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My boyfriend of two years says that he will not ask me to marry him unless I take a lie detector test to pinpoint the truth about certain things that have gone on in our relationship. I have been faithful and honest to him throughout the time we have been dating, with the exception of getting caught in some white lies about things that occurred before we were together. He says that if I have lied about little things, then I could lie about big things, and he needs to know he can trust me. I've always been of the mind-set that what happened before you were with your partner is not really their business and doesn't affect the relationship. I refuse under any circumstances to take the test. I've made sacrifices and compromises to keep him happy, but his request is completely unreasonable, isn't it? Is it a sign of overall problems? What should I do?
—Am I Crazy?
Your boyfriend is onto something. Before committing to marriage, I think everyone should have their sphincter activity monitored in response to important questions. That way, you establish a baseline of trust. So surely your boyfriend would be willing to be hooked up to a lie detector and asked the following: "Are you a pathologically controlling sicko?" "Do you think of yourself as more of a boyfriend or parole officer?" "In your best judgment, would marriage to you be a living hell?" I'm going to assume that you got caught in some "white lies" because your boyfriend was prying about previous lovers and you knew from experience that if you gave him any names, you would be mercilessly grilled. You should have just told him, "This is none of your business." But as you've discovered, the longer you stay with a crazy, manipulative person, the more you lose touch with normal behavior and begin to doubt your own sanity. Your boyfriend has done you a great favor by insisting on the lie detector. This has revealed to you that the most important question to be asked is the one you put to yourself, which is "What did I ever see in this lunatic?"
Dear Prudence Video: My Son's Slutty New Stepmother!
After many years of not exercising, eating poorly, and being overweight, my father had a heart attack two years ago caused by untreated type 2 diabetes. He luckily made a great recovery and began eating right. However, in the second year things have changed for the worse, and he has gained back a lot of weight. He rewards himself for eating well by bingeing on junk. Recently, he ate my sister's entire birthday cake. When she confronted him, he became extremely defensive and went into a screaming rage. I don't think he's seen his cardiologist this year, and my mother has all but given up trying to reason with him. We are all going on vacation over Christmas to a part of the world where there isn't great medical care, and we'll be doing a lot of hiking. I am very worried about my dad's condition. But the subject is basically off-limits, especially since he's a doctor! How can I bring this up with him in a way that doesn't cause World War III?
—Dad's in Denial
It's normal for people to hate having a chronic illness and to rebel against its restrictions. My colleague Hanna Rosin just wrote about her loathing of the continuous glucose monitor she wears to help keep her diabetes in check. In an interview in the New York TimesDr. Julian Seifter, who is diabetic, talks about his own struggles to be compliant and how his disease has helped him to understand why his chronically ill patients don't always take his advice. However, your father is taking his rebellion to suicidal lengths. Your family needs to convene a pow-wow in which you tell him that although he is a grown man (and a doctor!), because you love him, you can't stand by while he drives himself to another heart attack or a coma. Tell him his death or disability would have terrible consequences for all of you, and right now you're all scared. Say that before you go on Christmas vacation, he must check in with his own doctor, because you are all afraid of the possibility that he might need a medical evacuation from a Third World country. Your mother should say that if he won't see his doctor, she will make an appointment herself to talk about her concerns. And if rages and juvenile behavior—such as gobbling his daughter's whole birthday cake—are new, this is something that needs to be brought to the attention of his physician. If he's behaving truly bizarrely, his own medical practice could be in jeopardy.
I've been working for a small, privately owned company for 10 years. I haven't gotten a raise in the entire time. We recently had a company meeting at which we were told we will be picking up a lot more of the costs for our medical plan and that we are all expected to increase our donations to the company's annual charity drive. Employee contributions to this charity are mandatory, and every year we're asked to increase our donation by 10 percent over the previous year in the form of a payroll deduction. The cause is fine, but I prefer to give to a couple of organizations that are dearer to my heart. In previous years, I've reluctantly contributed the majority of my charitable donations to the corporate charity and then written smaller checks to my organizations. I don't have as much to give this year, so I'd rather just support my charities. How can I do that without being the ungrateful employee? Can I say no?
