Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 7 2004 7:32 AM

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Romance?

How to take a hard line against smothering.


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Dear Prudence,

I'm dating a delightful man who goes overboard with hospitality and wanting to do things for me. I'm looking for a gentle way to express my gratitude but also establish some ground rules: I don't need my pillow constantly fluffed, my feet propped up, coffee made and offered with every trimming under the sun (when I continue to say "Just black, please"). I am being told to lie down and relax when I'm not tired and am just incessantly fussed over. He seems to delight in this treatment and ignores my responses that "I'm fine sitting this way," or "No thank you, I don't want a glass of water," or "Thanks, I can help myself." He is a Persian man, and I realize that perhaps this is a cultural thing, but I'm finding it hard to be with this person when we can't merely sit and enjoy each other's company. Please help!


Dear Ove,

While your letter will strike many as an advertisement for this man and Prudie will get countless inquiries asking for his address, she takes your question seriously. Although your friend is erring on the side of too much pampering—a loving thing, to be sure—it could certainly feel over the top … if not annoying. In terms of cultural norms (ours), he is overdoing things and not appearing to listen to what you're saying. Because the "delightful" man seems to have everything else in order, you need to go beyond repeating "No, thank you" and "I take my coffee black." Have a serious discussion explaining how you greatly appreciate the emotion underlying his concern for your comfort, then go on to enlighten him about what makes you comfortable. And humor can go a long way toward lightening up the situation as he learns to moderate his attentiveness. If this issue between you can be more like a private joke than a bone of contention, the romance has a good chance of surviving.


—Prudie, comfortably

Dear Prudie,

I am engaged to a wonderful, loving man with whom I share many interests. One of our shared interests is a massive multimedia online role-playing game. Recently while playing one of my characters, I met a man. (We'll call him Sam.) We have been speaking, both in-game and out, for several weeks now, and we have even swapped real-life pictures of one another. One of the things I know about him is that he lives in England. Just last night, as Sam and I were chatting in character, he brought up the subject of marriage. He has not proposed to my character yet, but he is going to. Now to my question: Should I tell him I am engaged in real life? I have done a lot of theatre and played many role-playing games (online, live-action, and tabletop), and I've learned to separate the feelings of my characters from my own. But I don't know about Sam. I have told my fiance about Sam, and he doesn't mind the relationship; he feels that the best policy in this matter is, "Don't ask; don't tell." So, I turn to you, Prudie: Should I tell him or not?

—Pixilated Paramour

Dear Pix,

Prudie is guessing your game is along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons—that is, something that's all about pretending. Because your fiance recommends not revealing real-life information and because it's a game, perhaps you should just stay in character. Just assume that Sam can hold his own … and remember that he is, after all, in England. As for sending your picture and speaking "out of game," that seems a little like crossing wires, if you get Prudie's drift.


—Prudie, theatrically

Dear Prudence,

My live-in boyfriend (for four years) and I recently broke up—not by my choice—and I am heartbroken. However, neither of us can afford to move out of our apartment just yet. We live in a fairly expensive area, and neither of us has family in the area that we could stay with. We have jobs and lives here, so moving out of the area is not possible. He has offered to stay at a friend's house and keep paying me his share of the rent so that I can afford to live on my own, but I'd hate to take his money if he's not living in the apartment. Meanwhile, however, he's sleeping on the couch, and he's in the apartment all the time. His constant presence is difficult to deal with, as I am still not over the pain of the breakup, which occurred about a month ago. Should I take him up on his offer to move out and pay rent so that I can move on with my life, or should I leave things as they are and live together indefinitely as roommates despite the fact that it's breaking my heart more every day?

—Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Dear Break,

Prudie will assume that your ex-beau's offer to stay with a friend was genuine—and possible—and therefore she would urge you to accept the offer. In the spirit of letting him off the hook, you might look around for a temporary roommate who would be willing to share expenses until you're free to leave that apartment. Your ex's offer is well–meant, and the financial burden should not be significant, seeing as how he'll be bunking with a friend. Prudie can think of no good reason to suffer, daily, when there are options.


—Prudie, optimally

Dear Prudence,

I recently was blessed to start dating a nice man who lives nearby. He is older, more mature than the men I'm used to dating. He is a successful businessman who is retired now and wants a companion to accompany him when traveling, help him entertain in his beautiful new home, and generally enjoy life with him. We have some important things in common. He is a very generous person, not only to me, but also to his family and friends. We recently went to a party, and many people stopped by to visit with us at our table. I was relieved to see he had so many friends. The problem is he talks constantly; the sad thing is he knows he has this annoying habit. He's joked about it, even, but I don't find it a laughing matter. Sometimes he bores me to tears, and I honestly find it hard to stay awake and listen to his long-winded stories that include every minute detail, blah, blah, blah! It's hard to get in a word, and it's almost like he can't wait for me to stop what I have to interject so he can start talking again. I feel like he doesn't care about my thoughts on any subject. What can I do or say to let him know how annoying and boorish I find this part of his personality without hurting his feelings? I'm afraid I can't tolerate this for the long term.

—Hard To Stay Awake

Dear Hard,

There is no way to tell someone he is annoying and boorish without hurting his feelings. Plus, it sounds as though he already knows … hence his "joking" about the nonstop talking. To be bored to tears, fighting sleep, regarding his conversation as blah, blah, blah, and feeling you cannot get a word in edgewise are pretty unambiguous signs of, let us say, incompatibility. Do yourself a favor, and call it a day. The trips, the beautiful new home, and his generosity will no doubt attract someone less discriminating and perhaps deaf.

—Prudie, directly