Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. Let's get to it.
Q. Fickle Fiance: In February 2009, my live-in boyfriend asked me to marry him, and I happily accepted. We set a date in the summer of 2010, but due to financial hardships, we had to postpone the wedding indefinitely. I was really disappointed but understood why it had to be done. When our financial situation got back to normal, I began asking my fiance if we could set a new date, but he was reluctant to do so. A few months later he admitted that he was scared, didn't want to end up divorced again, and didn't think he was quite ready. I was devastated, to say the least. He says he loves me with all his heart and doesn't want to lose me, but I don't see how I can just go back to the way things were before the proposal. But I love him, we have built a family (he has two children from his first marriage, I have two from mine, and we have one together), a home, and a good life together. I don't know what to say when asked when the wedding is, or why I'm not wearing my ring anymore. A part of me thinks that I should just move on, that if he's not sure after five years, then he never will be. But my heart says to hang on, and eventually he'll get over his fear. What do you think?
A: It probably would have been a good idea for you and your boyfriend to assess each other's readiness for a permanent relationship before you two procreated. He needs to recognize that whatever happens, you two have a child together and whether you marry or not, divorce or not, you will be in each other's lives. I also don't understand how finances play into the wedding question. Surely you can afford a marriage license and the parking fee at city hall. Given that there are five children between you and finances are tight, a big wedding is the last thing you need. However, it would be a good idea, since you have a child, to have the protections that marriage brings.
You seem to have a somewhat backward approach to this relationship. Unless your boyfriend makes it legal, you are willing, in effect, to get a divorce and wrench apart another family. If your goal is to be together—which you are now—that doesn't make sense. Since you two are at an impasse, invest the money you would have spent on a dress and reception in some short-term counseling. You both need help discussing your goals and fears with each other and figuring out a way to stay together that makes both of you happy.
Dear Prudence: Hard-Partying Parents
Q. Work: I work at a university student health center and I recently received an email from the university that somebody nominated me for an achievement award. I proceeded to forward the email to a friend of mine with the comment, "Who did I sleep with to get this award?" Well, instead of forwarding the email to my friend, I accidentally sent it back to the awards committee. My question to you is, do I just pretend it did not happen or do I send another email with an apology?
A: Last week I had a letter from a woman who accidently sent a photo file of the grandchildren to her mother-in-law that contained some sexy photos of her and her husband. In that case I advised that everyone just continue to pretend they know nothing. But that approach is not going to work here.
You sent the email, they got it, and you've got to deal with it. I suggest you send another email to the awards committee. Maybe your subject line could be, "I should have stayed in bed." You then explain you were so taken aback and flattered by the award nomination that you wrote a cheeky, self-deprecating, and really stupid email to a friend about it. Unfortunately, as they know, you hit "reply" instead of "forward," and they got your idiotic email. Apologize for your rudeness and say you understand if they choose to honor you with the "Dumbest Employee of the Year" award.
Q. To Be or Not To Be ... Loyal: I have a question concerning loyalties. One of my very best friends broke up with his girlfriend about nine months ago. He was really hurt by the break-up, and it took him a while to get his life back in order. He's now dating a great new girl, and they seem really happy together. My problem is this: My friend told me about a week ago that he still knows his ex's Facebook password and will occasionally log on to her account to see what she's up to. I happen to be friends with his ex on Facebook. Is it my responsibility to tell her that my friend is logging on to her account? I told my friend that it was shady business what he is doing, but he doesn't seem to see any harm. I don't want to lose him as a friend, but I would want to know if any ex of mine had access to my Facebook or email account. Do I speak up? His new girlfriend has no idea he is doing this. Any advice?
A: Let this be a warning to everyone with an ex out there with whom you once exchanged such intimacies as your passwords! What your friend is doing is creepy. Sure, you can decide not to get further involved in this, and yes, it is the girlfriend's obligation to remember that her ex knows her password. But now that you know what's going on, I think you should tell the ex that she needs to tighten up her electronic security. The problem is that if you tell her, and she gets back to your friend about this, then he is going to feel blindsided. So I think you should tell your friend what he told you has been bothering you and you're thinking of giving his ex a heads up. Sure, he could get angry, but why did he tell you in the first place?
Q. Clueless Husband: This past Wednesday was my husband and my 10th wedding anniversary. I had saved for two months (I only work part time for "my" spending money, so I don't make much) to buy him a watch and then had it engraved with a personal message. I had told him several times (because he asked) that I was purchasing a somewhat expensive gift. I made a wish list at our local jewelry store where I purchased the watch and told him that I did so. We both had brought up our anniversary over the last few weeks and what we should do; we never made any concrete plans. So when the big day arrived, my rather expensive, well-thought-out, personal gift was met with a $50 gift card to a place I like to shop (he gave me the same thing for Christmas), which he purchased two hours earlier along with the card. We have plans to go out of town this weekend to stay at a hotel and go out to dinner, but I made these plans. I guess my question is, should I tell him how hurt I am? In the past, he has said that I'm hard to buy for, but since I made a wish list, I don't feel like that would be an excuse. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I really can't get over how much his gift said "I don't care." I should add that I know he loves me, he tells me every day, and his "gift-giving" skills fluctuate, but I really expected more for such an important milestone.