Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the 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 email@example.com.)
Q. I Want My Ex to Officiate at My Wedding: I plan to be married soon. My fiancé and I don't want a big to-do but would like to mark the occasion with a small ceremony and invite immediate family and a few close friends. This is a second marriage for both of us. My ex-husband and I remained civil to one another for the sake of our children. Once the hurt of our failed marriage had healed, we developed a friendship based on mutual interests and shared history. My fiancé and my ex get along well, and we occasionally socialize with him and his significant other. My ex is a judge and as such is able to perform weddings. My fiancé and I talked it over and would like to ask him to marry us. We haven't asked him yet and aren't sure he will agree, but we want to extend the invitation. Problem is when I mentioned our plan to my sisters, they had a fit. They said it would be tacky and would make other family members uncomfortable to have my ex marry us. I know it's an unusual situation, but it is also something we'd really like to do. Are our plans just too "out there"?
A: I'm all for formers getting along, especially when there are children involved. I'm also for intimate, low-key wedding ceremonies, especially when they are the second time around. But even if I disagree with your sisters throwing a fit, I agree with their point that it will take away from the sweetness of the moment if your loved ones are thinking that when your officiant gets to, "By the powers vested in me," he might add, "it is with great relief that I say thank goodness she's yours and not mine." You do not want the moment that you two are being joined to be accompanied by mass eye-rolling and elbows to the ribs by those in attendance. It's fine if your ex and his girlfriend attend the ceremony, but surely you and your fiancé can find a mutually agreeable person to preside over your wedding who does not also have carnal knowledge of either of you.
Dear Prudence: G-String Hobbyist
Q. I Hit My Girlfriend: Yesterday, my girlfriend and I were engaged in a mix of fun, an argument, and horseplay. She did something that upset me, and without thinking I hit her on her back with the palm of my hand much harder than I intended to. I immediately apologized but she broke up with me later that day. I think she was right to do so. I'm writing to you not for advice on how to win her back (I have to assume she's gone for good) but how to begin to regain my self-esteem. I feel awful about what I did, and I want to be both introspective and proactive. I am going to use my school's counseling service and am considering volunteering for a domestic violence center. Are there any other resources I should be aware of?
A: You and your girlfriend were both voluntarily having a tussle that was both sexy and angry, and you gave her a slap to the back. When you say it was harder than you intended, I wonder if you left a giant hand-sized bruise or if this slap landed more robustly than your other wrestling moves. Only you know if you really intended to hurt her out of anger or if it's hard to calculate the line when a man and a woman are choosing to work out a disagreement in a physical way. But I will take you at your word that the force was more than you intended and was done in a very specific context. In that case, the lesson for you is to be particularly aware of limits when you're skirting the edge of them. Frankly, I think you should be careful about going and essentially reporting yourself for domestic abuse in such an ambiguous situation. The consequences of unburdening yourself could be most unpleasant. I also think you should get back in touch with your girlfriend, apologize again, and say you see the whole sexy-angry encounter as a mistake that resulted in a terrible miscalculation on your part. Say that even if she continues to conclude the relationship is over, you hope she can accept what happened truly wasn't intentional and you'll always regret it.
Q. Don't Want to Police My Husband: My husband of five years likes to drink (a lot of) wine daily. When he drinks, he becomes a different person who is dense, often incoherent, and even mean. He has never believed my report on this change and thinks I'm exaggerating. Toward the end of last year, an incident happened where he was left with irrefutable evidence of his outrageous behavior (sexual text messages to a colleague that he didn’t remember sending), and he was incredibly embarrassed and humiliated. I was hurt and upset. He decided to seriously cut back on his drinking and asked if I would go to a marriage counselor with him. The first two months of this year have been glorious! I had forgotten how much fun and interesting he could be when he wasn't drinking, and we've found some good ways to work on communication and trust and meeting each other's needs with the counselor's help. Well, his drinking is starting to pick up. The first time, I ignored it. The second time, I said something and he got truly angry. The third time, I went to my room. I do not want to police his behavior, but I also am not willing to go back to our old way of life. What can I do?
A: You're married to an alcoholic. He is unwilling to recognize this because the most he's capable of doing is "cutting back" on his ruinous behavior. Even if he won't go to Alcoholics Anonymous, you should go to Al-Anon for support from other people who have an alcoholic in their lives. If you are married to an alcoholic who won't put down the bottle, then I don't see many options except leaving.
Q. Sister-in-Law “Claiming” Baby Name: My wife and I are expecting our first child later this year. Like any new parents, the subject of names is a touchy one. My brother- and sister-in-law have a nearly 2-year-old—the first grandchild in the family, and accordingly doted over—and are not currently pregnant. When they were discussing naming their first child, my BIL's wife staked a “claim” to two names, one for a boy and one for a girl. My wife and I both happen to really like the other “claimed” name. My wife thinks we are forbidden from using it, though, because my SIL “claimed” it over two years ago. I think that's ridiculous, that my wife shouldn’t worry about it, and even if my SIL was upset she needs to get over it. What are your thoughts?
A: A woman drinking excessively during her pregnancy is a touchy issue. What parents decide to name their child is not, even if they announce their baby will be Chartreuse Ivy. So your in-laws "staked a claim" to a name. I assume they didn't file this claim at the same federal office that deals with mineral rights. If you like a name and they like a name, then if they go on to have another child of the appropriate sex, they are free to "reuse" the name. Just be sure you haven't landed on this name because it allows you to give a needle to a disliked relative. You don't want your child saddled with a name that carries any bad feelings.