Dear Prudence: Should a dying husband confess infidelity?

Advice on manners and morals.
June 27 2011 3:35 PM

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Dear Prudence advises a dying husband on whether to confess his infidelity—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

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A: But the daughter has confided in the mother's friend, which means she's looking for help. Some readers are saying to leave the friend out of the discussion so it's not seen as a betrayal. I totally understand that perspective. The mother could say, "Let's talk about what's going on at school. I've noticed you don't spend much time with friends," may work. But it's also possible the teenager told the mother's friend because she didn't know how to "let down" her mother that the happy face she was presenting at home wasn't the whole story.

Q. Depressed Daughter—It's HER Friend, Not an Adult: It's a friend of the DAUGHTER who told the mother, not one of the mother's adult friends.

A: Thanks—got to watch the speed reading! Ignore previous advice! And obviously the daughter has at least one friend. In this case, the mother will know if the daughter actually spends time with friends or spends all her time alone. It also could be that the daughter was confessing a bout of unhappiness that has passed. This friend could be someone who is letting the mother know the daughter is more troubled that she appears, or she could be melodramatizing regular teenage angst. In this case, the mother—who has a good relationship with her daughter—should be more persistent. In the end, the mother might need to say she heard from this friend because there may be some strange back story there.

Q. Wedding Invitation After a Death: I was hoping you could resolve a small debate I am having with my aunt about a wedding invitation. Last fall, my parents received a "save the date" card to an out-of-town wedding from the daughter of a family friend who was getting married in May of this year. Unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and passed away in March of this year. The wedding came and went, with no invitation ever being sent to my dad. Here is the debate: I feel that regardless of what happened with my mom and her illness, the couple should have sent an official invitation to the wedding since they sent the "save the date" card. My aunt thinks that they didn't have to send the invitation because they knew what our family was going through with the loss of my mom. I can see this both ways but ultimately feel that it should be my father's decision to attend or decline. This is really trivial in regards to how we are all still feeling, but I would still like your expert opinion. Thanks.

A: Your aunt is surely right that the invitation didn't come because the friends felt it would be in bad taste to ask your father to come celebrate while he was in mourning. But you are more right that they should have sent the invitation anyway and let your father decide. It should have been sent with a note to your father saying something like, "We are heartbroken at the loss of your beloved Cynthia. We understand how difficult this time is for you, Harry, but if you are up to it, we would be so happy to have you join us at Victoria's wedding. If you can't make it, we will all get together as soon as we can arrange it."

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Q. In Vitro Dad: My wife is pregnant, via IVF. Our first child is an IVF baby. I love her very much. But I didn't want to go that route again. I gave in to my wife and now our next child is coming. Sometimes, I feel like conceiving in this manner is a personal failing. We have not told many that we are pregnant. My wife wants to keep the means of pregnancy a secret, but I feel like telling people it was IVF, every time I hear a word of congratulations. Please give me the right perspective.

A: Dad, there is so much misperspective in your letter I don't know where to begin. Please let go of the idea of "giving in" to your wife about using fertility treatments. If you never wanted children at all, that is something you two needed to clarify before you started reproducing. But if your concern is over the means of production, stop being ridiculous. No one signs up for IVF unless they're unable to have success the old-fashioned way. This technology is a blessing that has allowed you to be parents. Once you are parents it doesn't matter if your children came via the missionary position, a Petri dish, an adoption agency, or the stork. They're your kids. How you conceived them is so profoundly no one else's business that you are embarrassing yourself and your friends by wanting to blurt it out. Please concentrate on being the best husband and father you can be, and get help if you remain obsessed about the assistance you've gotten from people in lab coats.

Q. Baltimore, Md.: I've been with my boyfriend for 4.5 years. I've been ready to get married for well over a year. A year ago we had a discussion and he said he thought he wanted to get married but just wasn't ready yet. Fast forward a year in which we attempted counseling together, worked through a pre-marriage book to work on communication, and he is still "not ready yet" and can't give me an answer as to why he's not ready, when he might be, or what he's doing to come up with an answer to these questions. I believe he loves me but he has issues from his parents' divorce that he's not willing/able to work through. We're in our early 30s, and I want to have children. At this point giving more time for him to "get there" just doesn't seem fair to me. What can I do?

A: You can be patient and respect his timetable and "issues," which of course might mean that you end up having issues of your own—like your need to keep the air conditioning on high because of your hot flashes. The guy may love you (you don't sound positive), but he has made it clear every way possible he's not going to marry you. I get a variation of your heartbreaking letter all the time: man with endless horizon for childbearing stringing along a woman whose eggs are about to expire. It's a terrible dilemma to wonder if you have enough time to find someone else who will want children with you, or you should continue to throw your lot in with the guy who just might come around. I say don't go through life passively waiting for others to want you. Tell him you're moving on.

Q. Daycare Provider Passed Away: This is so awkward, I'm finding it hard to actually write. We found out this weekend that our daycare provider passed away. Since my husband was planning to quit his job in the fall when one of our large debts would be paid off, he has instead decided to put his notice in now since finding good, affordable care in our area requires months of advance searching. Here is the awkward part. We have a large deposit, plus a week's advance pay, with the provider who has passed, and money is about to get extremely tight. Since this was home care, how long should we wait, and how do we ask her husband for a refund? We loved their family dearly and I wish we could afford to just leave it alone, but we really can't. Please let me know how to proceed in this awful situation.

A: You write a note about what she meant. You bring a casserole. You attend her funeral. Then wait about three weeks and mail him a letter saying you would give anything not to be having to write this, but you know he must be closing up the business and unfortunately you need your deposit and advance payment returned. Enclose the paperwork to make it easier for him. And reiterate how much his wife meant to all of you.

Q. Lying to a Dying Woman: My mother has a terminal illness and does not have much time left. She said it is her final wish to have an elaborate Buddhist funeral after she dies. I gave her a noncommittal answer but she continues to press this point. This is something that is significantly meaningful for her, yet I see it as a complete waste of money. We had a huge ritualistic funeral for my father (mainly for my mother's benefit) and all of us siblings still feel resentful for spending so much money that could have gone towards the living (my daughter's college fund, for instance). Will it be a terrible thing to do to tell my mother what she wants to hear, and have a more modest funeral after she passes? I believe it's entirely possible to say a respectful goodbye without all the Buddhist rituals that she wants.

A: A sad theme is emerging in this chat. Many people get satisfaction from planning their own funeral. But when you plan something designed to make your loved ones miserable and broke, there seems to be a lack of recognition that you actually won't be there to enjoy the production.