I secretly watch my scantily clad neighbors.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 14 2010 6:55 AM

Room With a View

I get a thrill seeing my neighbors in the buff. Am I cheating on my wife?

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Dear Prudence,
I'm a happily married man in my 20s with a gorgeous wife, whom I adore. We live in a big city in an apartment building. In order to let in light, we keep the curtains open in our bedroom (sans naughty time). I've recently noticed that the female who lives in the apartment directly across from ours and the female in the apartment one floor below also leave their curtains open as they walk around half-naked. I'm not sidling up to the window for hours upon end, but on occasion I catch a glimpse of skin, and I'll admit that I don't turn away. I don't know whether my wife has noticed the neighbors, but I haven't told her that I have. I feel as if I'm hiding a secret from her and even committing a form of adultery by not walking away when I see them. Should I tell my wife so we can make a decision about what to do together (and hope she doesn't divorce me)? Or should I unilaterally reach out to the neighbors, telling them that my whole building has probably been getting a show for several months and they should be more aware of their actions?

—In the Window

Dear In the Window,
Virtually any heterosexual man finding himself in your situation would conclude he's got a Donald Trump-like gift for picking real estate. Since we're making comparisons with The Donald, who is also an expert on adultery, let's narrow the definition of it to actually having sexual contact with a woman other than your wife. As for your plans of attack, let's take the second option first. If you secretly make the rounds of the Victoria's Secret models across the way and explain to them the distress their dishabille causes you, that will surely be the day your wife does glance out the bedroom window at the neighborhood lovelies and wonders what in the world you're up to. So forget the friendly lecture. But since your voyeuristic impulse and subsequent guilt are bothering you, go ahead and mention the peep show to your wife. She may surprise you and suggest the two of you discreetly catch a Saturday matinee. If, however, she (ridiculously) gets all huffy that you didn't run in horror when you realized the neighbors were scantily clad, you should point out that while you two draw the curtain for your own "naughty time," that leaves a lot of your own half-dressed lives on display. It's possible your entire neighborhood is engaged in an endless round-robin of Rear Window. You could suggest that you get some sheer bedroom curtains so you continue to get light but don't put yourselves on view. And if it happens that when you're alone in the bedroom, the sheers somehow get nudged open a crack, and you see that next door the show goes on, consider it a freebie.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My wife and her sister have been very close until recently, and I'm partly responsible for the breach. I work with my wife's sister. They talk often and share gossip. The sister called a while ago and told my wife a funny story about some people in our workplace—and swore my wife to secrecy. I heard my wife laughing, and when she hung up, I asked her what was so funny. Without much prodding, she told me and made me promise never to mention that I knew. A week later, her sister came over. Idiotically, during a lull in the conversation, I made a reference to the sister about the story. She became titanically angry with my wife and left early. My wife was in tears and unable to sleep. She sent apologetic e-mails to her sister, and I brought her sister flowers. Things have been patched over, but the two of them are definitely cooler to each other and communicate less. I feel terrible. That said, I think there's some blame to go around—for my wife, who revealed the "secret," and for her sister, who put my wife in the awkward position of keeping things about my workplace from me. Mainly, I'd like my wife and her sister to get along as well as they used to. Is there anything I can do?

—Troubled

Dear Troubled,
How gracious of you to want to condemn your wife for trusting you to keep a confidence. I agree you behaved idiotically, but it will be better for your marriage, and your character, if you drop the line of argument that shifts the blame to her. It actually falls on you and your sister-in-law. It's implicitly understood that, except under special circumstances, spouses share confidences, and that if a wife tells a secret to her husband, or vice versa, both of them are supposed to be under a cone of silence. It's also true that it's a bit much for your sister-in-law to pass on an amusing story about her co-workers—who happen also to be your co-workers—and then expect your wife to keep the story from you. If your wife agrees, I think you should send your sister-in-law a note. Explain to her that you understand her sense of betrayal, but you're the one at fault, not your wife. Say that you pressed your wife for the story and that you were wrong to have broken her confidence. Say it is deeply painful to be the cause of a breach because you know that your wife's closeness with her sister is one of the great joys of her life. Then it is up to the two women to see whether they can resume their intimacy. Let's hope the sister-in-law realizes no silly piece of gossip is worth the damage that's been done.

—Prudie