Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 15 2006 6:35 AM

He's Just a Jealous Guy

Was I hasty in getting rid of an insanely jealous boyfriend?

1_123125_122976_dearprudence_02

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'm 42 and divorced for over a year now. I have dated three men since my divorce. One man in particular captured my heart. We dated four to five times a week for the last three months and I was developing very strong feelings for him. He was charming, funny, brilliant, and very handsome. Everyone, including myself, felt this was a great match. Then like a switch went off, he became insecure and insanely jealous. He accused me of inappropriately flirting with his friends and embarrassing him. In no way did I do such a thing and we fought over it. The last time this occurred we were at a party given by a co-worker of his and I was sitting alone while he talked to someone else. A gentleman sat near me and politely started a conversation about the weather and other inane topics. My date then asked me to go outside and began to insinuate that I was encouraging more then polite conversation. I told him goodbye then and there, and have not made contact with him, nor have I heard from him. Now I am questioning whether I was hasty in not trying to come to some understanding with this man, as I miss all the things I loved about him.

—Doubtful

Dear Doubtful,
Count yourself lucky that you got this nut job out of your life before he punched you in the jaw because you said at a party, "What lovely weather we're having," to a member of the opposite sex. Would you want to be with someone who was wonderful in every way except that he was a raging alcoholic or compulsive gambler? Insane jealousy is just as destructive—and its wrath is aimed at you. If he does call, wish him the best and tell him your relationship is over.

Advertisement

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My husband and I live in a large metropolitan city, and we have a roomy house. I like cooking and entertaining, but we have intense jobs; consequently, our time together is very precious to us. My husband's sister and her family live across the state. Her children have attended school in our city, and we have been happy to be available to them. The problem is my sister-in-law. She announces that she is coming about once a month to visit the kids, get her hair done, or see an old friend. She (and sometimes her husband) stays in our extra bedroom. I cook breakfast and dinner for them. I enjoy their company, but the visits are too frequent and they're a lot of work for me. In 10 years, the entire acknowledgment of our hospitality is that she took us out to breakfast once. When my husband and I met, his sister regarded his house as a big-city crash pad. My husband agrees that it's a pain but says that his sister is too dense to take a hint. Otherwise our relationship is delightful and I want to remain on good terms with my husband's family. What are my options?

—Hostile Hostess

Dear Hostile,
Your sister-in-law is not dense, she's brilliant. She's gotten a decade of accommodations and meals without even having to supply a bottle of wine. However you approach changing this deal, it's bound to provoke outrage ("But I've been mooching off you for years!"). Here are your choices:

Advertisement

Goodbye Ritz, Hello Motel 6. Could you stand having her return to crashing in the bedroom and letting go of all the hostess duties? Give her a key to the house, tell her you're too busy these days to cook for a group, and suggest she bring her own groceries if she plans to eat in.

We're Fully Booked. The next time she tells you she's coming, you tell her this is not a good time for guests. Ask that she give you some notice for a future visit, and if it fits with your schedule, you'd be happy to have her.

Airing the Laundry. Deliver a direct message, preferably from your husband. He tells her that having company so frequently is taxing for you and she can't come every month. He also says since you have cooked so many lovely meals for her over the years, the next time she does come, she needs to start reciprocating. Dinner at a restaurant would be a good place to start.

—Prudie

Advertisement

Dear Prudence,
I work at the public library in a small town, where for many of our patrons, tact is a foreign concept. I have a mild neuro-muscular disorder, which makes my walk different from "normal" people. I am tired of complete strangers asking me, "What's wrong with your leg?" Of course, since I work at the public library, I can't give them the answer I'd like to give them—my mother says I should ask them what's wrong with their brain. A while ago I broke my ankle, and because of my disorder I'm a slow healer. How can I politely tell people that I don't care to answer any more inquiries about my ankle? I appreciate their concern, but I'm starting to feel like a broken record. And if I don't have a good reply soon, I think I'm going to crack.

—Librarian on the Edge

Dear Edge,
Yes, it is tactless to inquire as to the nature and cause of someone's disability. But for the sake of your sanity and your job, you need a tactful way to answer the question while also ending the conversation. My sister had a stroke at age 30 that left her with a limp and diminished function in one hand. When she's asked what's wrong with her, she says, "I have a disability," in the same tone she would say, "I'm originally from Boston." She says the word "disability" has the magical power to shut down further inquiry. Since you are probably always going to be asked some version of the question, can you get to the point where it bothers you about as much as being asked, "Where's the reference section?" incessantly? As for well-meaning (but annoying) people who want to know how your ankle is doing, a cheerful, "It's coming along, thanks," should do it.

—Prudie

Advertisement

Dear Prudence,
I am in my early 70s and was divorced many years ago. A neighbor recently became a widower. Several months after his wife's death, he began coming on to me, and we developed a relationship. Then I realized he had also developed a relationship with at least one other woman. Now there is a third woman, also a recent widow. He tells each woman that he loves her, and I am the only one who knows what's really going on. I have decided to exit our relationship several times, but he keeps coming back, telling me he doesn't want to lose me. And, truth be told, I don't want to lose him, either. But I feel ridiculous sharing him and knowing of his lies. He will never want an exclusive relationship with me. He says he doesn't want to "get serious." I feel certain that you will tell me to dump him, and I agree that I should. But I cannot.

—Help Me!

Dear Help,
No, I don't necessarily think you should dump your AARP Romeo. You're getting something out of this late-in-life fling, and you understand that as long as they keep manufacturing Viagra, your guy isn't going to settle down. What matters is your physical and emotional health. If you want to continue, and since you know he has multiple partners, you must insist he use a condom (and if he hasn't been, it might be a good idea to check in with your gynecologist). That aside, you sound as if you think you should be more outraged about this situation than you actually are. If you can accept the relationship for what it is and not let it drive you crazy or make you feel foolish, enjoy yourself. As long as you continue to let this be a small but entertaining part of your life, why not see how long it can last before one of his organs gives out?

—Prudie