Help! My Husband Invited a Homeless Woman To Live With Us.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 6 2012 6:00 AM

Bed Bug

My husband invited a homeless woman to live with us. Should I divorce him?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I live in a beach town where many homeless people congregate. My husband, who I have been married to for more than 40 years, is an interfaith minister and peace activist. When I was away for several weeks this summer he befriended a homeless woman. This woman is helping my husband with computer work, at which she is excellent. In return she has essentially moved in. She is 34 years old and acts like a child, complete with a little-girl voice and crying jags. I feel sorry for her, but I don’t like her. My husband says she was abused as a child and has been mistreated by the various men in her life. He is counseling her and I’m positive that there is nothing sexual in their relationship. But I’m now the bad guy because I don’t want this woman sleeping in our house; therefore, my husband says, it’s my fault if she is unsafe at night. I have a very demanding job that supports both of us, and I need my privacy. I am enraged this woman is here all day with my husband. He says I am intolerant and not following the spiritual teachings we’ve practiced all our lives. We are arguing about her constantly and I have even considered moving out and leaving him. What should I do?

—Angry and Confused

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Dear Angry,
A minister is supposed to instruct in the worship of God, not himself, so I am suspicious of his open-ended, one-to-one, in-home counseling service. Despite your avowal of your husband’s chasteness, I wouldn’t be surprised if your new guest, in her capacity as IT consultant, were servicing your husband’s hard drive while you’re out earning everyone’s keep. No doubt this woman has suffered—she didn’t end up homeless because she enjoys fresh air. But if your husband wants to aid the homeless who congregate in your town, he should do so in a way that calls on his professional training as a minister. That means he should work with social service programs to get people into housing and help them obtain the kind of psychological and work counseling that can lead to their becoming better functioning members of society. But doing that is a frustrating slog and not as kicky as having a much younger woman perform a private baby-doll act. It’s understandable you want this woman out, but your anger and vehemence are not working. Your husband wants to minister to his guest, not listen to you. So for your own blood pressure and sanity, lower your voice. Explain to your husband that while you respect his concern for the homeless, you can no longer have this stranger in your home, nor will you fight with him over her. Say that unless this woman finds other accommodations within the next two weeks, you are going to have to change your own living situation. But I don’t see why you should be the one to move out. Contact a lawyer about seeking a trial separation and ask how to go about having your husband and his ward vacate the premises. Since your husband’s spiritual convictions do not translate into being able to obtain material possessions, perhaps he will have to conduct his counseling services from a tent on the beach.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Raunchy Lesbian Co-Workers

Dear Prudence,
I am an active young-adult volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America. I am also gay but open only to my close friends and family. The BSA has ruled that open and avowed homosexuals are not permitted in the organization. Former Scout colleagues of mine (homosexual and heterosexual) refuse to support the organization or return as adult leaders because of the policy. The organization violates what I believe in, but I have a hard time letting go of the program that gave so much to me and is part of my identity. I earned over 60 merit badges and represented our country at world citizenship events; I enjoy helping train tomorrow's leaders. However, if I come out, then I am out. Should I stay or should I go?

—Not a Happy Camper

Dear Camper,
During the awful witch hunts to discharge gays and lesbians from the military before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I often thought of the fact that whatever the policy, the military has always had homosexuals in its ranks serving with distinction. There was the late designer Bill Blass, in his personally tailored uniform, reading Vogue in the foxhole and helping us win the Battle of the Bulge. The Boy Scouts today has its own version of DADT, which it recently reaffirmed after a review of whether to drop their ban on homosexuals. Some people think despite the influence of the Mormon and Catholic churches on the BSA, change will eventually come; two members of the executive board have said they will push to repeal the ban. But this leaves you struggling with either keeping your identity secret or leaving the organization you love. I come down on the side leaving a group, however worthy otherwise, that can’t love who you are. How awful to be taking your scouts on an amazing trip, and wondering if some stray question will trip you up and force you out. I know there are things unique to scouting that you will miss, but there are plenty of organizations that welcome gays and lesbians—Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters are two. (Even the Girl Scouts doesn’t ban lesbians and gays.) Maybe you can write about why you are making this painful decision and how it breaks your heart to leave a group that has given you so much and to which you wanted to return the gift. I bet the parents of the scouts who will miss you will let headquarters know how wrong they are.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My childhood best friend (he’s a guy, I’m a girl) is getting married in a big wedding in December. Our families have always been close, we took many family vacations together and each family has siblings of similar ages. However, 14 years ago his parents excluded just one of my brothers from the guest list of my friend’s brother's bar mitzvah. My mom approached the other mom, and she said they didn't include him because he was a year younger than the bar mitzvah boy. Our parents grew distant over this, but all the kids have stayed close over the years. Last week my family received the “save the date” cards for the wedding and everyone, my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins were invited with a plus one, except for the same brother! We are all at a loss for how to handle this. There are no issues between my brother and the other family—my brother is a great guy. Our family was planning to host the shower for the bride, and now we don’t know what to do. Should I say something to my friend, the groom, if so, what? Or should our whole family simply boycott the wedding?

