May 24, 2018
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My new crush says he’s in an ‘open marriage.’ Should I go for it?

Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

I’m a 27-year-old woman who recently made friends with a nice, attractive 34-year-old man. He asked me out for drinks soon thereafter and made it clear that he’s interested in a romantic relationship.

He’s my type, and I like him, but after our date he explained that he’s in an open marriage. I have no doubt that it’s a mutual agreement between him and his wife. And I’m in a situation that makes the idea especially appealing: I just got out of a two-year relationship that was sexually unsatisfying (my boyfriend rarely climaxed). It left me feeling as if there’s something wrong with me.

The idea of a fling with someone new, with no commitment potential and nothing to lose, seems like it could be a positive ego boost for me as I look for single, available men to date. New guy is saying: Let me be your rebound! Let’s be friends with benefits! But most of my friends think it’s a morally objectionable thing to do and doubt that I can get involved without getting my feelings hurt in the long run. What do you think?

—Want a Fling

Dear Fling,
I wish you’d explained why you are so certain that this guy’s wife is also party to the information that they have an “open marriage.” I’m assuming that he didn’t text a photo of you to his wife in the middle of your date with the note, “Things are going well!”

I bet if you decided to have an affair with him, it would quickly become clear your relationship is surreptitious and you would have to go along with his rules. It doesn’t speak well for this this man’s character (no matter what arrangement he and his wife have) that he withheld the central fact of his being married until after the seductive banter and drinks. However, I understand the appeal of a commitment-free sex romp after coming out of a sexually frustrating relationship.

But before you give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his friends-with-benefits proposal, make two counterproposals of your own. One is that you two get to know each other better first. I’m guessing he won’t want to invest too much time in activities unrelated to said benefits. Another is that given his history, you need to get a current STD status on him.

Again, I assume he’s not going to be interested in generating any paperwork in order to get in the sack with you. But even if he demonstrates he’s disease free, consider that aside from the moral questions about a married man, investing your time in one does have a cost. You think you can be looking for that real partner while you are carrying on with this guy. But, as your friends have warned, you can’t anticipate what happens to your emotions once you get involved with someone.

If this affair gets hot and heavy, it will likely make the available men seem lukewarm and lightweight in comparison. Keep at the forefront of your mind that your goal is to find your own life partner, not borrow someone else’s.


Dear Prudence,

Some three decades ago, I killed a man. He had broken into my home, armed; we struggled, he died. It was clearly self-defense and, frankly, I have no regrets or remorse. A few months ago, my wife’s brother did an idle Google search and discovered a report on the incident, which he’s shared widely in the family. He’s also taken to calling me “Killer.”

Normally, I’d be amused but some friends and family have reacted quite negatively, with one breaking all ties, another telling my wife that they’d rather not have me around their children, and a couple seemingly eager to either psychoanalyze me or get the gruesome details. How do I get people to understand that I am not interested in dredging up the past and that something that happened long ago has very little bearing on who I am today? I’d happily write off the rude and the stupid but these people are important to my wife.

— Not a Criminal

Dear Not,

Apparently these friends and family would prefer that you had been killed by the intruder, so they could then honor your memory as a tragic victim. I understand our country is divided over many issues, guns particularly among them, but surely even the most ardent gun-control activist can recognize that when an armed intruder is in your house, Robert’s Rules of Order do not apply.

Since this nonsense appears to be going on in your wife’s family, I think the first line of defense should be that she step up and defend you — unarmed, preferably. She should say to her brother, and the others who are now giving you the cold shoulder, how disturbed she is at this dredging up of a terrible encounter from years ago and the blatant misunderstanding of what happened. She can briefly explain you encountered a gunman in your own home, defended yourself, and of course no charges were brought. She should say she hopes everyone can be grateful you’re alive and that neither of you want to discuss this incident further.

When you encounter the psychoanalytic couple, just say it was a terrifying event you have no desire to relive. If after this the shunning continues, then you’re well rid of these insanely judgmental people.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

My grandma is in her early 80s and lives alone in a huge, dilapidated house that she grew up in. The home is not safe. It has very steep stairs, rickety railings — she has fallen and broken bones a few times in the past few years — there is mold, and she cannot keep it clean. Yet she refuses to move elsewhere. The family responds by traveling great distances, several times a week, to help her — these are people with jobs, special-needs kids, spouses who are terminally ill. In short, they are getting run down and exhausted, and it is a huge burden on multiple families.

I also worry that she will more seriously injure herself or even die because of this house and her refusal to move. I can’t think of another situation where family would go to such great lengths to help someone stay in a situation that is literally harming and is likely to kill her. Do you think this is enabling? Would it be cruel to tell her that some of the assistance/the visits/etc. won’t happen unless she downsizes to something safer, goes into assisted living, or moves in with a relative (at least one of her children has offered this)? We are at the end of our rope.

— Burdened by Grandma

Dear Burdened,

I love going to real estate open houses, but occasionally I see a once-valuable property that is in a state of decay and disrepair. I always wonder where the other family members were while the home — and presumably the owner — was falling apart. But as your case shows, it can sometimes be very difficult to help a recalcitrant old person and people back away out of misplaced love.

Your grandmother may not have dementia, but clearly she is incapable of making good decisions for herself, so her loved ones have to make them for her. This could require getting power of attorney and taking over her living situation. Perhaps the house needs to be sold to help pay for her to go to a facility where she will be safe and cared for. I know many old people and their loved ones think going to a nursing home is the cruelest kind of abandonment, but a clean, well-run place is so much better than a dangerous, mold-filled wreck.

You’re not actually independent if you’re falling down and requiring overtaxed family members to attend to your every need. It is a kindness to make sure your grandmother is being well taken care of. And I hope her lesson is learned by the generation behind her as they face their own old age.

— Prudie

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