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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q. Wishing Death Upon an Ex: I recently ended a relationship after a year, after I found out that my ex was cheating on me, via Facebook. He woke up in my bed and fell asleep in hers. I was out shopping for his Christmas present at the time he was taking her on a date. She knew he had a girlfriend and did not care. I was blindsided. I have been cheated on before and ended many relationships, but for some reason I am still feeling angry about this four months later. I find myself daily wishing he would die a slow painful death or drink himself to death. I have never felt such hate in my life toward someone and it scares me. I know lots of people joke about this, but I am not joking. I don’t want to harm him, I just hope something really horrible happens to make him suffer. I am a good person, I volunteer, have good friends, and have never had feelings like this before and I feel horribly guilty. How can I move past this, or is this normal?
A: Sure, I’ve imagined a piano falling on the guy’s head. But then, like you, I realized that would be too quick and hoped for a slow-acting poison. Almost anyone who’s loved then said, “Get lost,” has been there. You perhaps are having a harder time dealing with this breakup because you maybe thought this time you’d get off the dating merry-go-round. Stop feeling guilty. You haven’t hired a hit man, your brain is just pulling a Dexter on a deserving creep. Perversely, the more you try to shame yourself about the anger, the more intense it becomes. I think once you accept that it’s fine you have nothing but bad wishes for your ex, it may actually loosen the grip of your obsession. And I have a reading suggestion for you: Start reading Gone Girl tonight.
Q. Unmotivated Boyfriend: I left an unhappy 15-year marriage to a man who made me miserable for a man who adores me. In the two years since, I have worked out a great custody arrangement with my ex, been promoted at work, and bought a house on my own. I am still with the man I left my husband for, and we are happy ... except for one thing. He is unemployed and seems to have no desire to change that. I have not been too concerned because the job market is tough, and he has made a little pocket money pet-sitting and tutoring. He also handles a lot of household chores. I can make ends meet on my own (though things are tight), but he lives with me and contributes virtually nothing. He goes to bed late and sleeps late. He does not seem to think finding a job is a priority, but what can I do? I feel so lucky to have a man who is into me, finally! My best friend is aghast at the situation and says I am being taken advantage of. Am I?
A: So you left a louse for a leech. It’s one thing if you have a demanding job and make enough money so that you would be happy with a partner who didn’t work and could run the household. It’s another if in exchange for being treated nicely and having sex, you are supporting someone who lives like a teenager who’s on suspension from high school. You’re right, there’s really nothing you can do about your boyfriend’s lack of desire to be gainfully employed. Frankly, if he’s a skillful tutor and has a way with dogs, he could be applying himself to these enterprises and making more than pocket money. But it sounds as if he just prefers hanging out. But you are only being taken advantage of if you start looking at your situation from the vantage point of your friend and end up agreeing with her. If all you want in a guy is someone who’s nice to you, then tell your friend that he may not be working, but the relationship is working for you.
Q. Age Gap: I am a 20-year-old female student in a current relationship with a successful 46-year-old male. We are very much in love and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. With this being said, I sometimes feel like I’m not good enough for him. I’m still in college getting my life started and he’s already been through this stage and is making his living. I feel when he goes on his trips to give his “talks” to big companies that he’s going to find someone more equal or on his level. He says that our connection is too strong for him to go anywhere and that he’s never felt this love with anyone before. How can I know this whole thing isn’t me just kidding myself?
A: Since you’re in college, take a statistics class and run some regressions on how much life you would have left to live without him if you ended up marrying someone 26 years your senior. You’re 20, so it’s perfectly understandable you’ve never felt this way before. He’s 46, so I’m guessing he’s felt this way before lots, only he’s enjoying regressing to a more juvenile state where it seems appropriate for a middle-aged professional to be dating someone who lives in a dormitory. Despite your great love that will last forever, you feel insecure and self-conscious with him. That’s not a good sign. It’s one thing to have a fling with an older guy and learn some new moves in bed. It’s another to plan your life with someone who’s your parents’ age. So I’m going to speak for your parents and tell you you’re kidding yourself. You’re not even very happy with this guy. Break up and start seeing the promise in the boys your age who like you are just trying to figure things out.