September 27, 2023


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I took my best friend’s virginity before his wedding. Should I still attend the ceremony?

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.

Dear Prudence,

One of my best friends is a man I met a few years ago with whom I slowly fell in love. Despite being in our early 30s, both of us were virgins because of our religious traditions. I was profoundly disoriented when he recently got engaged to another woman after dating her for two months. After he became engaged, we had sex. Despite knowing that it was wrong, I think we’re both relieved and grateful to have shared this intimate experience before our paths diverged. The fact that we had sex makes it clear that we will have to adopt a disciplined approach to our friendship in the future. The dilemma: My friend had asked me to be his “best woman” at the wedding, and I agreed. But I feel as though I should pull out in light of the fact that I’ve slept with the groom. He disagrees, and it might raise some uncomfortable questions for him if I were to drop out. But if his fiancee found out that he and I slept together, having me in the wedding pictures would be extremely painful. What should I do?

You’ve left me intrigued about these religious traditions of yours. Intercourse before marriage is verboten, except if it is really necessary to alleviate the sexual tension that’s been building with someone other than your intended. Then, “relieved and grateful,” the cheating partners stand side by side as one marries someone else. It sounds like a denomination that could find itself wildly popular with politicians worldwide. I’m going to agree with you that you should pull out of this wedding before you and the groom find yourselves again in a situation that requires the groom to pull out. I’ve heard plenty of testimony about the beauty of saving oneself for marriage. But your experience makes clear that sometimes it’s best for two consenting adults to just hop in the sack and find out what all the fuss is about before they commit to never finding out with anyone else. It’s understandable that the groom would want to take advantage of the opportunity to have slept with more than one woman in his life, but having done so, it’s distasteful that he wants to include the woman he cheated with in the wedding ceremony. And, frankly, he sounds like the kind of guy who will one day be so consumed with the fact that his marriage started with a lie that he’ll be moved to erase this deceit by confessing his dalliance with his best woman. At that point, you’re right, the wife will probably put the wedding albums in the fireplace. The way out of this is for you to say you realize you’re so traditional (virginity until marriage and all) that you would prefer your dear friend find a man to be his best man. —Emily Yoffe

From: “Sex with the groom, gym stalker, abortion revelation, and inheritance fight.” (May 19, 2011)

Dear Prudence,

My husband is perfectly content not having any friends, but it bothers me. He doesn’t mind that I go out with friends; he doesn’t mind that I have people over to the house. He goes on hikes by himself; he sits on the porch and plays guitar. There’s nothing exactly wrong with the situation, except that I have this nagging feeling that people should have friends. Can you either convince me why it’s not a problem or help me justify why it is?

I think the way you’re looking at this situation—either this a problem that I can convince my husband has merit so he can solve it or this isn’t a problem, and I’m not allowed to have feelings about it—isn’t going to serve you or your husband well. If your husband were to rely solely on you for his entertainment and social life, if he were to treat you not just as a partner but as if you were the only meaningful interpersonal relationship possible for him to have, or if he were to discourage you from having friends or act as if you were taking something away from him when you invited people to the house, then this would be a serious problem, and you would have every reason to set limits and encourage him to develop a life outside of you. But simply being a loner—and it doesn’t sound like this is new for him; rather it sounds like you’ve known this about him for a while—doesn’t mean he’s doing anything wrong. —Danny M. Lavery

From: “Help! My Husband Doesn’t Have Any Friends.” (Aug. 23, 2018)

Dear Prudence,

A long time ago my husband and I took some, erm, “sexy” photos of ourselves. They were stored in our home PC and forgotten. Recently my mother-in-law asked us for a copy of our wedding photos and those of our 10-month-old daughter so she could make a family album. We haven’t organized our photos on the PC, so I simply copied and pasted the entire “My Pictures” folder into the USB. After giving it to her, I was horrified to realize that the “sexy” photos would also be there. My in-laws haven’t said anything to us, but I’m certain they saw them. I’m split between pretending nothing happened (but we know they know, and I feel embarrassed beyond belief) and saying something (but what do I say?). I don’t think I could look them in the eye again.

My husband and I once took “sexy” photos of ourselves. I hid them somewhere then promptly forgot they ever existed. A few years later, we went on vacation and had a team of painters do the entire house. The boss said he’d take all the books off the shelves himself. When we returned, all our books were piled in the middle of the living room, and on the very top, taken out of the envelope, were our photos. It’s very hard to say to someone, “Can you do another coat on the baseboards, please?” when you know he’s looking at you and thinking, “I’ve seen you naked!”

I’ve never been happier to have someone leave my life than that painter, so I can only imagine what you are feeling about your in-laws. However, in this digital age, many family members, while using each other’s computers, have stumbled on unfortunate knowledge about the sexual proclivities of others. Unless it is an issue of endangerment (child porn, for example), I think the best approach is to pretend you know nothing. In your case, this requires both parties to mutually, silently, agree that neither of you will ever mention the mortifying thing that has just taken place. Clearly, your in-laws are taking this approach, and you should follow their lead. Let’s assume they’re sophisticated people who once upon a time took their own sexy photos. Let’s say after clicking briefly on an image, they said to themselves, “At least these kids are having a great time,” and moved on. If you and your husband can find a way to laugh about this with each other, it will take away some of your anxiety.

So just sail forth acting as if you don’t know they know. And, please, clean out your files and put the photos in some encrypted place not even the NSC can access. —E.Y.

From: “Nude photos on the PC, reluctant adoption, chatterbox friends, and nagging husband.” (March 28, 2011)

Dear Prudence,

We have a vacation place in a popular tourist area. It’s pretty rural, there’s no cell coverage, and we had to go through a lot of engineering and effort to get ourselves workable internet service. My wife and I are both pretty strongly averse to social media. We’ve therefore blocked all the major social media services at our homes. We often invite friends to come stay with us—and we give a heads-up that there’s no Facebook et al. available.

Some guests have seemed put out by this. Is it so unreasonable? We believe that social media is monetized narcissism, that it distracts us, invades our privacy (we don’t want our property to be free content for these companies), and interferes with having quality time with our guests—that would be our answer if someone were to ask why we block the services, but we don’t volunteer the reasoning. I feel like they wouldn’t be likewise affronted by foregoing meat as guests at a vegetarian house. Is this so different?

I don’t know how similar not being able to access social media sites are to eating meat-free meals, but I don’t think you need to come up with direct analogies to vegetarianism in order to justify your choices. You and your wife have decided not to make that aspect of the internet available in your home, and as long as you let your guests know in advance, you’ve discharged your duties as polite hosts. If your guests want full internet access, then they are welcome to pay for a hotel in your “popular tourist area.” —D.L.

From: “Help! We Block Access to Social Media in Our Vacation Home. Are We Rude Hosts?” (Jan. 3, 2018)

More from Dear Prudence

My husband of four years and I have an open relationship and date people separately. Lately, he has been fairly successful in dating, whereas I have not. I am happy for him, but I also feel jealous and angry that I am not having similar results. To compound things, our sex life has dwindled. He works evenings and is always tired when I initiate—which I totally believe!—but it leaves me feeling depressed and unwanted. We have talked openly about these issues, and are trying to work through them together, but I am still struggling. Do you have any advice?