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.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com every Monday at 1 p.m. to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon—let's get to it!

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St. Louis: My long-term boyfriend and I are so lucky to have a great friend who is the head chef of a 5 star restaurant, and we love him dearly. The problem is, his longtime girlfriend whom he has a two year old daughter with is mean and treats him terribly, mostly behind his back. He has invited us to his restaurant next week to sample his new dishes. I'm sure when the guys go to the bar to have a drink, she will start in on me about all his bad qualities like she always does. She mostly complains about him not buying her something that they can't afford, or how he won't stay home with the baby while she goes out and parties. What do I say to her so that we can all remain friends, but I don't feel like I am betraying him?

Emily Yoffe: It's outside the realm of this chat, but I would like someone to explain why humans seem driven to mate with people who are rotten to them. You can say, "Lisa, I know every relationship has problems, but I think Brad's a great guy who's trying really hard to make a living and take care of you and your daughter." If she then wants to proceed to convince you how terrible he is, just say, "We're here to have a good time and enjoy Brad's food. I'd rather not talk about your troubles."

Butte, Mont.: My husband and I have been married for almost three years and together for almost six. We have two young boys together, ages 2 and 6 months. For the most part we have a loving relationship, except his jealousy. It drives me crazy. Recently, he is going to a technical school all the way across the country and will be there until the end of August. The entire time he has been gone, it has been a constant barrage of him accusing me of being unfaithful and just being down right mean, saying things like "You don't make me happy" or "You don't care." If he calls and I can't answer the phone, he assumes the reason is I'm with another guy! I have never cheated on my husband nor had any inclination to ever want to, but his ex-wife did. But no amount of reassurance helps. When I finally have had enough of this, his defense is always the same, "Let's get a divorce." Is there a way to help him get over his jealousy and malicious behavior, or should I go ahead and throw the towel in?

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Emily Yoffe: And here's another example. Butte, there's an emotional and logical disconnection to your letter. You've been with a guy who for six years, whenever you're out of his sight, abusively accuses you of being unfaithful to him. I assume you noticed this "quirk" before you decided to marry and have two children with him. I wonder if you had to choose a female obstetrician so your husband wouldn't accuse you of having sex with the doctor while you were in labor. All I can suggest is a good therapist, a willingness on his part to want to save the marriage, and a recognition that he's destroying his family with these irrational rages. In the meantime, you should stop reassuring him and just say you aren't his first wife, you've never cheated and you never will, and you are not going to continue the discussion with him when he starts hurling accusations.

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Topsail Beach, N.C.: When you need advice on a purchase, call the given phone number, and are transferred to an offshore source that you cannot understand, is it appropriate to ask for a person that has English as a first language? I don't want to be rude; however, if the problem is not resolved, the company from whom I made the purchase will not receive anymore of my business.

Emily Yoffe: Did you see "Slumdog Millionaire"? That movie will give you insight into how for some of the people far away who are answering your calls, these stressful jobs are a way to get into or stay in the middle class (same for the people here answering the calls). You're right, you should not be rude. You could say, "I'm sorry our connection is not great. Could you please talk a little slower and louder so I can hear you better?" If things are still incomprehensible, you can thank the person for his or her help and say you would prefer to speak to a supervisor. And the company from whom you made the purchase is unlikely to stop using overseas call centers no matter what your future purchase decisions.

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Dry Land: Can a relationship work if you aren't sexually compatible? My hunch is yes, if both people can agree on some sort of give and take system so that two people aren't disappointed all the time. But then I think maybe I am just fooling myself. Thanks.

Emily Yoffe: If the relationship is not a sexual one, then sure! If it is sexual, I'm not sure what kind of give and take system you're talking about—"I'm taking time off from the relationship so I can find someone who can give me some sexual satisfaction?" That's sure to make the two original parties wonder why they're together in the first place. If this is an exclusive romantic relationship that ends with embarrassed disappointment every time you get in bed, and you think you can make that work, then I'll go with, yes, you're fooling yourself.

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Washington, D.C: I work in a shared office space, and for some reason women are using the restroom for more of a conference room/cell phone lounge than a potty.

This is awkward for me! I like privacy when I'm using the toilet. Any advice?

Thanks, Prudie!

Emily Yoffe: I work at home, so I'm lonely and slightly dotty from talking to myself all day—but you remind me of one pleasure of not working in an office. It would be good if office bathrooms had high school-type monitors who instead of checking for smoking or drugs could say, "Just do your business and get back to work!" But I'm afraid you do not want to take on this function yourself. You're just going to have to live with the incompatible facts that the bathroom is now a call center and you have a shy bladder. Perhaps there are other less crowded bathrooms in the building, or a fast food restaurant nearby where you could go occasionally when nature calls.

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A Coast: My bf of several years moved across the country last fall, and I just officially ended our quasi-long-distance relationship. Having had these months to adjust to being alone again, along with the knowledge that he's 3000 miles away, I feel comfortable with this decision and confident it will stick this time. (I'd tried breaking up with him a few times before.)

The problem is that I'm an introverted, slightly misanthropic 41-year-old woman who enjoys activities like reading and watching old movies. Any time I've tried to force myself to get "out there," I've given up after a short time. In fact, even when I was a child, my mom would get on my case to meet more people, etc. At this point in life, I am happy with who I am and believe that my not-a-people-person temperament is hard-wired. It's just as hard to make new friends as it is to find a new romantic interest, especially since most of my peer group is well into marriage and child-rearing. The common approach of getting introduced to people through friends isn't very fertile ground these days.

So, am I destined to be alone forever? How can I balance my essential lone wolf nature with my genuine desire to find a life partner?

Emily Yoffe: There are all sorts of specialized online dating services (I have been amused to read non-Jews sign up for JDate because the women think Jewish men make good husbands and the men think Jewish women will give them the push they need). So readers, is there a dating service for people who don't like other people?

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