Help! My Boyfriend Has a Mannequin Named “Barbara” That He Kisses and Talks to.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 14 2012 5:10 PM

Guys and Dolls

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice regarding a boyfriend whose “other woman” is a mannequin.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week’s chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.)

Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. It's good to be back for the chat. Let's get to it.

Q. My Boyfriend's Doll: I have a boyfriend of two years with a weird hobby. He has a mannequin he's kept since college, named "Barbara." I discovered her existence when we'd been seeing each other for over a year. He spends a significant amount of money for her maintenance and talks to it like a real person. When he comes home from a trip he kisses her and tells her he missed her. He sleeps next to her at night when I'm not there and basically treats her like a second girlfriend. I've asked him to get rid of it and his responses range from either ignoring what I've said, telling me he'll do it later, or pleading me to understand how important she is to him. He definitely has some kind of an emotional attachment to it. If it was a childhood blanket or even a teddy bear I wouldn't care so much, but having a life-sized, real-looking doll is just too much. We've fought over it so much he gets angry whenever I bring her up and says I'm being petty and jealous over a doll. Who's in the right here? Is this worth giving up an otherwise excellent relationship?

A: You would think one of the advantages of having a mannequin for a girlfriend is that the money needed to preserve her looks is minuscule. But Barbara sounds pretty high maintenance. Ryan Gosling starred in a movie, Lars and the Real Girl, which I had no desire to see, about a guy like your boyfriend who eventually gets everyone to accept his sex doll as his girlfriend. But your boyfriend is not so devoted to Barbara. There he is, cruelly leaving her at home, while he goes out on the town with you, and locking her in the broom closet when you spend the night. I'm trying to imagine the moment, a year into your relationship, when you discovered he was cheating on you with a life-sized doll. I am wondering how you managed not to run screaming into the night when your boyfriend finally introduced you to his love. Your boyfriend points out how petty you sound fighting with him over his feelings for a department-store mannequin. He has a point. There is no limit to the human capacity for kinkiness, and he's committed to his fetish. But you sound nuttier than he is by throwing jealous fits over Barbara. It was unfair of him to keep his obsession hidden while you two developed your relationship. That relationship may be "otherwise excellent" but excellence seems like an odd concept when your boyfriend is sleeping with a mannequin when you're not sharing his bed. If you choose to stay, then you're the one who has to accept that your boyfriend will likely never change, and neither will Barbara.

Dear Prudence: Husband Gone Wiccan

Q. Dysfunctional Family: My parents showed extreme favoritism toward me when my sister and I were growing up. If both of us did something wrong, our parents would severely rebuke my sister without saying a harsh word to me. They'd even go as far as to tell her off even more for "not looking after your little sister properly." I didn't know how dysfunctional this kind of parenting was—mainly because my parents treated me perfectly nicely and showered me with affection—until I grew up and saw how other families interacted. After my sister went to college (which she had to pay for herself by working multiple part-time jobs because my parents said they were paying for only my tuition), she decided to have as little to do with our family as much as possible. After several years of having barely any contact I wanted to establish a relationship with my sister and wrote her a letter. After four months she sent a scathing reply where she condemned me equally as our parents. I feel hurt because this is so unfair. Is there a chance of my sister forgiving me for something I never did?

A: I hope that in addition to the letter to your sister, you have had some very blunt conversations with your parents about how their favoritism destroyed their relationship with their eldest daughter and destroyed your relationship with you sister. What happened is not your fault, but surely long before you became an adult you were aware of the disparity in your treatment. From your sister's perspective, all she ever saw was how you benefited from the favoritism and never spoke up in her defense to your parents, or told her how horrible you felt about the disparities. Good for her for breaking away from your family—it sounds like the healthy thing for her to do. It would have been nice for you if she had responded differently to your letter, but what you got is not unexpected. So stop nursing your wounds over her "unfairness." She has to recover from a lifetime of abuse and that's no easy task. You may never have a relationship with her, but if you want to keep trying, respond to her letter. Tell her you understand her anger and looking back on what your childhoods were like grieves you. Say you hope you two can find a way to reconnect, but if that would be too painful for her, you understand. And tell her that you yourself have confronted your mother and father about their grotesque failures as parents.

