Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here.
I have TSA PreCheck through my job. When my wife and I travel together, is it rude for me to use the PreCheck line? She thinks I should go through the standard security line with her. I think it makes more sense for me to use the PreCheck line. If I get through security faster, I can get us a spot at the gate or a table at a restaurant while she’s still in line. What say you?
—Tired of Taking Off My Shoes
This is a perfect example of how there are no rules for relationships, only things that work for you as a couple and things that don’t. Your positions are both totally reasonable.
I can imagine many healthy couples in which the spouse without PreCheck would say, “Of course, go through the faster line. I see you all the time and I don’t need to be in this line with you. Bye.” I can also imagine many in which the spouse with PreCheck would say, “Don’t be silly, I’m not leaving you behind. We’re here together, plus, what am I really going to do with the extra five minutes on the other side of the gate?”
So your position isn’t wrong. But, assuming this isn’t part of a pattern where your wife tries to control your every move or doesn’t want you to do anything at all that doesn’t include her, you should let her win. It sounds like she would like your company and support—those lines can really stress some people out!—and wants to avoid feeling abandoned, even in this small, relatively meaningless way. If you can give her those things by taking your shoes off and giving up a few moments at Hudson News, why not just do it? After all, if we always did the practical thing that worked best for us, marriage wouldn’t work at all. We’d buy our own groceries, eat separately, and Venmo each other instead of giving each other gifts. What’s the point of being a couple if you aren’t going to go out of your way to act like it?
A few years ago, I persuaded my husband to join me in couples therapy to cope with some issues in our relationship. It did not go well. He’s a sweet guy but has little patience with fools and quickly reduced our first therapist to tears. A second also asked us not to come back and, by the third, it was clear this was not going to work. He insists that they were “morons” peddling “hype unsupported by evidence and based in sophomoric reasoning,” which to be fair he supported in his utter demolition of their profession. The thing is, I really want to try again with somebody new. Is it fair to put somebody through what is likely to be a grueling session in which everything they say is tested and in which they are continuously asked to support their arguments with research? How do you find a therapist who can withstand constant probing and can hold their own against a very fierce mind? (I should add that my husband is impeccably polite, generally kind, but extremely rational and unlikely to ever take anything on faith.)
—Unleash the Beast
I’m having a hard time squaring “he’s a really sweet guy” with “he made one therapist cry and made two others reject us as clients.” That’s really bad. Your husband sounds arrogant, rude, and not as invested in improving your relationship as he is in being right. I can’t help but wonder whether the way he’s behaving in therapy mirrors the way he behaves in your relationship. I also wonder whether you may be focusing on his conduct in these sessions more than on the way he treats you in day to day life, because it seems like an easier problem to tackle.
If you can get him to agree to go to therapy and actually participate—meaning, answering the therapist’s questions and talking honestly about his feelings rather than playing “debate me” like a Twitter troll—you might make some progress. Maybe you can even let him choose a therapist who he thinks is well-qualified or trained in a modality that he deems more reputable. But if he won’t agree to this, it will tell you a lot about how much he values your relationship and cares about improving it. You’re worried about how he’s treating therapists, but they’re professionals and they’ll be fine. I’m more concerned about you.
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A close friend of mine and her husband have a 2-year-old son, John, who is never exposed to healthy food. My friend and I are both women in our early 30s, and I spend lots of time at her house now that we are vaccinated.
My friend and her husband drink soda and eat fried food or greasy takeout for all meals. On a recent visit, I asked why there are no fruits or veggies in John’s lunch and my friend responded, “He doesn’t like them so we don’t buy any.” But when I grabbed a baggie of baby carrots from my bag and started snacking, John wandered over and ate with me. Next time I visited I brought raw broccoli, and again, John ate half with me.
It seems like bad parenting to not at least make fruits or vegetables available to a 2-year-old. How do I tell my friend that growing kids need fiber and vitamins instead of only chicken nuggets and Sprite? I have no children, and I think my opinions on parenting may not be welcome.
—Give the Kid a Vegetable
You are probably right that John would benefit from a piece of broccoli here and there. But I think you should stand down and stop giving advice. Your friends presumably have access to the internet and TV and books and a pediatrician. They surely know at least the basics about nutrition and are simply choosing to make different choices than you would. I don’t want you to ruin your relationship with them by criticizing their parenting.
