Dear Prudence is online weekly to chat live with readers on Mondays at noon ET. Read part 1 of the chat here. Read part 2 below.
Q. Lapsing Vegetarian: My wife is a lifelong vegetarian who, about two times a year, gets an overwhelming urge for meat and indulges in one meal. It’s always completely unpredictable—we’ll be driving past an Arby’s, and she will say, “Oh my God, I haven’t had a roast beef sandwich since I was a kid! My mom used to buy them for us after soccer practice!” Then she will eat the sandwich and the curly fries and go back to strict vegetarianism for another six or seven months. I obviously have no problems with her eating meat since I am an omnivore. But I am frustrated that her exceptions are so random and she is so unyielding the rest of the time. If I am dying to go to a renowned steakhouse, she’ll come along and order a plate of sides but will refuse to share a bite of something I’d really love to experience with her. When my mother was fretting over how to cook for her at the beginning of our relationship, my wife never said, “No problem—I can eat your mom’s chicken one night.” But a few months later she would get an urge for KFC. I am frustrated that she can put aside her ethical principles on occasion but only when it’s important to her, not me. Am I being a jerk for thinking this way?
A: Forget the ethical principles and think of it like this: She’s eating meat when she wants it and not eating it when she doesn’t want it. Just like you would never take a bite of something that smelled weird, looked bad, or wasn’t allowed in your diet on any given day. You might make a different choice about the same food on another day. This is a good opportunity to practice letting a partner make choices that work for her—and learning what works for you independently. I promise there’s a way to fully enjoy your steak while she eats her baked potato and creamed spinach.
Q. We’re the Life of the Party: Recently, I was invited to a dear childhood and lifelong friend’s wedding which was of significant expense and time spent traveling from the absolute East Coast to the absolute West Coast in Canada. For context, we are all fortunate, in our late-30s and early 40s. Upon arrival, our accommodations were in the “singles” cabin, because presumably, gay guys love to party and don’t mind sleeping in single cots. So basically, all the straight couples stayed in the nicer accommodations living their best yuppie lives, surrounded by rosé and charcuterie trays, while our cabin was where people would end up late at night to party, spill everything, puke, and leave once everything was consumed and trashed.
After a mostly sleepless weekend, we left feeling that our relationship wasn’t valid in their eyes, despite us all seeming to be very liberal and accepting of any and all lifestyle choices. I believe that they wouldn’t intentionally hurt our feelings, but on the other hand, the ONE closed bedroom in our cabin with an actual bed that sleeps two went to a married couple that came from less than an hour away. The reason being that they’re married. I see that as a majorly flawed thought process, as the couple didn’t spend 18 hours on delayed flights, car rentals, misguided GPS instructions, and the whole gambit. I don’t know what good it would do to bring this up at this point, but I want them to know how it made us feel … but to what end? Maybe this is just a culmination of all the diaper parties, bachelor parties, and whatever else straight people get to cash in on for simply getting married or having children. At this point, it’s hundreds if not thousands of dollars. It just sucks because, at the end of the day, I feel that we were disrespected and in the process had to find out that our investment of, like, $5,000 to be there, plus the gifts and all the incidentals is a one-sided value or investment I put into the future of our friendship.
Now, I feel like if I were to host such an event for myself/partner, they may not even prioritize it, despite the pendulum having already swung into their favor on their special occasion. Do I tell them it hurt me emotionally and subsequently financially? We could have gone anywhere in the world, and we chose them. Or do I let it slide and if I ever have my own wedding, accommodate them in the garden shed and bald-faced lie to their faces that this is gonna be the best weekend everrrr! Say something, or get revenge? Clearly, I’m spinning over this still … but really … I’m relaxed and very accommodating in life, but I feel it went too far. One morning I woke up in that cabin, and there was someone passed out facedown on the floor, and our front door was wide open in our off-grid mountain resort, in the heart of bear country. Could have had a real issue concerning the local wildlife. So I just kinda feel like the love and respect weren’t exactly reciprocated from my friend group. We’ve all known and been friends since we were single digits. So maybe that’s where everyone felt certain liberties were OK to exercise.