Q. Marriage, Sex: My husband is an amazing man. We have a great relationship that bounces back quickly from any quarrels that may arise. There is only one thing that has come between us, though I think we have chosen to not acknowledge it fully, and that issue is sex. In the beginning of our relationship, we were going at it like rabbits, sometimes five to six times a day! Now we are lucky if it is once a month. He is always roaring to go, but for me, it's hard to get “in the mood.” I've had my thyroid checked and my testosterone has been checked, both are normal. Personally, I feel it is just all the stress and depression from work and money issues that I find it hard to enjoy. I've tried explaining this to him, but he just says “OK” or “I know,” but then acts like a wounded dog until he gets his lay. Any ideas on what else could be causing my lack of sex drive? Or how can I get him to stop pouting and whining around between romps?

A: If you two were having sex five to six times a day, no wonder you have financial troubles; it's hard to imagine you were able to show up for work. First of all, open a discussion with your husband about this. Explain that your loss of libido is concerning to you, you've discovered there's no medical reason, and you think life stress is making it hard for you to relax. Then make a commitment to have more sex. Forget waiting until the mood strikes; it's not fair to your husband to expect him to have sex less often than the Atlantic is published. I know it doesn't sound sexy, but decide to have appointment sex. Have an early dinner Wednesday night, then don't watch TV or go to your computers, instead take your husband by the hand and lead him to bed. Weekend mornings are also good. Since you once were quite the hot tamale, you will find that even if you aren't in the mood, once you get going you will recall just how much fun—and what a good stress reliever—having sex with your husband is.

Q. Public Expression of Annoyance: I'm Facebook friends with my sister-in-law, who, apparently, has a few issues with my parents. In the past few months she's made several posts along the lines of "oh great ... the in-laws are here—AGAIN," or "I hate it when my in-laws do (insert offenses here)." A couple of times I've replied in a light hearted way, "Hey, they're not that bad, are they?" She doesn't respond, but I'm certain she knows I can read her posts. Whatever problems she has with my parents, I feel like it's disrespectful to vent on Facebook this way, particularly when I can see them. Should I say something to her, or my brother? Or ignore it and pretend I can't see it?

A: In the matter of in-laws, I think it's a good rule of thumb to have the person who's actually related to the offender have the discussion. So tell your brother that you understand being a daughter-in-law can be tough, but when his wife vents to the world on Facebook about your parents, it's hurtful to read and is likely to get back to them. Your sister-in-law either needs to drastically increase her privacy settings, or better yet, grow up and stop writing nasty things about her in-laws for public consumption.

Q. Blind Book-Club Attendee: About six months ago, I started attending a book club at the public library. It's a great group of people and I really enjoy going. In addition to the social atmosphere and the book discussion, I liked the chance to have 30 to 40 minutes in the car by myself to listen to music and relax. (I don't get that much!) A couple of months ago, a co-worker approached me to ask me about a friend of hers who had expressed interest in joining a book club. She wanted to know if I could give him a ride to my book club, because he is blind and can't drive. I had only met him very briefly once or twice, but he seemed nice enough, so I said to give him my information and have him get in touch with me. It turned out he lives only five minutes away from me, so it wasn't inconvenient for me to pick him up. The problem? He drives me nuts! He thinks he's really smart, and isn't, and he talks nonstop all the way to book club and back. He's also trying to use book club to find a date, and quizzes me about all the women in the club and whether they're single. Prudie, he's sort of ruining my book club experience. I don't object to his being there, but he's quite dependent on me to find the room and other things in the library, so I can't just leave him to his own devices. I don't want to give up book club, but I can't figure out how to get out of taking him without coming off like a jerk who hates blind people.

