Dear Prudence: My fiancée ignores her children to pay attention to me.

Help! My Fiancée Completely Ignores Her Young Children to Fawn Over Me.

Help! My Fiancée Completely Ignores Her Young Children to Fawn Over Me.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 21 2014 3:11 PM

Tender Loving Trade-Off

In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose fiancée adores him—at the expense of her kids.

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A: You’re marrying a 1-percenter, so I’m surprised he hasn’t initiated a discussion that involves the concept of “pre-nuptial agreement.” I agree that when you’re dating someone, their financial relationship with their family members is not your business. But marriage makes your joint finances your business. You two need to be able to talk about money—and I guess that means specifically his. But you do not go about this by saying, “Now that I’m marrying you, time to cut off those parasitical, deadbeat siblings of yours!” Instead, you say you two need to talk about how you’re going to handle your assets. In the course of that discussion, it will be natural to talk about his siblings. Maybe there’s a strange family dynamic at work and he feels psychologically inflated by seeing his siblings as helpless and dependent on him. Maybe he would welcome having someone on his side to help him get out from under this burdensome obligation. But you will lose if your approach is to go into this expecting to give him orders.

Q. Re: Granny Panties: I was the original questioner on this, and I must say, I’m a woman. Let me say this again, I’m not a man of any kind, creepy or otherwise. I once had on a long maxi skirt that, unbeknownst to me, was see-through across the rear when out in full light, something that I couldn’t see in the lighting at home. It wasn’t until someone gently told me that I realized I’d been flashing everyone all day!

A: Thank you for calling out my sexist assumption! I’m still going to say clam up. It’s one thing if you see someone having a clothing malfunction—a woman wrote in about being grateful that a man informed her that the back of her skirt was stuck under her backpack. But if you gaze out on the street, particularly in summer, you would not be able to walk down a block without informing someone that you can see acres of their skin, or their clothing is so sheer that you know they like Jockeys for women. When it comes to clothing that accidentally reveals more than you intend, ideally a friend or co-worker will pull you aside. I think if you take on this role with strangers, you will earn more anger than gratitude.


Q. Underage Party at My House: My husband and I were away for a night and left our 18-year-old daughter home with a friend who was visiting from out of town. We came home the next day and figured out that there had been a party at our house. It wasn’t massive but there were about 12 18-year-olds over, who were drinking alcohol that had been purchased by one of my daughter’s friend’s older sister. No damage was done to the house, no one drove drunk, and no neighbors were aware of a party so they acted somewhat responsibly. Because of this, my husband does not think that we should punish our daughter or tell the other kids’ parents. I don’t want to tell all the parents—just the ones whose older daughter purchased the alcohol because I think she is like a drug dealer, and should be held accountable. My husband and I are really debating this. Can you please weigh in?

A: I’d weigh in, but I’m too busy cleaning up the red Solo cups littering my basement that I found when my husband and I returned from an evening out and we discovered our 18-year-old daughter did some entertaining. I know, I know, I know, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal. But as the majority of parents of 18-year-olds know, this law is highly unenforceable, and frankly I think it’s more dangerous to send kids to college being completely naive when it comes to alcohol. Within the context of what happened, I agree that your daughter and her friends were not out of control and when you’re out of town, folks, this is what happens when you have young adults under your roof. Please do not rat out anyone. The older sibling is not a drug dealer, she’s a kid with an ID that allows her to purchase alcohol. Your calling other parents will likely only have the effect of alienating your daughter, a girl who I assume will be leaving soon anyway. Tell your daughter you will not talk to any other parents about the party, but you would just like an account of the evening.

Q. Relatives: I am the oldest of six children raised in a physically and emotionally abusive single-parent home; drug and alcohol abuse were a rampant part of my childhood. At the age of 16 I left home. I attended college and been employed for over a decade at a good job where I have prospered. I have created a very stable life for myself and my family. However, I am the only one. I have no desire to reconnect with my siblings (who are in and out of jail and rehab, with one having an extensive felony record doing time in prison) or my mother. My mother has recently been admitted to a nursing home, and her social worker has reached out to me for assistance. Am I wrong to refuse? The limited contact I have had with any of my family for the last 20 years has always involved their begging/shaming me for money, and my mother was the worst. Some of my siblings have sent me pleas to help, but to be honest, I don’t want to. Should I? Should I feel guilty over this? None of them were there to help me get to where I am and we all faced the same challenges in life.

A: I hope you can look upon your siblings with compassion because their sad lives are common outcomes of such a destructive childhood. You are a phoenix who made it out, and I think your primary obligation is to your mental health, your family, and your work. It’s understandable your mother’s social worker has reached out, but you should explain that you have not had a relationship with her for many decades and that’s not going to change. As I’ve written, people who come from childhoods such as yours and make it out often have to deal with people who do not understand what they went through, and who encourage renewing relationships. They may be well-meaning, but they simply don’t understand that such contact can come at a high emotional cost—PTSD, anyone?—and no one should be pressured into this. So do not let anyone try to guilt trip you into getting back in touch or writing checks. You can express your sadness at the current situation while you also stand firm and decline to get involved. And if all this makes you feel you’re being pulled back into the maelstrom, consider looking into short-term therapy. 

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Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.