Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 20 2006 6:58 AM

Get Ahold of Yourself

Does catching my husband masturbating mean I'm not enough for him?

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Dear Prudence,
I am a twentysomething woman who recently got married. I love my husband dearly and our intimate relationship seemed to be fine. However, an incident occurred that I just can't get over. Late one night after watching television in another room, I walked into our bedroom and discovered my husband taking care of his "needs" himself. I ran right out of the bedroom, extremely embarrassed and shocked, because it was totally unexpected and made me feel I wasn't enough to fulfill his needs. (I had been previously told by my hubby that he did that sort of thing only when I was "out of commission" for a week or so once a month.) Afterward, when I tried to let him know how I felt, he told me that it didn't have anything to do with me, it just "feels good" and that I "would never understand." That may be true, but it still hurt my feelings and I have repeatedly tried telling him so since the incident. Now I'm afraid to go into our bedroom when he's in there by himself. Am I wrong to feel this way?

—Dazed and Confused Newlywed

Dear Dazed,
If this were Victorian England, it would be understandable that you fled the bedroom after finding your husband engaged in the shame of self-abuse. Since it's not, and all he was doing was going solo—and you say he's not withholding sex from you—you're beating this to death. He's right, it's not about you, he's just a young guy who's overflowing with sexual energy. You, too, are young but inexperienced and perhaps by nature a little prudish. One of the great delights of marriage is that it is a safe and loving place to experience easy intimacy with another. Instead of making this unexpected encounter one of horror and humiliation, why not use it as a lesson that you need to be more open to your husband? To help you get there, go to a bookstore and look at some of the books on sexuality—that old chestnut The Joy of Sex would be a good place to start. And for goodness' sake, don't be afraid to enter your own bedroom; maybe next time you can offer to give your husband a hand.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I work as a customer-service manager for a family-owned company in a small, rural community that has been in business for more than 50 years. I have reluctantly accepted that the business is little more than an extension of this family's home life, and there are issues. I am expected to maintain a positive customer-service culture, yet the office is crawling with disobedient children and grandchildren, barking dogs, and screaming parents. Clients must walk through or step over dog urine and excrement, avoid being run over by kids riding office chairs up and down the halls, and contend with a general sense of mayhem that I, as a mere employee, have no authority to control. I have shared my concerns with the patriarch of the family, but he is a weak and ineffective leader who empathizes but seems powerless to effect change. In this family it's every man (and dog) for himself. I love my customers and feel challenged to turn this ship around. People who are familiar with the situation say I am outnumbered and cannot right a wrong that's been 50 years in the making. Any ideas?

—Frazzled

Dear Frazzled,
Customers step over dog excrement? I hope these people are in the fertilizer, not the restaurant-supply, business. Unless you view this job as preparation for being Ozzy Osbourne's personal assistant, how can you stand to show up for work every day? Your friends are right—this is an impossible situation and not yours to fix. Find a place of employment where you can help your customers without having to watch them slip-slide their way to your desk.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am a college student attending school in the Northeast. I was born and raised in New Orleans, where both my and my fiancee's families still live. I love my city, but these days I find myself hesitant to answer the question, "Where are you from?" Acquaintances and even strangers will immediately ask me painful questions such as, "How were you affected? Was your house destroyed? Did anyone you know die?" These questions are wearing me down. I am blessed that my family is alive and well. Everyone in New Orleans was affected by the flood, but that does not mean we are up for extremely personal interviews. How can I respond to their questions without lying or losing it?

—Searching for Neutral Ground

Dear Neutral,
The difficulty here is that almost everyone meeting someone from New Orleans for the first time will think it rude not to ask about Katrina. So, what to do? I talked with a New Orleanian Slate colleague who is being driven crazy by the same things you are. He helped come up with a way to deflect the questions:
Acquaintance: So, where are you from?
You: New Orleans.
A: Oh—do you have family there? Were they affected by Katrina?
Y: I do have family there and everyone's OK. Thanks for asking. Where are you from?
A: Chicago. But did your house get flooded? Did your pets drown? Does your family have electricity? Are they going to stay in New Orleans? Were they in the Superdome? Is everyone terrified about the next hurricane season?
Y: I'm sorry, I have such a bad case of Katrina fatigue that I'd rather talk about something else. So, what part of Chicago are you from?

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I've been divorced for 18 months and have recently become involved with a wonderful man. He's everything I seek in a mate: kind, upstanding, handsome, romantic, witty, and funny. He adores my child from my first marriage. On top of it all, he's independently wealthy and quite generous, a keeper in every sense of the word. Here's the problem. My ex-husband and I have always been friendly and he recently decided (with my input) to break up with his serious girlfriend of more than a year. He's constantly lamenting the lack of women who share his quirks, values, and interests. Meanwhile, I have found myself wondering what was so bad about him in the first place. Prudie, I am uniquely poised to rekindle an old flame and reunite a broken family. Should I share my feelings or let the moment pass?

—Bewildered

Dear Bewildered,
Well, what was so bad about him in the first place? You were once so in love with this man that you married and had a child with him. Then you became so fed up that you divorced him. Only you can say if it was a mistake, after all, to end the marriage. As for Mr. Wonderful, he does sound wonderful, perhaps a little too wonderful. While he may truly be as fantastic as he seems, you know that eventually his own quirks and annoying qualities will emerge. What is striking, however, is that in this glorious time before you see anything negative in your new suitor, you are contemplating whether to try to put your marriage back together. Imagine yourself back with your ex. If doing so makes you feel you don't want to let the possibility of reuniting pass, then broach the subject with him. But if you do go ahead, go slowly. It would be cruel to raise your child's hopes that Mom and Dad will get back together if you are simply pursuing a whim.

—Prudie