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.)
A: When the two of you are in front of the CEO, you say to her, "Melissa, this is my wife, Sandy. I think you two met at the picnic last summer." And then when you're talking to the marketing director, Bill, your wife should be ready to step up, stick out her hand, and say, "Bill, hi, I'm Sandy Wilson, Jim Wilson's wife." Then Bill will say, "Of course, Sandy, good to see you again!" while he is saying to himself, "Bless you for telling me your name."
Q. Casual Drink: I have been married for 19 years, we dated for six years prior to getting married. I recently had a conversation with a man that I have done business with off and on over the years, he told me he has always found me attractive, and if my marital situation ever changed, he would like to give me a call. I was very flattered. Ever since then, I can't seem to get him off of my mind. I run into him quite often shopping or running errands, and we always chat. I think I just didn't think about being attractive to other men after being married to my husband (and dating) for so long. I keep thinking, what would be the harm in going and having a drink with this man, just for fun? I know I am just trying to feed my ego, but is that so wrong?
A: The change this guy is seeking in your marital situation is that you'd like to give infidelity a try. You may be flattered, but it would probably be best to assume that he tries this gambit with many women who cross his path. Ninety-nine out of 100 give him a verbal slap-off, but if he can get that 100th into bed, it was worth it. A long-term marriage is a good institution for many things, but it's very bad for igniting the kind of feelings stirred up by the prospect of illicit sex with a new partner. Of course, illicit sex with a new partner tends to stir up all sorts of other things in a long-term marriage. If you want to feed your ego, try doing something new (a pottery class, volunteering at a food kitchen) that doesn't involve getting naked with a business acquaintance.
Q. Love and STDs: I am a HSV carrier (that's herpes). I don't have outbreaks, but there is a small chance I could pass it on. I recently met a man, and it seemed we hit it off and there was the possibility of a real relationship. When I told him of my status he decided he "could have loved me if not for that." I am devastated. But he "still wants me in his life." I feel creeped out even being near him now, but others have suggested I should "understand" his position. I don't want to be around someone who feels superior to me and thinks I am a leper. Who's right?
A: No one's right or wrong. You did the honest, brave, correct thing by letting him know this and so he could make a decision about what level of risk he wanted to take. It turns out someone you've just started seeing doesn't want to go all the way. Try not to be devastated over a relationship that's only in the "might-have been" stage. But since you were interested in a romance, you're not up for turning this into a platonic friendship. So tell him you respect his choice, but you two need to go your separate ways. There are estimates that about 25 percent of the adult population has herpes, so you have a good chance of meeting someone for whom this isn't an issue.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, all. I'll be away next week (working on grammar lessons) so talk to you in two weeks.