I've been dating a wonderful man for six years—he's compassionate, smart, funny, and successful—but there's a huge problem. Every weekend since we've been together (that's a lot of weekends), he drives back to his hometown—six hours away, each way. Mind you, he's not in college anymore. He's been out of school for well over a decade. He often gets irritated because he doesn't understand why I don't want to spend my weekends at his parents' home—they are neither sick nor elderly. I go along for the journey every couple of months, and it's nice, but it's a long trip, and it's not my home. Last year, we bought our own home together, and we are talking about having a family. But in the back of my mind, I get a vision of either him bailing on me every weekend to go "home," or us loading up babies for the weekly adventure of cramming into his childhood room. When I suggest he cut down on the trips, he gets defensive and doesn't understand why I think it's a bit strange. Do I suggest relocating our lives so he feels closer to home? Or should I relocate from him?
Dear Staying Home,
Maybe your boyfriend has had one of those body-switching spells cast on him—like what happened to Tom Hanks in Big. He looks like an adult man, yet you're actually dating a 9-year-old. If he wears footie pajamas on his visits home, I will take that as confirmation of my theory. Obviously, you know that your boyfriend is trapped in a bizarre, smothering, psychological triangle with his parents. Yet for six years you have waved goodbye as he sets off every weekend in order to sleep in his childhood bed. You went ahead and bought a house and are talking about having children with him. So, do you have any thoughts as to what's wrong with you? I accept that your boyfriend has many fine qualities. But these seem outweighed by the fact that you two probably have never gone to a movie together on a Saturday night because he's at his parents' rearranging his baseball cards until his mother comes to kiss him goodnight and say, "Lights out! And no reading in bed with a flashlight!" I know it will be hard to get the equity out of the house you just bought because the real-estate market is depressed, but even more depressing is the prospect of spending any more time there when you know it will never be your boyfriend's real home.
Dear Prudence Video: Sick of Showers
Three years ago, my husband announced that he had been having an affair for some time and was leaving me, our newborn daughter, and our son. After having somewhat recovered from this life-changing experience, we divorced, and he married this other woman. He gets to see the children regularly, as we still live in the same town. Since then, my daughter has been calling this other woman (we'll call her "Lori") "Mama Lori." She refers to me as "Mama Rosalind." I correct her constantly, and she eventually starts calling me "Mom" again after coming back from visits with her father. But she continues to refer to his new wife as Mama Lori, even though I've tried telling her that I don't know that person or just ignoring her comment until she uses the woman's first name only. My 7-year-old son even corrects my daughter. I have made it clear to both my ex-husband and his new wife that I am not happy with her referring to either of us in this fashion. My ex assures me that his wife understands my feelings, being a mother herself, and that my concerns are unfounded. I have asked repeatedly for them to remedy the situation, to no avail. Any advice?
I can imagine how hard it must be to be civil to your ex and his new wife. And how maddening it is to have your daughter think of this home wrecker in motherly terms. But for the sake of your relationship with your daughter, let this go. Certainly, you can lightly correct her and say that you're "Mommy" and Daddy's wife is "Lori." But don't be obsessed with this, and don't let your frustration spill over to your daughter. A 3-year-old is too young to know why you are so upset at her innocent understanding of what it means to have two families. She will get it eventually—your son obviously does. But for now, your daughter is confused that after she has a nice time at Daddy's, when she comes home to you, you act angry. You could send your ex-husband a note saying you know you've discussed this before, and that you are all trying to do your best under difficult circumstances, but if your daughter says "Mama Lori" and "Mama Rosalind," it indicates how confusing this situation is to her, and you would appreciate if they corrected her. Then realize you've done everything you can, and don't let it drive you crazy. Your daughter will outgrow this annoying nomenclature. Until then, be confident that your little girl knows you're her only mother.
It seems that every time I start to date someone, we go out a few times, get along great, have tons of fun, and then he just quits calling for no reason. My more romantically successful friends say there are all these rules that you have to follow to keep a man, like playing "cat and mouse," pretending to be busy all the time, making him chase after me, pretending to be only somewhat interested in him, etc. It seems like a lot of work to me and doesn't really help much since I keep getting blown off. I am 33 years old, so my attitude is to just tell a guy that I am interested and skip all of the stupid games. So far, neither way works. What does it take in today's society to make a relationship last more than a few dates? Are all of those games really a necessary evil?
No, you don't have to abide by a series of rigid rules, but you do have to understand that when you start dating someone, you're engaging in useful courtship rituals. When you go to someone's house for dinner, do you walk in the door and say, "Where's the food, already?" No, you exchange greetings, have a drink, sit and talk, eat some hors d'oeuvres, and only then do you get summoned to the table. It sounds as if while the man you're dating is still on the cheese and crackers, you're ready to announce it's time to cut the wedding cake. When you say, after only a few dates, "I'm sick of trying to read all your subliminal clues. Do you or don't you have long-term intentions for us?" even if he was interested, he's going to be forced to respond,
"Now that you ask, no." Stop thinking of dating as a deceptive game, and think of it as an enjoyable way two people get to know if they really want to get to know each other better.
I own an extremely successful small business. I have been tossing around the idea of taking my seven employees and their spouses to Mexico or the Caribbean on a four-night vacation—all expenses paid. This would be in addition to generous (typically 5 percent to 10 percent of yearly salary) quarterly monetary bonuses. I got this idea when I saw a successful dental practice doing the same thing a couple of years ago while I was on vacation. All of the employees wore matching shirts and genuinely seemed to be having a good time. As an optimist, I am often filled with delusions of grandeur about activities in life, but I just can't help thinking this is a great idea. What should I do?
I'm sure some people would love the idea, while some would feel they just can't say no. And once they got down there, probably everyone would have a great time (even if the baby-sitting arrangements were a pain). But how much better a time they all would have if you announced you were giving them extra vacation days to do with whatever they liked (and if you divided up the money you would have spent on the vacation and instead made it part of a year-end bonus). You sound like an enthusiastic, generous boss, and surely your employees are grateful to work for you. But you have a small office, and you all see one another every day, so for festivities, stick to the company picnic and the Christmas party.