A: You're stuck dealing with a jerk who just happens to be blind. Unless you change book clubs it would be hard to not drive this guy, but you should go ahead and give him the rules of the road. Tell him one of the things you like about the club is that on the drive you get to chill out and listen to music, so you are going to do that instead of talk. Then also tell him you are uncomfortable with his questions about the women at the club. You're there to discuss books, not arrange dates, so you can't help him as far as the other women are concerned. If he won't accept your requests, then tell him you'd prefer not to go to the club together.

Q. I Was Judged in a "Safe Space": In my social studies class we often discuss controversial topics and current events. Our teacher requires us to be respectful of those whose opinions differ from ours and has prohibited us from discussing what is said in the classroom outside of class. Recently during a debate about premarital sex and birth control I revealed I have been on birth control for some time and that I am safely sexually active. After class one of my conservative classmates told her prayer group that I wasn't a virgin, and one of their representatives told me they were praying for me. I reported the incident to my teacher, but he said since he didn't witness the telling he can't do anything about it. I think he's taking this stance because he disapproves of me not being a virgin. I am 18 and was stupid enough to believe his "safe space" rule. Should I bother telling an administrator, or am I setting myself up for more judgment?

A: You've just learned a good lesson that when you reveal private information in a public place, no matter how "safe," you don't control it anymore. I can understand what your classmate said about blabbing and praying was upsetting, but this is something you need to shrug off. If your classmate brings it up again, you can tell her that you think God has better things to do than intervene in your sex life.

Q. "For something I never did": Seriously, you never once questioned why your parents refused to pay for your sister's college education while paying yours without question? It took you longer than that to figure out something was wrong? I'm sorry, I'm with your sister on this one.

A: When you're deep into a dysfunctional family, seeing clearly can be difficult. But I agree that it's hard to believe that by that point, the letter writer didn't ask her parents about this awful disparity, and all the others.

Q. Re: Favorite sister: Don’t give up. My brother could do no wrong and I was demon spawn in the eyes of my parents. It took me a long time to develop a relationship with my brother, but now we're really close. It can happen.

A: Thanks for another, more hopeful, perspective on this.

Q. Baby Home Alone: My husband and I are blessed with a wonderful 3-month-old baby boy. I recently went back to work, and am required to be there a minimum of 14 hours on scheduled days. The other night, I didn't get home until 9:30 p.m. The front door to the house was wide open. I went inside, and no one was home. Scratch that—my 3-month-old baby was sleeping in his room while my husband was partying at the neighbor's house next door. He thought it was okay because he had a monitor and came home to check on him every once in a while. I say, no way, no matter what, under any circumstances, should a baby be left alone like that. Who's right?

A: I'm sure your husband's childcare methods are illegal in your jurisdiction. It's chilling to think what could happen with an open door, an unattended baby, and a father partying next door. Find some parenting classes, ideally that you two can attend together, so your husband can get his head into what being responsible for a new life means.

Q. Annoyed: I have a friend, "Leigh," who constantly does annoying things to my 2-year-old daughter because she thinks it's funny. One afternoon we were at her place with a group of other women from a book club we recently joined together. Leigh began tickling my daughter for a couple of seconds, repeatedly. My little girl made it clear she disliked this by saying "no" and pushing Leigh's hand away every time she did it. After several times my daughter clearly became agitated and stayed far from Leigh as much as possible. I asked Leigh politely to stop, but she ignored me and continued, giggling. Finally, angry and fed up, I slapped Leigh's hand away the moment she reached to tickle my daughter for the 10th or so time. I stood up and told her firmly, "Leigh, I've asked you to stop. That's enough and we're leaving." Everyone became completely silent and you could cut the atmosphere with the knife. Even though I feel I was right for making my stance, I feel embarrassed that it happened in front of a group of women I don't know well. I feel like I should write them an email and tell them I was sorry for inadvertently making a scene, without complaining about Leigh. Do you think this is necessary and what should I say?

A: Have book clubs become refuges for the socially bizarre? You don't owe anyone an apology, you were patient far too long with this jerk. It may just be easiest to consign "Leigh" to the category of ex-friend.