A: I’m so glad you’re writing after the event and not before, because I still sort of believe in the old “Don’t confront people who are about to get married about their wedding choices” rule. But it’s done now. They tied the knot. It’s not their special day or week or month anymore. So you should absolutely let them know how you feel (which, yes, is a better choice than making them sleep in a bathtub five years down the road). I would encourage you, before this conversation, to ask yourself whether there is any other evidence that they don’t respect you, that they embrace stereotypes of gay men, or that they don’t take same-sex relationships seriously. Because if that’s the case, and this is at all part of a pattern, now is definitely the time to bring it up. I don’t think you need to emphasize the great expense of the gifts or describe attending the event as an investment. It’s just “I feel like we weren’t treated equally and I couldn’t help but feel it might have been because we were gay. I wanted to let you know it was bothering me and see what you had to say.” Because that’s the truth: You’ll have a hard time being close to someone who you feel has disrespected you in this way, and living for revenge is no way to have a friendship.
Q. Crush Rejected Me: I attended college and met a new boy and developed a crush on him. We have similar friend groups, so I’d often see him at get-togethers, etc. He started to follow me on social media and view my posts and like them. However, in real life, we don’t talk much; I think that’s because we both are shy, but I felt as if we were starting to become friends and talk more. I would see him staring at me and smiling too, which led me to believe that maybe he liked me too. Unfortunately, recently he randomly got a girlfriend, which I got over, but the odd thing is, he completely avoids me now, not even talking to me as a friend. He also ignores anything I put on social media and unfollowed me. I’m a little baffled because why would he throw away a friendship? (He’s friends with other girls nonromantically.) I never let on that I was crushing on him, so much so that my friends didn’t know. What did I do wrong to make him reject me as a friend?
A: You didn’t do anything wrong. My best guess: He had a crush on you too and decided that having a girlfriend meant putting some more distance between you. That’s tough, but you’re better off not having a friendship with someone for whom you actually have romantic feelings. You’d just end up sad or frustrated and potentially be weird around him. Don’t take this rejection (which barely even qualifies as a rejection) personally. Keep staring and smiling at other people and maybe try to push past your shyness a bit. There are lots and lots of other potential friends out there. One of these days, when someone you like randomly ends up in a relationship, it will be with you. I promise.
Q. Used to Flying Solo: Early in our 40-year marriage, my husband made it clear that his career was a priority for him, both for ambition and as a source of identity. He told me that he wasn’t going to be around much and that his job was the most important thing in his life. We already had two infants at that point, and after serious consideration, I opted to stay. But I did seriously reshape my life: hiring child care help; taking a part-time job and classes; and investing lots of time in my sibling relationships, his parents, and my friendships. I mentally categorized him as someone who took time off for emergencies and whom it was nice to have sex with, but not the closest person in my life. I tried about once a year to encourage him to take up an interest in something other than work—even if it wasn’t us (I even mentioned swinging!), but work is his passion.
He paid for most things, and I ran the house, raised our kids, and gave them good male role models in the form of their uncles, and many family friends. Now I’m in my 60s, I’m close with our grown children and their spouses, my lifelong friends, and my own siblings and extended family. My life is full and loving. Recently, my husband is talking about choosing retirement in his 70s—he’s in a career where people maintain a lot of power and prestige even late in life. I realized abruptly that while I’m happy with our status quo, he’s a stranger, and I’m not sure if I want to spend every day, all day, with someone I don’t know, especially because he chose not to know me. How do I work through the next steps here? I know from a practical perspective that I could afford my own retirement if I had to do it alone, but I have no idea what I actually want. And somehow this whole issue hasn’t even occurred to him at all.
