Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
My fiancé and I are American, but we live in a country outside of the U.S. and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. We’ve just gotten engaged and are planning on getting married in our current country of residency. Most of our family will be able to easily pay to come to the wedding, and we’ve figured out ways for everybody to save money. Almost everybody we know is really excited to visit our country. I’m really excited for them to visit, but there’s one thing I’m concerned about.
For many years, both my fiancé and I have wanted to have a very, very small marriage ceremony on a Friday and have the reception on a Saturday. We’ve always wanted the actual wedding to be very intimate, with maybe 10 or so people on each side. I still want to do this, but I’m feeling really uneasy about having so many of my family fly out here and not actually get to see us get married. We have almost 100 family members between the two of us that are flying in, not including our close friends and their families. We want this all done in one weekend, not several events over several continents and several weekends. Because we both have such a big family, it’s hard to sit down with them all and figure out what they’re thinking; plus, both our families aren’t very confrontational, so even if they were upset about it, they wouldn’t say anything. Do you have any advice on what we should do?
— Dumbfounded Fiancé
Dear Dumbfounded Fiancé,
Did you send the invitations or save the dates yet? If you did, and they said the word “wedding,” and people are traveling internationally to attend, you should provide an actual wedding—not just a party—for their entertainment. If you’re still finalizing details and haven’t formally invited people yet, make it clear that they’re being asked to attend a reception celebrating your marriage and let them decide whether to make the trip. That way you don’t have to worry about offending people who spend a lot of money to make it to the event only to find out they didn’t make the cut for the part where you say your vows. A lot of your guests will probably be fine with this—after all, the reception is the fun part— but it’s best to be clear and honest. You don’t want anyone feeling cheated, and communicating well will allow you to enjoy a wedding weekend that’s exactly what you want it to be.
I moved out when my eight-year marriage unraveled just before COVID. We tried to make it work for a while, but I’ve now been effectively “single and married” for more than a year (as our divorce will be finalized in spring for irrelevant administrative reasons). I’m also excited to date again, but I am bringing with me limited skills and prior experience (as I have only ever dated friends, never casually hooked-up, and all of that before the first iPhone arrived).
Despite facing these odds, I just returned from a fantastic multi-day warm-weather getaway with my first serious Tinder-match. This was only our third date, and amazingly we spent about half the time in the bedroom, and none of the time discussing what we’re both looking for. While I shared about as much of my past as she has of hers, I also committed a lie-of-omission by referring to my wife only as “my ex“ and not mentioning the marriage or divorce. Friends advise me that this is normal and accepted behavior these days—but it doesn’t feel great, and I don’t want to mislead this lovely woman. Admittedly, I’m also a little worried about jeopardizing whatever “this” is (and could potentially become) by clumsily over-sharing at the wrong time.
Essentially, I am totally lost in (and amazed by) this brave new world, and looking for some navigational guidance: How badly have I messed up already, if at all? How can I best share my status proactively, assuming it’s still the norm? And do I do this? In case it matters: We’re both in our late 30s, and unlike me, she is not new to Tinder.
— Dating Whilst (Technically) Still Married
You have to tell her. Now. If it’s so normal and acceptable to date while separated but not divorced, why are you hiding it? Why wouldn’t she be okay with it? You can’t both say this is harmless and hide it. Pick a lane! Pair the news that you’re still technically married with a sincere apology for hiding the truth, an explanation that you realize this was a serious mistake, and a promise to answer any questions about the exact state of your marriage and your divorce timeline—with supporting documentation, if requested. Because you’ve given her a reason not to trust you.
My niece is trans, and she is deciding on getting gender affirming surgery; I’d like to give her advice without offending her. I’m a family physician who’s treated trans women in the past, and I have a few patients who underwent vaginoplasty and had complications. It’s easy for me to give advice to my patients—I’m their doctor, it’s my role, etc. —but as a cisgender aunt, I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I gently told her I knew some patients who had post-op complications, but she accused me of being transphobic and not respecting her journey. Normally I don’t like giving unwanted advice, but one of my patients is having such a hard time post-op, I can’t help but worry. Any advice? I spoke with my sister about my worries, but she isn’t comfortable having that discussion with her.
— Concerned Aunt
Dear Concerned Aunt,
Well, you’ve offered your help, and that’s all you can do. I do think you can take some comfort in the idea that the surgeon who would be performing any surgery probably has even more expertise than you do when it comes to the pros and cons of various techniques and potential complications. Your niece is almost certainly under the care of a team of professionals, and she knows that you’re available if she needs a second opinion. So wish her the best, and back off for now.
Catch up on this week’s Prudie.
More Advice From How to Do It
My boyfriend and I have been together almost four years now. Just recently, we had a conversation where he confessed that he “didn’t feel in love with me anymore.” I was absolutely devastated, but we talked some more and both said that we wanted to stay together because we do love each other. However, I feel I am the problem in this relationship. I am very inexperienced in the bedroom compared to him and that has caused us to have a very “vanilla” sex life. He says he is attracted to me but I feel my lack of “wild and sexy” has caused our relationship to lose the “lust factor,” which has put a huge strain on us. He travels for work so we only see each other every couple months for maybe a week at a time. Please help me figure out someway to be more open and wild in bed so that maybe I can boost our sex life.