Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 11 2006 7:01 AM

He's My Fiance ... He's My Son

Is there a way to save this messed-up relationship?

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Dear Prudie,
My fiance is, at 29 years old, just finishing his first year of college. I think this is great (he's the first in his family to go to a college), and I have been supportive in every way. I moved across the country with him so he could go to the school of his dreams, despite the fact that I was perfectly happy at home and didn't want to live elsewhere. I even bought a house here (with money I inherited), so he wouldn't have to pay rent. I have made huge personal and financial sacrifices to make his dream a reality. I asked him for a few things in return, namely that he would help keep the house neat and stick to a budget we worked out together. Since we made this agreement, he has done nothing to fulfill his end of the deal. When he comes home, if he has no homework, he surfs the Internet until it's time for bed. He never helps with housework unless I ask. I just found out he ran up several thousand dollars of debt by doing things like eating at restaurants and throwing out the sandwiches I make him for lunch. He applied for more than a thousand dollars in additional credit to buy a new computer. When confronted, he says he's sorry and will do better in the future, but then the same things happen again. He is a kind, loving, hardworking person, and I respect his determination to get through school despite a lot of childhood disadvantages, but that shouldn't mean he can take advantage of me!

—At the End of My Rope

Dear Rope,
If he doesn't like your brand of peanut butter, is it OK if he trades sandwiches with the other kids, Mom? You two have gotten yourselves into such unhealthy roles that this relationship may not survive getting out of them. He's living in your house; you have set specific chores for him to do; you're encouraging of his efforts at school (and have made sacrifices to further his education); you're disapproving of his time-wasting; you make his lunch, for goodness' sake! He may be behaving like an irresponsible child, but that's what many people do in response to an overly controlling mother. You two need to become equal, adult partners in this relationship. Probably the best way to start would be for him to find his own place to live. Let him clean up his own mess, handle his own bills, make his own lunch. Then you can see if you two can rebuild from there. If you can't, remember the lesson from the Greeks: Having your son as your lover is bound to end badly.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My older sister and I have long had a contentious relationship. Basically, we don't get each other. I have no doubt in my mind that we love each other, but our interactions are competitive and can be nasty. We live close by, yet only see each other sporadically. Making things more competitive, we are in similar fields. I recently found out that she has been writing a blog for the past three years, which many mutual acquaintances, friends, and family members read (yet she never told me about it). In it, she disparages me, calls me "Evil Sister," and writes about personal things in my life—such as my bitter divorce—with very little sympathy for me. I was so angry, hurt, and embarrassed when I read this stuff. I don't know whether to confront her, or just try to let it go.

—Not Evil

Dear Not,
It's good you have no impulse to start a competing blog, as much as it would entertain family and friends (and why had none of them alerted you over the past three years?). Letting it go seems impossible. So, the question is, how do you tackle this while giving her little fodder for her next Evil Sister entry? This calls for a face-to-face meeting, but make it over coffee because it would be hard to choke down a meal. Keep your remarks brief and focused on how this has made you feel. For instance, "I know we've had a difficult relationship, but I am hurt and embarrassed to find out that you have been writing about my personal life and calling me 'Evil Sister' in print. I don't understand how things have gotten to this point, but it really saddens me." If she wants to enumerate your transgressions in order to justify her behavior, don't get into it. Just repeat that you are hurt she would make your problems public (demanding she stop will surely be counterproductive). If she indicates she'd like to patch things up, you can tell her dropping you from her blog would be a good place to start.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I married in our teens. But it wasn't until we had been married for about five years and went on our first vacation that my husband instituted what he calls "vacation sex." While we are on vacation, our sex life is inspired! The problem is that he won't let me do any of those special things that drive him wild unless we are actually on vacation. On our last vacation, I made a (sort of) joke and said, "We should move here so we can be on vacation every day and have sex like this all of the time." I almost stopped breathing when he agreed with me. I was ready to buy a house that day. But when we got back home he said we can't move until we retire (we're in our 30s) when our youngest is done with high school—she's just started elementary school! We are on the right track for an early retirement (if I can stop spending all our money on vacations), but I don't know if I can wait that long to have him like that every day. What am I going to do?

—Starved

Dear Starved,
It's too bad you can't convince your husband he's actually living in France—then you'd have a government-mandated six weeks of inspired vacation sex. The good news is that you've been together half your lives and the sex is still (at times) great. The bad news is that, given American vacation allotments, it only happens a few weeks a year. (Since you don't indicate he is withholding this wildness as a way of being punitive, I'll put that aside—unless you need to examine that possibility.) Maybe during the work week, he feels he only has the time and energy for "regular" sex. Maybe he's afraid that if you have vacation sex all year-round, when you ratchet that up during your actual vacation it will be so stratospheric you'll forget to feed the children. In any case, you must reopen the discussion about your need to bring some of your vacation abandon to your bedroom at home. Then try locking your bedroom door, exchanging the Jockey for Her for Victoria's Secret, and seducing him. Suggest a "mini-vacation"—park the kids with grandparents or friends and have an inspired weekend evening. Tell him if he doesn't loosen up, you're going to run off with Jacques Chirac.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I'm currently in a relationship with a wonderful man I've been seeing for almost two years. This past Christmas, we went to his father's house and spent time with him and his wife, my beau's stepmother. While there, she took me aside to "test" me. She said she wanted to see if I could be trusted with a secret, then told me about plans she and her husband have to adopt two children from another country. She said that they didn't want to tell my boyfriend or his brother because they didn't want any negativity while going through this process. They planned to tell their sons when going to pick up the babies this summer. While I personally do not support this decision (she had spent the evening telling us about her back problems, and now she's going to care for two infants?), I know that it really is none of my business. My quandary is that I hate having to keep a secret from my boyfriend, especially when it affects him and his family, but I feel that it's not my place to tell him, either. If the plans do go through, either I have to admit that I've known all this time, or play along as if I didn't know. Should I tell him anyway, even though it may end up not happening, or should I wait for them to tell him?

—Trying To Be Honest

Dear Trying,
Her manipulative nature raises more questions about her fitness for parenthood than her bad back. If she wanted to keep this quiet until her two diaper-clad secrets showed up, she should have kept her mouth shut. You're right that even if you, and eventually your boyfriend, disapprove, the decision to adopt is theirs and is not up for review by your boyfriend and his brother. But now that she's clued you in on her secret as a test you didn't sign up for, you have to tell her you've flunked. Let her know that you are too uncomfortable keeping this information from your boyfriend and you are going to tell him. If your boyfriend gets mad at you for withholding this for so long, explain to him you take confidences very seriously, but your loyalty to him was more important. And who knows, maybe you'll both love baby-sitting for the new siblings.

—Prudie