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. Send questions to Prudence at email@example.com.)
Q. Don't Save the Date?: I am engaged and am getting married this fall. I sent out "save the dates" a few months ago and have now realized that I made a big mistake. I had invited a woman from work who I became really close with—we have taken a trip together, gone to concerts, movies, dinners. I considered her to be one of my closest friends. Well, in the past few months, she has stopped talking to me at all. Where we used to email, hang out, have lunch every day—now, nothing. I really am not comfortable sending her an invitation but don't know how to handle this. I should have probably waited to send out save the dates to work people, or not sent them at all.
A: A "save the date" is a commitment, but there's probably a loophole for people who upon receiving the card start pretending you don't exist. You act as if the reason for her sudden silence is a mystery to you, but this woman is a co-worker as well as a friend, so you need to have an actual conversation (if she'll agree to talk) to try to find out what's gone wrong. Surely this sudden chill is awkward at work. If she won't give you a hint and you can't come to some understanding, do say at the end of the conversation that you must sadly recognize the friendship is over, so you will assume she'd prefer not to be burdened with a wedding invitation.
Q. My Friend, the Mistress: My lifelong friend has recently revealed to me that she has been dating a significantly older man for a few years now. He happens to be married and has several teenage children (for perspective, we are in our late 20s). I believe my friend kept this relationship a secret out of fear that I would judge her, or worse, confront her on what I consider to be her unethical behavior. If so, she's right! Now I don't know how to be around her because I am shocked that she sees no problem playing "the other woman," and I simply cannot support this relationship. I feel as though I have to confront her about this affair, especially since many of our friends have known about it for a while and have said nothing to her, but I'm not sure how to go about doing it without coming across as sanctimonious and judgmental. I also don't want to destroy a 22-year friendship. Any advice on how to proceed?
A: You're lifelong friends and she's now, finally, confided in you that she's having an affair with a married man. That entitles you to act like a friend and express your concerns. You're right, you're not going to get anywhere by being sanctimonious. But you can say you understand while something like this sounds exciting in a lot of ways, you worry there's a likely way this is going to go. She ends up getting hurt and looks back and wishes she hadn't gotten involved with someone married. Then, you've said your piece. If she's not asking you to "support" her, then talk about other things when having a discussion of her personal life. But if she feels you aren't being a good friend by refusing to listen to the exciting details or that this love affair is just too big for you to understand, then you should tell her while you don't want to spend a lot of time judging her, you don't want to feel judged in turn.
Q. Performance Anxiety: A great resource (besides a good therapist) for dealing with the unreasonable expectations that you have internalized from your upbringing is Feeling Good by David Burns. It lays out steps for retraining yourself.
A: Thanks. Many readers recommend this book.
Q. Postdated Wedding: I have been a bridesmatron several times in the last two years and love assisting my friends on their big days. Weddings are wonderful, but attending so many has made me regret my decision not to have one because I became pregnant while dating my boyfriend of five years. My family convinced me that having one would be inappropriate for religious and social reasons. It's been two years and I'm legally married and have a happy son and healthy family. Still, I sometimes buy magazines and plan a "dream wedding" I can't have. Is it ever appropriate to have a wedding years after you've been legally married?
A: Your family was wrong about your being a pregnant bride, but your taking their advice has saved everyone many thousands of dollars that I hope are going to the raising of your child. While I admit I sometimes enjoy re-enactments on reality crime shows, I don't enjoy them in real life. No one is going to get excited about hauling themselves to the "dream wedding" of someone who's been married for a couple of years. You're married—that's the point of the wedding, so you've gotten that out of the way. Many women buy Vogue, etc. to indulge in fantasies of what it would be like to have an unlimited designer wardrobe, for example. If "planning" a fantasy wedding gives you pleasure, fine. But if reading bridal magazines is making you stew about the lack of tulle in your life, start reading the Economist instead. (And I will note that an exception of my dislike of wedding re-dos is for people who have quickie ceremonies prior to being deployed by the military who want to have the big event when they get back home.)
Q. From Save the Date: The silence is definitely a mystery. I am terrible at confrontation, so I will admit I have been avoiding any interaction with her once I realized the silence was there. I will have to figure out some way to approach her. Would an email to her personal email account be the coward's way out?
A: I will pass on that readers are suggesting the silence may be around the fact that you are a bridezilla, only concerned with your wedding planning. Could that be the case? Even if it is, a sudden freeze seems like an overreaction.
Not many people love confrontations, but when a good friend suddenly and inexplicably goes to radio silence, an email is not the way to deal with it. You simply need to go to her and say: "Sandy, what day this week can you have lunch? We need to talk." Then you tell her you miss her as a friend, you don't understand what happened, and you hope your friendship can get back on track.