A: I have good news: You can keep doing everything you’re doing. Keep up your relationships. Do your activities. Hang out with friends. Your husband is retiring, but that doesn’t mean he’ll want to be included. If I had to bet, I’d say he’ll be sitting around watching cable news and maybe golfing while you continue to enjoy your many loved ones and the rich life you’ve created. Whatever happens, you don’t owe him more attention or social support than he’s offered you up until now.
Q. Just Don’t Call Me: My partner, “Sam,” works in a deeply competitive field where international business travel is a key part of the role about seven times a year, with time and intensity pretty equal between entry-level and senior workers. Opting out of travel isn’t really possible, and the more you travel, the more secure the job becomes. Sam loves the work and enjoys the travel aspects of the job after the plane touches down but is terrified of flying.
Sam sees a therapist for anxiety, and I know they work on this issue together. Sam chose this job as a dream since childhood and walked a long and competitive road to get here. I know that it’s important. But the plane fear drives me crazy, with constant checking and rechecking and reassurance-seeking, both in person and virtually with me, in the week leading up to each flight. I’m trying to be gentle and empathetic, but I feel as if I’m out of patience. Clearly my partner is suffering, but it seems both self-inflicted (choosing a career with frequent flights) and sometimes like it intentionally derails my life. (I can’t enjoy my time alone during these trips because I’m getting constant anxious texts/calls, etc., in the seven days leading up to the return flight, including during a time when I was hospitalized, and during my major performance week at work.)
We met during 2020, when the industry was all but shuttered, and Sam frequently talked about missing work travel and how great the trips were. Sam still talks about them with great enthusiasm and affection, but I dread them. How do I strike a balance here? I feel so selfish about how little empathy I have left for this, and I want my partner to be able to feel more comfortable with this phobia, but I can’t absorb this much anxiety. Something has to change.
A: The easy answer is to encourage Sam to get some medication for this very common issue. The anxiety is ruining their ability to enjoy their life and your ability to enjoy yours. Sam’s therapist needs to hear about this in detail and put them in touch with someone who can prescribe something if they cannot. Until then, how about this: Pull back on the amount of conversation leading up to a flight while also showing additional care. So explain that you want to help with some tools to make air travel less tumultuous and offer a gift of a weighted eye mask, some calming lotion, a meditation app, and a book that can serve as a distraction. And then say you are up for one discussion of anxiety before each trip and texts throughout the travel day (or whatever you can handle), but you can’t engage for a full week before each flight. Lovingly explain that it’s affecting your mental health (it is!). As someone who’s prone to worry, Sam should understand.
Re: Q. Crush Rejected Me: You are reading way too much into this, but also I doubt he had a crush on you. Too many people build up a fantasy in their heads where the object of their affection must have loved them back but the stars kept them apart. Going down this route will only prevent you from moving on. Much more likely, it’s VERY obvious that you like him and it makes him uncomfortable now that he has a partner. Find someone else to think about and this time make a move so you know for sure!
A: Oof. Honestly, I didn’t think about that because of the unconscious gender bias that made me forget that women’s crushes can make men uncomfortable. Either way, I definitely agree that LW should move on and plan to be more direct in the future.
Re: Q. Lapsing Vegetarian: Please take the Food Disgust Test that Slate wrote about last week and discuss your findings with her. (But yeah, you need to let it go, because she gets to eat whatever she wants whenever she wants.)
Jenée Desmond-Harris: That’s all we have time for. Thanks everyone and I’ll talk to you next week!
Pet Advice From Slate
I’ve really got to have a talk with my sister about breeding her dogs. She is somewhat of an animal hoarder and her small house is full to the gills with five dogs, two cats, a handful of chickens, and five to 10 bunnies at any given time. In addition to her two toddlers! Her animal situation breaks my heart: Most of the animals are afraid of each other, no one has enough space, and none of them are getting basic vet or grooming care.