Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 23 2007 7:25 AM

Long Division

My husband won't share the financial burden of conceiving a child. What should I do?

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Dear Prudence,
My husband and I have separate bank accounts, with a joint account for bills. Since we make roughly the same amount of money, the bills are split 50/50 through the joint account, and the rest of our personal paychecks are for ourselves to spend as we wish. About two years ago, we happily decided together to have a baby. I couldn't conceive, and the doctors put me on a cocktail of hormones. The drugs are not covered by insurance, neither are the ovulation kits and pregnancy tests. This is an expense I have shouldered on my own. It has added up, and I find myself more and more in debt. My husband has seen how much I spend on all of these treatments, but has yet to offer to help with the financial burden. I've tried to be subtle—I once asked him to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home from work, but he has never done it since—but now I just want to scream at him every time I come home with another prescription and he comes home with another man-toy! It's bad enough that I already feel like it's my fault we haven't conceived, but by not sharing in the financial aspects of this process, I feel even more alone. Am I off base to ask him to help pay for treatments for a problem that is "mine"? Or is it just the overabundance of hormones that make me want to freak out on him?

—Barefoot and Not-So-Pregnant

Dear Barefoot,
I hope you are able to start your family soon, but take this waiting period as a chance to rethink your definitions of yours, mine, and ours. There's something wrong with the fundamentals of a marriage if one partner is going into debt over a medical treatment—whatever the malady—while the other is flush enough to indulge his whims. There's also something wrong if the partner going broke feels she has to quietly seethe and hint that something's wrong, instead of being able to say, "We need to figure out another way to manage our finances together." How do you plan to divide the cost of caring for a future child: He pays for everything below the waist (diapers, booties), and you pay for everything above (pacifiers, hats)? When Solomon suggested dividing the disputed baby, he was illustrating that some things simply can't be cut in half. Since handling money and child-rearing are flashpoint issues in many marriages, you two must work on your communication skills and your sense that you're in this together, before you bring home a very demanding third party.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudie,
I am a Dutchman married for seven years to a lovely American girl. All is well, unless we visit my family in Holland, which we do one week each year. Apart from the typical in-laws issues, there is a certain language barrier. Everybody in my family speaks decent English, and as long as the group isn't bigger than four or five, we all talk in English (well, OK, at least 90 percent of the time), but when bigger groups meet, like at dinner with my parents, three sisters, and their husbands, then the "only speak English" rule is quickly forgotten. My wife thinks this is rude, and if the others cannot always speak English, then I, at least, should translate for her. I find this an impossible task, as it entails translation and explanation (who is Uncle Sjoerd?), which means that I can't talk with my family. I have asked—begged—my wife to please learn some Dutch so she can follow the discussions. She can talk back in English, nobody would mind. She feels that, being over 30, she is too old to learn a foreign language. She has tried a few times halfheartedly, but a language is simply not something you acquire by listening to tapes in the car for a couple of weeks. Am I being uncaring, and should I keep translating, or could she make some more effort to learn some Dutch?

—Nederlands Voor Beginners

Dear Nederlands,
At the risk of getting in Dutch with the two of you, I think you're both wrong. It's thoughtful of your family to speak English around your wife, but once the room fills and the conversation gets going, it's unrealistic to demand that a lively family get-together be conducted awkwardly in a foreign language for the benefit of one person (or that you should provide continuous simultaneous translation). Your family should be sensitive to the fact that your wife's being left out and engage her one-on-one, but she should accept that for part of every trip to your homeland, she's just going to have to let the discussion bubble incomprehensibly around her. And it's a bit much for you to ask your wife—who isn't good at foreign languages—to spend the year trying to learn enough so that on a short vacation she can start conversations such as, "The dikes look very sturdy," and, "I hope Uncle Sjoerd's digestive troubles have cleared up." However, it would be a gracious gesture on her part if she could at least learn to say, "So nice to see you. I'm so sorry I still don't speak any Dutch" in Dutch. Perhaps, if this issue isn't already too loaded between you, you could be her tutor.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I used to cut myself, starting about four years ago and stopping about four months ago. I stopped for a while during that time because my family and friends found out and were horrified. I'm not sure why I started again. I stopped this time because I was becoming frustrated by the endless cycle of depression leading to cutting leading to self-loathing leading to more depression, and so forth. I still occasionally feel depressed, but I've been able to divert it by talking to friends about my feelings, exercising, reading, playing music, or otherwise distracting myself. My problem is, what to tell my boyfriend? I feel like the scars are rather hard to miss when I wear something shorter, although I rarely do. I'm working on accepting them as part of me, part of my past, and not being ashamed to talk about them, but it's difficult. I've talked to him about my experiences with depression, but haven't told him that I ever self-injured. Is there an obligation to inform anyone I date? Do I tell him before he sees, or wait for him to ask?

—Scarred

Dear Scarred,
You should be proud that you've addressed this problem and created both a support system and a way to alleviate your sadness by doing productive things. But you are putting too much of a burden on yourself to deal with the medical issue of your underlying depression—and the self-harm you've been doing—without professional help. It would also benefit you to have a therapist to turn to in case you find yourself again feeling overwhelmed. One type of therapy that deals specifically with self-injury is dialectical behavior therapy (this Web site has a referral list). As for your boyfriend, this is the kind of information one person does owe the other in a relationship, but not until you are at that stage when you tell intimate things about yourself you wouldn't say to someone you're just dating. Since you expect your boyfriend will notice your scars, that's another good reason for you to seek professional help. Then you can tell him honestly, "I used to hurt myself sometimes. But I'm getting treatment, and I've stopped."

—Prudie

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Dear Prudie,
Please help us with a family quandary about our four teenage grandchildren. We have always sent gifts and cards on birthdays, Christmas, and special occasions, supported travel and educational opportunities, and stayed in touch with letters, cards, and e-mail. Three of the grandchildren always express thanks for gifts, write letters to us, and exhibit good manners in all respects. It's a different story with the other grandchild, who lives in another city. He does not say thanks or acknowledge the gifts he receives, nor does he respond to our letters or other communications. He is an excellent student in school, but his absence of common courtesy is contrary to the good manners his parents have unsuccessfully tried to teach him. We have sent him gifts, thinking that he would develop some manners as he grew older. He is now 18 and it hasn't happened. I am disgusted with his behavior and think it's time to stop the gifting and tell him why. My wife, however, thinks we should continue in order to treat our grandkids equally. He acts the same toward his other relatives, and some of them are wrestling with the same question.

—Fed Up

Dear Fed,
I think you should send one more gift and enclose a note explaining your feelings. Tell your grandson that you love him very much and enjoy sending him things you think he would like, but this will be the last such gift he receives unless he does you the courtesy of acknowledging it with a thank-you note or call. However, I wonder if something else is going on here beyond the fact that you may have a rude and selfish grandson. Although he does well in school, and you say his parents have tried to teach him manners, it sounds as if he has little connection to anyone else in the family. Have you talked to his parents about whether he has normal social relationships? If he doesn't, the problem is larger than thank-you notes, and before he goes off into adulthood, he needs some evaluation and help.

—Prudie