—It's My Money
Ah, the spirit of voluntary, mandatory giving! It's nice that your office has a cause it supports. What's not so nice is the implicit threat that if you don't fork over a portion of your salary, things might not go so well for you in the coming year. I spoke to employment law attorney Dennis Strazulo, and he said once your employer pays your wages, they do not then have a claim on how you spend your money, even if it's for the world's best cause. (I assume this "mandatory" payroll deduction is actually done with your agreement, however reluctant. If not, everyone at the company should band together to get the unauthorized deductions stopped.) If you declined to donate and then found yourself the recipient of workplace retribution because of it, Strazulo says you'd have grounds for a wrongful termination suit. However, he adds that the potential of a successful lawsuit working its way through the system is not as pleasing as holding onto a good job. So I reluctantly advise that you continue to reluctantly give. But feel free to make it some nominal weekly amount—even $1 to $2 a week will add up to a decent year-end donation. And if that's not generous enough for the powers that be, calmly explain that right now, it's the best you can do.
I recently graduated from college, got a great job, and moved to a new city a few hours away from home. Around the same time, my parents downsized to a smaller house and bought a vacation home. Now when I go home for holidays, I don't have a room, and my parents seem annoyed by my mere presence. If I ever try to stay longer than the weekend, they essentially tell me to go back. Should I just accept this rejection from my formerly tight-knit, loving parents? Their efforts to crowd me out of the family hurt my feelings. I suspect they are over their parenting phase of life and basically want me to leave them alone. Their attitude makes me not want to go home for Christmas at all, but that would mean spending it alone, seeing as the rest of my friends have families who are excited to see them.
—Rejected for the Holidays
I hope you do make it home to bunk on your parents' couch for the holidays, and I hope that instead of silently seething at being treated as if you have bedbugs, you sit down with them and tell them how you feel. I can't believe that formerly loving parents "are over their parenting phase of life." Loving parents never get over being parents—sure, relationships change and mature, but parental love does not end with the last tuition payment. What may seem like rejection to you may be the fact that now that they have minimal space, they are unused to sharing it even with the most beloved person in their lives. Explain to them that it feels to you as if you're no longer welcome in their home and they're eager for your visits to end—and that hurts. Say you need them to be honest with you about what's going on. If it's that they feel cramped when you visit and would like you to stay in a hotel or at a friend's house, it's a lot better to know that than to be speculating that they just wish you'd move on.
More Dear Prudence Columns
"A Cornucopia of Crises: Prudie takes on Thanksgiving quandaries involving uninvited guests, the ghosts of holidays past, and exiled smokers." Posted Nov. 18, 2010.
"Bob & Carol & Ted & Malice: My parents' swinger friends are trying to blackmail our family after Mom and Dad's tragic deaths." Posted Sept. 30, 2010.
"No Debt of Gratitude: I borrowed cash from Dad to care for my dying mom. Now he's demanding payback." Posted Aug. 12, 2010.
"Dirty Pretty Things: My girlfriend has worn the same undergarment for weeks. Isn't that disgusting?" Posted Aug. 27, 2009.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
"The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving: Prudie counsels readers on Turkey Day predicaments, such as flying solo for the holiday, hosting irritating in-laws, and attending multiple dinners. Posted Nov. 22, 2010.
"Baby Mama Drama: Prudie counsels a sleuth who uncovered a baby-trap scheme—and other advice-seekers." Posted Nov. 1, 2010.
"The Family That Bathes Together: Prudie counsels a mother who wonders when the time is right to stop bathing with her little boy." Posted Oct. 12, 2010.
"Help! I'm Too Hot for My Age: Prudie counsels a woman whose youthful looks bring her nothing but problems—and other advice seekers." Posted Feb. 8, 2010.
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