A: Friends like this give opposite-sex friendships a bad name. Your spouse may be ineffectually rebuffing these moves in your presence, but it wouldn't make me too confident about what was going on when I wasn't around. Your spouse is "willing" to tell the friend not to act as if they are a couple—how thoughtful! If the friend can't respect the boundaries of your marriage, then that opposite-sex person has already jettisoned this friendship. And if your spouse doesn't see how insulting this is to you, your spouse is putting more than the friendship at stake.
Q. Re: Bigoted?: I agree that the gentleman should leave Audrey alone; there's really no way that's going to work out. But calling him "bigoted" for adhering faithfully to the precepts of his religion is bizarre. The purported bigot didn't even stoop to name-calling. You did.
A: That's right, I think he's a bigot. I spent a day in synagogue yesterday reading the Bible, and it casually makes reference to people having slaves and multiple wives. That doesn't mean we think that's fine today.
Q. Baby Things: My SIL had her first child recently and I miscarried my second child. We're planning to try for a baby again next year. My SIL knows about my miscarriage and has been badgering me to lend her baby items and clothes because we're not using it at the moment. I've politely declined and instead gave her a $250 voucher for a baby shop. She keeps saying she doesn't want to waste money buying baby things and insists I should share what I'm not using right now. I know how much baby things wear and tear and I don't want my future child to use thirdhand items used by both his/her brother and cousin. Am I being selfish?
A: Your sister-in-law is badgering you to give her your possessions, so you don't have to worry about being the one who is rude. If she brings it up again tell her the subject (and the clothing store) is closed.
Q. Family Etiquette?: I am a recently-remarried widow with two college-age children from my first marriage of 20 years. The issue I'm having is with my former mother-in-law. Shortly after my late husband passed away from cancer she turned hostile and cold toward me—blaming me for the death, the funeral wasn't just right, the obituary wasn't right, everything I had done for the 20 years I was married to her son just wasn't ever right, I didn't grieve long enough for her, I was moving on with life just too fast, etc. Obviously this was toxic for me in my life/grief recovery and I terminated contact with her after one of her crazy phone rants. Now over five years later, she still says distorted things as fact about me and the past situations to my children whenever she can. Most of that family knows it's not true, but no one would dare to disagree to her face. Despite all of her nastiness, should I reach out to reconnect with her for the sake of my children/her grandchildren, or is it best left as is? And if I do make a phone call, what points should I make initially? Would love your advice on this.
A: How horrible that you were subjected to this abuse at a time of great loss. It would be one thing if your former mother-in-law was so unhinged by her understandable grief that she mentally lost it. But that would mean that she came to her senses and apologized to you. Instead, it sounds as if she is an impossible, if not malevolent person, everyone knows it, and no one wants to confront her. You mention in passing that she is still in touch with your children, so you have been generous enough not to ask them to cut off their relationship with her. I hope you've explained to them why you can no longer have contact with their grandmother and that they should ignore the toxic things she says about you. You've just entered a happy new phase of your life, so I don't see any reason why you need to let her poison seep in. She can have her own relationship with your kids. You shouldn't feel guilty about keeping her at arm's length.
Q. Sporadic Father: I was falling in love with my divorced boyfriend of six months when he told me he had three kids whom he only sees sporadically. He said he never mentioned them before because some women balk at dating a father. What's turning me off is his blasé attitude toward fatherhood. He told me he moved across the country after divorcing his wife and that his kids vacation with him for a few weeks during the summer. Otherwise they Skype a few times a month and stay in contact via email. He chose to move so far away from his children because he needed a change of pace after his divorce. I can't believe his kids are such an insignificant part of his life that he never mentioned them before! Some girlfriends think it's overreacting to dump him because of this, but I don't see how I could be with a man who left his kids. What's your opinion?
A: Kids, what a bummer. And they’re so immature! Given the chance to have a real “change of pace” who wouldn’t blow them off? It’s pretty staggering that the little fact of having three children didn’t come up during the six months of your courtship. Sure, some women may balk at dating a father, so that father should balk at dating those women. Like you, I would balk at dating a man who thought so little of me, and his children, that he would withhold the information of their existence from me, and so much of his time and love from them.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.