Advice on manners and morals (March 6, 2008).

Advice on manners and morals.
March 6 2008 7:18 AM

It's No Secret

I told a friend her husband was hiding things from her. Now I can't handle the fallout!

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Dear Prudence,
My friend and I reconnected just over a year ago after no contact since high school. We picked up where we left off and started spending a lot of time together. She married her high-school sweetheart, and they have a beautiful daughter together. My boyfriend was telling me that he doesn't want to get married because all the married guys he knows are miserable and keep secrets from their wives. Although my friend's husband is not one of the miserable ones, he did tell my boyfriend a secret he "keeps from his wife." My boyfriend then threw this in my face during our marriage discussion, and while venting to my friend about my boyfriend, I told her. Now I feel terrible because she wants to know this secret. I don't know what the secret is, but I regret putting their relationship in turmoil. I also fear this will affect our friendship. There is no chance that this secret is infidelity. For all I know, it could be a "secret" surprise for her. She has grilled her husband, and he assures her that he has no secrets from her. I have apologized several times for mentioning it. I wasn't thinking, and I didn't think she would be this upset.  My boyfriend doesn't really remember or know the details of this "secret." How do I reassure my friend that her husband is not lying to her and convince her to let it go?

—Secret Spiller

Dear Secret,
Congratulations! In your boyfriend's quest to prove that all marriages are unhappy and built on deceit, and yours to prove that your boyfriend is a jerk for holding such views, the two of you have managed to release a plume of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere of this happy marriage. Who wouldn't be "this upset" to be told, "Oh, by the way, your husband is keeping a secret from you, but don't ask me what it is, and so, anyway, to get back to my problems …" And since you don't know what the secret is, how can you reassure her it's not infidelity? (My guess is the husband confessed he was attracted to someone else. But who knows?) About the only way you could undo this is if you were to find out that your boyfriend was fibbing, and there was no secret—that he made up the story for his own purposes. In the absence of that confession, there's nothing else you can do, so stop exacerbating things by continuing to whine about how sorry you are. I agree that you have damaged, perhaps fatally, this re-established friendship. But I see one way your friend and her husband could get back on track: when they unite in agreement that they're sorry the two of you ever came into their lives.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence Video: Touchy-Feely Father-In-Law

Dear Prudence,
I'm engaged to the most unromantic man on earth. For Valentine's Day this year, he bought me a box of wine, garlic bread (!), and a card that said, "I'm glad you're my wife," which I'm not—I'm his fiancee of two months. (He obviously didn't even read the card before he bought it.) For my birthday, I got $60 in cash. We've never been on a vacation (in four years together), he's never taken me away for the weekend, he's never surprised me with dinner reservations to a decent restaurant, and he has never sent me flowers. I've dropped hints, I've been direct, I've tried to focus on the positive, and I'm over it. And, yes, he is financially able to do something nice for me. I, on the other hand, have put lots of thought and consideration into the gifts I've given him and the surprise plans I've made for us. I've considered simply not trying anymore, I've cried, I've written him a letter letting him know that although I don't need flowers and chocolates every day, I do need to feel special every once in a while. How do you convince an otherwise charming guy that dates and romance do matter?

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—Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Dear Actions,
I do find the garlic bread a bold move for Valentine's Day. Maybe he was making a Shakespeare reference: "And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks." For the four years you've been with this guy, he has demonstrated a dunderheaded inability to act like a conventional boyfriend. Yet you say he is "charming," and you accepted his proposal. So, if you want to be married to him, and happily, you must stop thinking of his inability to do romance, presents, or even vacations as a quirk that needs fixing, because you can't fix it. Accept that if you want to go on a trip, either you plan it or you end up staying home breathing garlic on each other. But decide now if you can live with this, instead of marrying him, producing a bunch of kids, then heading to divorce court because for your anniversary he got you a savings bond.