Advice for lovers struggling with illness, fidelity, and lies.

Advice for lovers struggling with illness, fidelity, and lies.

Advice for lovers struggling with illness, fidelity, and lies.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 11 2010 7:01 AM

Matters of the Heart

Prudie offers advice for lovers struggling with illness, fidelity, and lies.

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Prudie will not host a live chat at Washingtonpost.com Monday, Feb. 15, due to the Presidents Day holiday. She'll be back online Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.

Dear Prudence,
I have a married female friend. She and I were teen sweethearts (no sex involved) who lost touch when I left for military service. We have since reconnected and realize we love each other deeply. Her husband has Alzheimer's, and even before it struck, he was not very interested in sex and had problems performing, so sex has been out of her life for many years. She is a vibrant, sensual woman with a strong sex drive and laments not having a partner. We are principled people, and it would be unfathomable for her to leave her husband, who requires her care. We are not intimate now but want to know, is it permissible for a woman to indulge her sexual needs with a man she loves since she cannot get that satisfaction within the confines of her marriage?

—Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,
When Sandra Day O'Connor's now-late husband was deep in the grip of Alzheimer's, he fell in love with a fellow patient. O'Connor was humane enough to celebrate this connection, because she saw that it brought contentment to her beloved husband. I would hope anyone would understand that a healthy spouse should be extended the same compassion. I'm certainly not going to begrudge you two the chance to fully love each other, especially since she will continue to honor her obligations to her gravely ailing spouse. (You don't say that you're married, so I'm assuming—and don't make a fool of me—that you're single.) One of the cruelties of Alzheimer's is that while it can quickly destroy the victim's mind, it can take years to kill the body. It is unfair to expect your friend to wither away herself because she took a vow to a person who is ceasing to exist. I imagine most of your friends will be sympathetic about this. Let's hope those who aren't never find themselves in a similar situation.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I'm interested in a girl, and I think she might be into me, but I'm not entirely sure. I've decided to ask her out, and I thought Valentine's Day could provide a good opportunity. I want to send her a small gift and a note, but I'm not sure whether I should be up front and sign it, or leave it anonymous and let her think about it for a bit before I tell her it was me. Do girls go for the "secret admirer" thing, or is it just creepy?

—Secret Admirer

Dear Secret,
Let's call you "Jude." If you go for the anonymous Valentine's gambit, you're taking a gamble. It's possible that the object of your desire, receiving your tantalizing gift, would excitedly think to herself, Oh, my goodness. Maybe it's from Jude! However, you run the risk of her thoughts running, I hope this is from Joaquin. Or Keanu …Oh, no, what am I going to do if it's from Jude? The secret admirer shtick is best left to the movies. Valentine's Day is only a few days away, and it's just too freighted for you to make any kind of move now. So wait until the weekend is over—maybe this young woman will be in a post-Valentine's Day slump. Then you come along and without tricks or fanfare ask whether she'd like to go to dinner one night soon. If you're reading her right, she just might think that her romantic luck has turned for the better.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
My mother has a friend, "Alice," who is in her 40s and has never been married. She became involved with a man over Christmas, and he just surprised her with an engagement ring. Alice is enraptured. Our initial delight at this development quickly faded when we began to hear more about him. "Brian" supposedly attended my alma mater and was such a football star that he was drafted by the NFL. He says he then became a military jet pilot instructor and claims to still teach at the flight base every weekend. He says he is very wealthy but decided he wanted to "do away with the material aspects of his life" and got a job at a hardware store. I did some checking and could find no evidence that Brian played football at my college or professionally, and there is no airport runway, let alone a flight base, in or near the city where he says he teaches. I want to create an untraceable e-mail account and forward Alice all the information I have found; my mother thinks we should see how the relationship progresses. She feels Alice will eventually figure out his story is a pack of lies. I am less sure. Is there any way to stop this con man before he gets whatever he wants from our friend?

—Googling Daughter

Dear Googling,
In this case, willful ignorance will lead to woeful knowledge. How beautiful it will be when Brian says to Alice that before they exchange rings, they should give each other another token of their love—and he presents her with a heart-shaped pin, while she gives him the PIN to her bank account. I doubt this guy knows how to fly a plane, but once he clears out her savings, he will definitely be flying the coop—possibly to the wife he already spends his weekends with. You should print out the evidence you have gathered about football rosters, and your mother should sit down with Alice. Your mother should explain that this is a difficult conversation, but that you were so excited to hear you and Brian share an alma mater that you wanted to look up his accomplishments. Instead, all you found is that his football stories are a feint. Since he sounds like a sociopath, I'm sure if Alice asks him, he'll have another cover story—probably something to do with his years in the CIA. At that point, you will have done everything you can to protect Alice, and it will be her choice whether to stay in wonderland.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I are seniors in college, and after we graduate we are taking our relationship to the next level in terms of planning for long-term commitment. Since we started dating, we've been nonmonogamous sexually while remaining romantically exclusive. Lately I've started to feel that I don't want to continue nonmonogamy. It's not that I don't trust him, and I'm not jealous; I just feel that if we decide to make our relationship last, and perhaps marry, I'd like to change our sexual lifestyle accordingly. I am pretty sure he doesn't agree, based on comments he's made and discussions we've had, and I'd feel horribly guilty making him do so. We're both analytical, open, and frank with each other, and this is the only big thing I've ever kept from him. Rationally, I know my feelings are silly, so how do I overcome the irrational idea that we should alter a major facet of our relationship just because we're no longer in college?

—Toning It Down

Dear Down,
You're so concerned about appearing rational and devoid of emotion that you can't even acknowledge what you want. You want to stop sleeping with other people and your boyfriend to do the same; yet since your boyfriend likes having sex with other women, you want to figure out a way to stop feeling it's "silly" to be bothered by his screwing around. I'm intrigued by your notion of a romantically exclusive yet sexually nonmonogamous relationship. I think this is what Tiger Woods had in mind, and if he couldn't carry it off, I'm not sure even two people who approach a relationship as if it's an engineering exam will be able to do so. Stop deluding yourself about how you feel. First of all, people have emotions, and that's good—people who don't have emotions are considered disturbed. Second of all, your emotions are screaming to you that you hate all this extracurricular sex. If you can't tell your boyfriend how you feel without shame and guilt, and if he can't be sexually as well as romantically exclusive with you, then be happy you are so young and have so much time to find a man who can be.

—Prudie