Dear Prudence: My girlfriend gets upset if I ever mention my late wife.

Help! My Girlfriend Freaks Out Whenever I Mention My Late Wife.

Help! My Girlfriend Freaks Out Whenever I Mention My Late Wife.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 20 2012 5:45 AM

The Only One—Or Else

My girlfriend has a fit whenever I mention my late wife. What should I do?

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Dear Prudence,
My husband has a brother, "Tim," who has always hated my husband. I tried to make peace with Tim but concluded that he is twisted and miserable. For a long time, nothing made him happier than causing us pain or driving a wedge between us and the rest of the family. At my in-laws' request, we kept any good news—promotions, awards, vacations—secret from Tim because these would send him into a downward spiral. Still, his rages ruined most family events, and he made snide comments to me from across the dinner table. Then Tim met a woman. At age 40 he married and evened out emotionally. It has been several years since he threw a tantrum, and in front of his wife he is on best behavior. The family is overjoyed. I would be, too, if it weren't for a strange new development: Tim has taken an inordinate interest in my young daughter. He fawns over and dotes on her, and she adores him. The family thinks their closeness is wonderful and bridges the rift between brothers. To me it seems sinister. I recently learned that my mother-in-law has been taking my daughter to see Tim without my knowledge. She says it's his right to see his niece, but I don't think anyone who can barely speak to me should be hanging out with my child. Is this worth reigniting a family war over? Somehow I think that's exactly what he wants.

—Brother-in-law Blues

Dear Blues,
The kind of dramatic personality change you describe is unusual, so I was so excited to read that someone who had been so mired in hatred and jealousy could make such a startling mid-course correction. Then you threw in a spanner. I don’t think that every male adult who takes an interest in a child is up to no good. However, I agree with you that Tim’s focus on your daughter is likely not benign. Given the long, obsessive abhorrence Tim had for his brother and you, I would not be surprised if he was playing out some kind of sick, possibly sexual, long con with your child. Also disturbing is your in-laws’ history of toadying to Tim’s insanity, particularly as it involves your husband. Your mother-in-law has been keeping these visits secret because she knew you would rightly object. But she doesn’t want anyone to get in the way of making her little Timmy happy. You and your husband should immediately suspend any contact between your child and his family that is unsupervised by one of you. If this does result in a resumption of Tim’s hostilities, then it’s time for an break in those jolly family get-togethers.



Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have friends out of town whom we stay with occasionally. My husband has a bad back and he wants to tell them "tactfully" that they need a better mattress in their guest bedroom. He says their other guests must feel the same way. I say there’s no way to say this tactfully and we should just stay in a hotel. Who’s right?

—Just Back Away

Dear Back,
If your husband tells your hosts that their lousy bed cuts short his visit and those of their other guests, I’m sure they will murmur appropriate concern. Then when they’re alone they will high-five each other and vow never to replace that mattress.


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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.