is married and lives close by with my two darling grandkids. The issue that bothers me is that when I run into old acquaintances, their first words are, "You're still single? I thought you would be remarried by now!" How can I deal with this? To be honest, I don't feel I should explain myself and feel a bit annoyed by these comments.
You really shouldn't have to explain a thing, but you do need an answer when thoughtless people pipe up with dumb questions. Prudie will offer you the answer she was told another widow used. It was, "I have had the best and have no need to remarry." That ought to settle their hash. Anybody who doesn't get the message is beyond help. (This presumes, of course, that your late husband was not the town drunk and was never arrested for domestic abuse or bigamy.)