Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week’s chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Boyfriend's Old Emails Cause Drama: I met my fiancé at a house party. I was there with my best friend, who happens to be gorgeous. He began talking to us and kept talking to me after my best friend left. We made plans to hang out later, and over the next three months our friendship evolved into a wonderful relationship. Recently my fiancé and his good friend had a falling out, and in an act of spite his friend forwarded me a series of emails from around the time we first met. By reading them I learned that, initially, my fiancé only spent time with me because he wanted to have a shot with my best friend. He called me plain, repetitive, and mildly annoying. I know those aren't harsh criticisms, and that they come from the first few days of our friendship. But I'm still upset, because those are my worst fears about myself, and it hurts to know that the person I'm marrying thought those things about me too. My fiancé couldn't be more apologetic, and he's been very sweet and reassuring to me since I received the emails. (He didn't say those things out of hand, they were answers when his friend asked him about me.) I know he loves me so much. I still can't put those emails out of my mind, though—what can I do to get back to being a happy bride-to-be?
A: The thing about love is that it's a wonder drug that makes the initially plain, slightly annoying person into the most beautiful, fascinating woman in the world. There would be far fewer happy marriages if everyone who had an initial neutral or even negative reaction to their future spouse didn't stick around to get to know each other better. I've mentioned their marriage before, but Paul and Julia Child were gloriously happy for decades. When they first met he thought she was a gawky, awkward virgin, and she thought he was a self-satisfied roué. But during the course of their friendship Cupid's dart hit—just as it has for you. Your now-fiancé, after chatting you up, still could have pursued your friend. He didn't. He probably now sees her as a really stunning woman who's just not right for him, because you are. It also seems right that he's had a falling out with his former friend, because what a jerk this guy is. Forwarding such emails in order to hurt an innocent person—well, good riddance. Humor can help here. Maybe when you find yourself nattering on about the wedding you can stop and say, "You know what, I'm finding myself to be repetitive and mildly annoying—although I do think I look pretty good." It will be a relief for the two of you two laugh about how a great romance got its start.
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Q. Leave Mistress Daughter Out of My Will?: I was married for over three decades, and my husband was never faithful to me. I chose to stay with him for personal reasons, but I still think poorly of those who date and pursue married people. Since his death, I have invested the money my husband left me, and I've nurtured it into a small fortune. I planned to leave my three children a portion of my estate, donating the rest to various charities. But now my youngest daughter has moved in with a married man; he left his wife and his young children to be with her. I know from speaking with her that she feels no responsibility toward the destruction of his marriage; according to her, happy husbands don't stray. I love my youngest daughter very much, but her actions anger and disappoint me. I no longer want to leave her anything when I die. I've told myself that children shouldn't live in expectation that their parents will leave them money when they die. But I recognize that I might be blinded by bitterness towards my husband. What is the right thing to do?
A: Like father, like daughter. I wonder if she absorbed the lesson from her father that fidelity is for chumps. Since I think personalities are born and made, she and your husband may share the trait of not taking responsibility for their actions. I can understand your dislike for people who get involved with married people, but the transgressor in your marriage was your late husband. And whatever your reasons, you decided to put up with him, instead of end it, for 30 years. People have affairs and marriages do break up, but your daughter's attitude is rather chilling. She is an adult, and you don't want to and can't dictate how she lives her life. But you can have a blunt conversation with her about how your father's infidelity darkened yours and say to her it pains you to see her be a party to the end of a marriage. At the least, say that she must extend her sympathy to the children who are in terrible pain and who are going to be spending a lot of time in her home. Your money is just that—yours. You don't say you expect to depart any time soon, so you don't have to make a decision now about how to spread your wealth. Since you have enough for lawyer's fees, you can also alter your will as often as you see fit. Your daughter's new relationship might not last and she might reform. It might last and she might be a loving stepmother. Let this play out before you make your last will and testament.
Q. Confronted About Old Affair: A few days ago my new co-worker "Ralph" cornered me in the break room and told me he knew all about"the real me." It turns out that Ralph is a good friend of "Cindy," the woman I cheated on my wife with eight years ago. I thought I loved Cindy and told her so. I was a terrible human being at the time, and I was lucky my wife would have anything to do with me after she discovered the affair. I dedicated myself to saving our marriage and becoming a better person. Accordingly, I abruptly ended my relationship with Cindy and never looked back. I truly believe I am a different person than I was at the time I cheated. Ralph doesn't think so, though. He obviously dislikes me, but we're going to have to work together. I'm also worried Ralph will tell our co-workers what he thinks of me and why. How should I handle this situation? Cindy has apparently exaggerated aspects of our relationship, like how long we were together, and from what Ralph says she's still fairly angry with me. That's worrisome.
A: Your co-workers know you. And if you are transformed as you say, they know you as a decent man with a happy marriage. Suddenly, here arrives this new guy, who obviously has it in for you. If he explains why to everyone, "Didn't you know that eight years ago Dennis cheated on his wife, then dumped the woman he was cheating with, even though he told her he loved her?" your colleagues will want him to put a sock in it. You need to calmly pull Ralph aside and say that your conversation with him was disturbing, but you don't intend to discuss your personal life with him or anybody else at the office. Say you sincerely hope he can put his hostility aside because your workplace values cooperation. As for Cindy, sure she was hurt. But anyone having an affair with a married man has to be prepared to be unceremoniously dumped if her lover realizes he actually prefers his wife. If she hasn't gotten any perspective on this in almost a decade, then she needs better friends than Ralph—friends who can tell her she sounds pathetic.
Q. Thanks From the Parents of “My Friend's Dad Hugs Me Too Much”: Thank you for advising my teenage daughter to tell her mom and me about her friend's touchy-feely dad when she wrote into you a few weeks ago. After several long discussions, my wife and I spoke to a police officer about our concerns. We were worried the police would scoff at our daughter's experiences, because nothing strictly criminal occurred, but the officer took our concerns very seriously. We have since discovered that this man has been harassing another of his daughter's friends; but instead of stopping at hugs, he sent her pictures of his genitals as well as sexually explicit emails. My wife and I could not be more grateful to you for giving our daughter the push she needed to confide in us.
A: Thank you so much for letting us know what happened, and I'm so glad your daughter got the courage to speak up. One's heart has to break for the daughter of this fiend. I hope the community can reach out to this girl and support her—presumably her father is headed toward prosecution. And this just confirms that creeps taking advantage of minors should be reported to the authorities. It's very likely, as in this case, that your kid is not the only one.
Q. Gun at Job: I just finished my first year of law school and have my first legal job. So far everything is difficult —but it should be, it is part of the learning curve. The other day I was doing some filing and I found a handgun in a drawer. I've never been exposed to guns before and I don't know if it was loaded or not. I am scared of this gun because I use the filing cabinets all the time and I do not want to set it off unintentionally. Also, tempers run very high in this office and I am afraid that somebody who knows it is there might use it for dangerous purposes. I am lucky to have this job and I need it for the pay and experience. I am hesitant to bring this up to my job-placement office because my boss will absolutely know it was me who brought this up. I am hesitant to ask my boss directly because I do not want to appear weak or difficult. What is your advice?
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