—Sister of the Blacklisted Brother

Dear Sister,
It’s fine to invite to a party just the child who is the close friend of the birthday boy or girl, or bar or bat mitzvah. It’s not fine to pointedly include the entire family minus one. I’m going to assume that many years ago your brother “Jeremy” didn’t dismember this other family’s cat and they’ve been waiting ever since for him to turn into Jeffrey Dahmer. More plausibly, in order to keep the guest list down at the bar mitzvah, the other family said, “Well, Jeremy isn’t a playmate of any of our kids’, so we can leave him off.” It’s unfortunate that this metastasized into a longtime break between the parents. What’s weird is that it’s now seemed to turned into a permanent blackballing of your brother. The Jewish High Holy Days are coming up and at Yom Kippur we read about the scapegoat ("The goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities ..." Leviticus 16:22) which your brother seems to have become for mysterious reasons. Since you’re close to the groom, you’re the ideal person to speak up. Approach this lightly, as if there has simply been an oversight: “Dan, we’re so excited about your wedding, but I think maybe a card got lost in the mail because everyone on our side was invited except Jeremy.” That might be enough to get another “save the date” issued. But if Dan gives some silly reason why Jeremy is excluded then you can explain you don’t want to dictate his guest list, but this is an exclusion you think needs to be rectified. Say since your entire mishpucha has been invited, his explanation doesn’t make sense and the result is harmful. You don’t have to organize a family boycott, but presumably some number of you will decline. As for the shower, I’m afraid that will have to go under the heading of “the best laid plans …”

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, which means I am "co-parent" to his adorable, elderly Labrador. She's 16 and recently had a major health scare, requiring a vet bill of $2,300. My boyfriend asked if I wanted to help with the bill and I agreed to contribute $500. He said he thinks I should pay half, which would be a major financial hit. I'm also concerned about setting a precedent for future dog health issues. The vet has said the dog is "on borrowed time." I want be a supportive boyfriend and show my love for my boyfriend as well as his (our?) dog, so am I a jerk for not offering to pay half?

—Arf Ouch

Dear Arf,
When a dog is 16 years old and a veterinarian announces she’s on “borrowed time” it doesn’t make sense to borrow money for medical bills. You all would have been better off if during the scare you could have had a blunt talk with the vet about how much money would buy how much of a delay of the inevitable. Be as emotionally supportive as you can, but explain to your boyfriend while it’s wonderful your beloved pooch has outlived the canine actuarial tables, you can’t afford to be more generous.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

Past Imperfect: I want to bury my wretched childhood, but the new in-laws insist on a rehash.” Posted Aug. 18, 2011.
Fibber McGee Comes Clean: Prudie advises an elderly man consumed with shame over his chronic lies.” Posted Aug. 11, 2011.
Take My Wife, Please: I convinced her to bed another man, and now I'm insanely jealous.” Posted Aug. 4, 2011.
A Minor Flaw: I'm dating a man who was charged with soliciting a teen for sex; I wish I'd never discovered this!” Posted July 28, 2011.

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

The Nudist Next Door: Dear Prudence advises a reader whose new neighbor needs better curtains—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Sept. 6, 2011.
Type "R" for Revenge: Dear Prudence advises a woman who got her cheating ex fired by sending a nasty email—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Aug. 29, 2011.
Sexy Cougar or Dangerous Predator?: Dear Prudence offers advice about a May-December encounter that the victim deems harmless—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Aug. 8, 2011.
Baby Blues: Dear Prudence advises a woman who regrets adopting a child—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Aug. 1, 2011.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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