Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 29 2005 7:16 AM

You're Not the Boss of Me

Can I get my husband to stop treating me like his child?

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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 Prudie,
I am 30 and my husband is 33. He doubles as my parent and high-school principal. Over the past couple years (we've been married four and a half years) my life seems to have become one long lecture for every infraction imaginable, some serious (leaving my tax return until the last minute) some not (leaving my makeup in the kitchen). It is to my eternal shame that I am absent-minded and occasionally a blithering idiot. I have a demanding job for which I earn a reasonably good salary, so between that and my stressful home life, I can't seem to remember anything from one day to the next. I understand why he feels frustrated with me, but I feel battered. My life revolves around the prospect of Getting Into Trouble. And the truth is I am tired: tired of the hectoring tone, the self-righteousness, and the shouting. If I were a man I would describe myself as henpecked. I don't know what the female equivalent is. I have lost count of the number of times I have told him to let it go, to leave it alone, but to no avail. He doesn't think he's wrong, you see; as far as he's concerned, "he is doing it for my own good." He has rejected outright the possibility of counseling. I love him—when he's nice—but when he's bad, he's horrible. Help!

—Pressure Cookie

Dear Press,
He's rejected counseling, huh? Well ... then you must decide if you stay with Henry Higgins until you explode, or you take a break from each other. Something has to change, and Prudie votes for it to be his behavior. Yours does not sound anywhere near being a viable marriage. Perhaps you might invite him to reconsider counseling as an alternative to calling it a day. He needs to understand what his behavior is doing to you. Good luck.

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—Prudie, conditionally

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend is a very nice sort who is generally reluctant to be nasty to anyone. Normally I'm thrilled about this, but in one instance it's proving to be a giant pain, along with his ex-girlfriend. They first dated in college, and over the next five years had one of those on-again off-again relationships that has always driven me insane, but is especially disturbing now, as she seems to have no intention of leaving him alone. He is cool but polite to her, but she is socially clueless, so she keeps behaving as if they're good friends. For example, her mails are sprinkled with personal details. In about a month, we'll be attending an event to which she is also invited, and I'm dreading her efforts to buddy up to my boyfriend. I've told him that he needs to be harsher with her so she gets the message, but he doesn't see the harm in letting her continue as she has. It drives me batty to have her lurking around, but I haven't been able to provide an argument that he sees as valid. After nearly two years of intermittent arguing about it, I'm at my wit's end. Please, dear Prudie, have you any advice as to what I should do?

—Weary of the Drama

Dear Wear,
You are not the first woman to wish her fella's ex would turn into the human version of invisible ink. But ask yourself: His personality being what it is, what is he going to say to this former girlfriend who is hanging on by her toenails? "Please don't speak to me because it annoys my girlfriend"? You can't change your boyfriend's character, so change your strategy. Stop telling him to put her in her place … and then be super gracious to her yourself. It will drive her nuts, and your boyfriend will surely marvel that you have become so secure. Prudie's guess is that if you try this new approach, the ex may be so shocked she may back off.

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—Prudie, strategically

Dear Prudie,
I have a wonderful relationship with my husband. He is honest, considerate, sweet, and usually concerned about my feelings. We have two small children and share responsibilities, as we both work at home (he's a journalist, I'm a novelist). Recently, we had an argument about sleeping arrangements. He likes it cool at night (as in sleeping with the window open in the wintertime), while I like it cozy. He suggested that we have separate bedrooms. At first I thought he was kidding, but, alas, he was not. Am I being too sensitive about this? I feel genuinely hurt that he would rather sleep without me, but maybe he's right. Is this the only solution to our petty problem?

—Wanna Be Warm in Montana

Dear Wan,
Prudie's law of thermodynamics postulates that the one who is cold can bundle up, while the one who is hot has little recourse. Montana with open windows in the wintertime does sound rather frigid, but let us just say his internal thermostat is set differently from yours. Why don't you try wearing a sweatshirt and socks to bed and see if that helps? If that doesn't do it for you, then separate sleeping rooms might be the answer. After all, it would not be as if someone huffed off to another room in a fit of pique. A good night's sleep is worth a lot, and your excellent relationship should confirm that sleeping apart would be simply a question of degrees.

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—Prudie, comfortably

Dear Prudence,
I am becoming increasingly horrified by the incompetence and corruption of our elected officials and have found solace in reading the Internet posts of like-minded individuals. Almost everyone I know is a right winger (including my own family) and they all tend to e-mail stuff I call hate mail: articles condemning the poor for being poor, congratulating themselves for their own success, and spreading the lie de jour. I am offended by these e-mails and respond with my own observations about how misguided I believe them to be. (I sometimes follow up with a good left-leaning joke.) They, in turn, are offended that I would suggest they are misguided and the jokes make them angry (which is why I send them). I left my church because of the un-Christian, judgmental attitude toward gays, the poor, and people of color. My sister gets all her news from Rush Limbaugh and my closest (ex) friend gets hers from Bill O'Reilly. When I attempt to engage in debate about their views they become loud and insulting. I'm falling deeper into depression every day. I live in Texas and cannot afford to move. What should I do?

—Had It

Dear Had,
First, you're never going to change anyone's mind. That is just the nature of the political beast. Second, for your emotional well-being you need to stop banging your head against that wall. When the offensive material comes your way, hit "delete." And of course stop sending material back. This will most likely end the, uh, political dialogue. On a constructive note, rustle up some like-minded friends: Subscribe to the Texas Observer. * Go to work as a volunteer for the next candidate you deem worthy. Try to make things better in whatever way has the most meaning for you.

—Prudie, dissentingly

Correction, Jan. 3, 2006: Prudie goofed. In responding to "Had It," she recommended the wrong publication. She meant to tell the writer to start reading the Texas Observer.