Dear Prudence answers readers' questions live at Washingtonpost.com.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Aug. 3 2009 2:58 PM

Love To Hate You, Baby

Prudie counsels people caught in dysfunctional relationships—and other advice seekers.

(Continued from Page 2)

Washington, D.C.: I've been seeing someone for eight months. While he's hasn't dated other people since we met, and I haven't dated anyone else in awhile, he doesn't want to define our relationship as exclusive. I haven't really thought about it until now since I'm also quite wary of rushing into things, but it came up during vacation with his family, and the nonexclusive label is starting to feel a little silly. It's clear from his other actions that he cares about me (and it's mutual). Should I pay attention to his actions and not worry about it, or does this strike you as a lack of respect/sign that he doesn't think I'm as great as you'd want a partner to think you are?

Emily Yoffe: Ah, the relationship that leaves you in the perpetual present. At eight months, you're past the getting-to-know-you stage and heading toward the I've-given-up-getting-to-know-anyone-else. But even though you two are de facto exclusive, he refuses to acknowledge this. If you are going to be together, the two of you need to be able to, at appropriate intervals, discuss the relationship and your expectations. So tell him that it's starting to make you feel you two are on different tracks because you're ready to make this relationship exclusive and see where it goes. If he refuses, then you have a better idea where you stand and if you want to stay.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: My mother called me yesterday asking for my advice on what could be a potentially sticky situation.

My uncle has been out of work now for six months (he lives in an area of the country that's been particularly hard-hit by the recession), and my mother was wondering if she should offer him a loan. This isn't something my uncle has asked for, but is something my mother is considering purely out of the kindness of her heart, to show my uncle that he has family who would be willing to help out in his time of need.

While I think it's a nice gesture in principle, I actually don't think she should do it. I say this because having debt between family members can get very ugly and out of hand, and it might be years before the debt could be paid back.

What are your thoughts?

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Emily Yoffe: I think it's a lovely gesture on your mother's part to extend a family TARP to her brother. It's important, however, for her to offer an amount of money she is comfortable parting with possibly forever. Then, if they want to go ahead, they should get on paper their understanding for a schedule of repayments—even if it's long-term—so there isn't any confusion about the fact that if your uncle becomes solvent again, your mother will get her money returned.

_______________________

Columbus, Ohio: I am one of five children. Our Dad died a few years ago. The youngest (a late surprise for our parents) is starting college. When the four older kids started college, my parents bought us a reliable second-hand car. We are all settled into well-paying careers, and I thought to repay my parents for our great start in life—no college debt, full support, and a decent car—we could club together and buy our youngest sibling a set of wheels. Two of my siblings think this is a great idea. One doesn't want to participate. How do we handle this? Do we tell our little sister the car is just from three of us and possibly wrecking her relationship with the fourth? We considered letting our Mom be the "giver," but she would know that financially that wasn't possible. Help!

Emily Yoffe: Today is the "nice families dilemmas"—how refreshing. That's a lovely gesture. Just say the gift is from the whole family.

_______________________

Dating service for introverts: Some (pre-Internet) years ago, uncertain how to find nice, serious men interested in a monogamous relationship, I joined two dating services: the Classical Music Lovers' Exchange and Single Book Lovers. Single Book Lovers was full of people who liked to read and not a lot more. This might be worth a try. The Classical Music Lovers were nice and somewhat nerdy. Perfect for me.

Emily Yoffe: I know a married couple who met through Classical Music Lovers. Thanks for the good tips!

_______________________

Philadelphia: "it's been great reconnecting, but I'm afraid daily personal e-mails are distracting me ..."

But I'm not looking for it to stop. The fact is, it's not distracting, and I like exchanging e-mails with her. I work out of home and have very few friends and acquaintances, so it's nice to get e-mails. I know, I'm kind of a sad sack. But she doesn't live near me and I'd never wreck a marriage.

Emily Yoffe: It all may be perfectly innocent, but it sounds as if you don't quite think so, and don't wholly want it to be so. If she discovers that it just so happens she's going to be coming to your town for some cockamamie reason, don't say I didn't warn you.

_______________________

Emily Yoffe: Thanks so much everyone. Talk to you next week.

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