It would be one thing if they were denying their kid immunizations or medical care or enough food, but they’re not. It sounds like John is safe, even if he’s not as full of fiber as he could be. So by all means, bring your bag of baby carrots when you visit and continue to share. Maybe even “forget” the leftovers. You say you visit a lot, so hopefully that will add up to a few servings of veggies a week. But keep your commentary to yourself unless they ask for your opinion.
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My mother is throwing me a graduation party in late July. She insists on using the color scheme of the high school I’m graduating from, rather than the color scheme of the college I’ll be attending in the fall. We’ve had several screaming matches over this, and she keeps bringing me to tears as she stubbornly insists that she’s right. How can I get my mom to see that her intransigence is ruining my party?
—I Hate Blue and Gold
Dear Blue and Gold,
In an ideal world, your mom would agree to your color scheme without a big fuss, because it is, after all, a celebration of your accomplishments.
But since she’s being stubborn, just let it go. You are about to go to college, where you’ll live alone without any parental supervision and make all of your own decisions. This will be both exciting and scary. And I have a feeling that’s what these fights are really about—separation anxiety on both sides and sadness about a changing mother-child relationship. Can you talk to her about how you plan to keep in touch and in what areas of your life you’ll still need her support? Maybe ask her if there’s anything she’s worried about as you take this step? I hope that can lead to a productive conversation about this intense moment in your life and that you both put your emotional energy where it really matters, which is not a screaming fight about balloons and streamers.
I teach at a progressive university in a major city. On the first day of class, I pair up students and ask them to introduce each other, and always tell them to make sure they are using their classmate’s pronouns. My small issue is that I have some students whose pronouns are “she/them” or “he/them” and don’t know what to do. I don’t want to ask which pronoun they prefer (since I don’t like the idea that “preferred pronouns” exist; we all have pronouns and need to use them correctly). At the same time, I don’t know if a particular student prefers they but is fine with he/she, or prefers he/she but is fine with they, or if they want me to use he/she in certain contexts (i.e., “She makes a good point”) and them in others (i.e., “Listen to them”). And I don’t feel like it’s polite to ask. Am I overthinking this? Currently, I’m defaulting to first names, but I’d love to know if there’s a generally appropriate way to ask about this. Thanks!
Dear Pronoun Politeness,
These students are so lucky to have such a thoughtful teacher. Here’s what I would do: Keep a list of the students who give you more than one pronoun option. And then email each of them:
“Hi, thanks so much for sharing your pronouns. I saw that you selected she/they. Because I have so many new names and associated pronouns to keep in my head, I’m wondering if I could ask you to choose just one that you’d like me to use for this class. I hope this isn’t impolite to ask, and I’m open to doing whatever works best for you, so if you want to chat about it, just let me know.”
I’m more comfortable with meeting people online first. I’m an anxious introvert and pursue connections with people who make me feel something. I recently connected with a guy who shares some of my values, and we had a date planned for tomorrow. The problem? He’s too nice. I know most people would do anything for that, but some of it rubs me the wrong way. Plus, I’m not super attracted to his photos, and I’m repulsed by the sound of his voice. I gave him an out with a vague explanation to be as kind as possible. Was I wrong to make that choice before meeting in person, in case that would sway my opinion? Am I not “broadening my horizons,” as he suggested? Or is it the kinder choice to let someone go when they have a lot to give but some things turn you off?
Dating is hard. It’s great that you want to stay open-minded and really kind that you want to give people a fair chance. But you never, ever have any obligation to go out with someone who repulses you in any way. Listen to your instincts—especially when “too nice” looks like being pushy. His giving you a hard time for failing to “broaden your horizons” raised a red flag for me, but even if he’s the nicest person on Earth, it’s fine for you to pass for any reason or for no reason at all. The vast majority of the billions of people in the world will be wrong for you, and you’ll be wrong for them, and that’s OK. You made the right choice.
I have a 5-month-old baby. My mother came to help out when he was born, and my husband and I are grateful to her for that. But we both began to notice while she was here that she would disparage my ability to breast-feed. I didn’t think that much of it, even though my husband felt she wanted to be holding our son more than I did. Now when she visits she routinely says that my son is “making do” with the mother he has, that it’s unfortunate for him that she isn’t around us most of the time. On her last visit she pointed out that she was a stay-at-home mother and I am not, so I need to have more of a routine in order to be a good mother. When she comes, I feel constantly judged, which is making me feel more distant from her. I think that she is jealous that I have a baby because her days of being a young mother are long past. I don’t know if I should bring any of this up to her. She is a very touchy person and I’m not sure it would do any good. How do I deal with this?