Q. Friend's Fiancée Threatened Me: My boyfriend and I have been together for four years and we are in our mid-to-late 20s. We've been friends for years with a man in his late 40s. A year ago, he met a woman online and they are now engaged. She will be moving to our state soon. She and I have chatted online and we recently met in person over breakfast. During breakfast with our respective boyfriends, I excused myself to the bathroom and she came along. While in the bathroom, she cornered me, jabbed a finger into my shoulder, and told me to "stay away" from our friend, "or else." I have never had romantic interest in my friend, nor has he in me, as far as I'm aware—I was very excited that he had met someone. The issue now is what do I do? Tell our friend he's about to marry a psycho?

A: I think you should tell your friend what happened. You've then at least given him the chance to reassess who he's marrying. If the conversation causes the end of the friendship, comfort yourself with the fact that it wasn't going to last anyway if he goes ahead and marries this loon.

Q. A Difficult Favor: When my brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly, his girlfriend was pregnant at the time and decided to raise the baby as a single mom. The baby is now 11 months old. His mother lives in Japan and we've never met him, except through photographs. I didn't give the baby a lot of thought until last month, when my parents-in-law dropped a bombshell. The mother apparently contacted them a couple of months ago saying that she couldn't raise the child anymore. I am not sure of the exact reasons, except that she is finding single parenthood more difficult than she anticipated, and feels like she can't do it. She has asked my parents-in-law to take him in. They are unable to raise the baby themselves because they run a small business, which requires both of them to work full time. I am a stay-at-home mom to my 4-year-old daughter, and we have another baby on the way. My in laws suggested that I have my baby first, then take custody of my nephew after a couple of months. My mother-in-law said she respected my decision, but began to cry almost hysterically when she talked about how heartbreaking it was to have a grandchild (who looks exactly like her deceased son) and never get to know him. My husband thinks we should raise him because it means a lot to his parents. What should I do?

A: This is a heartbreaking situation, but you don't take on a child you don't feel able to raise just because it would mean a lot to someone else. Unless becoming a mother to your nephew is what you really want to do, then you can't. If your in-laws are too old to become parents to a baby, that's understandable. But if their work hours are the problem, well many parents have full-time jobs and figure out how to raise children. Your family should hire a social worker who deals with these issues to help all of you hear your options and discuss the various possibilities of taking custody of your nephew. Your family would also need an attorney if you go ahead and get custody. For one thing, it's not clear whether the mother wants to place her child for adoption, or is just looking for a break.

Q. Ex-Wife Shacked Up With Cousin: Two and a half years ago, my wife had an affair with my cousin. It was very hard, and although I am much happier now (I have a new wonderful girlfriend whom I love dearly) I'm having trouble deciding how this will be dealt with when my kids start asking more detailed questions. Right now they are 4 and 5 years old and some of the awkward questions have already started. I have shared custody with my ex and we are not on good terms right now whatsoever. My ex lives with my cousin and even the thought of going over there is quite difficult. Now they have told the kids that they can refer to my cousin—also their cousin—as "step-dad." How do I deal with this when it comes to my children and telling them the truth? Also, how do I help them deal with this properly as they grow up and are able to understand everything in regards to family dynamics? My cousin and ex-wife have, for the most part, been shunned by the extended family. I want to help preserve my kids' relationship with their mother even if she has done incredibly hurtful things to me, since I know what it's like to grow up in a broken home and have a very strained relationship with my father. I am also worried that as the kids grow and start to understand everything that went on, they will feel deceived by being told to call their cousin "step-dad,", someone they used to refer to as "uncle. " Please ... HELP!

A: Your kids actually don't want to know, nor do they need to know, the complications in the family tree your ex-wife's behavior has caused. As awful as this is, your ex living with your cousin is, for your children, just a footnote to the end of their parents' marriage. Good for you for wanting them to have a decent relationship with their mother, even if you don't. It may be satisfying to see the cheating couple shunned, but it will only hurt your children, so if you can encourage your family to start normalizing relations with your ex and the cousin, that would be for the best. Whether they call your cousin "uncle" or "step-dad" isn't that important. What's important is that you and your ex do your best to put your hostility aside and make the smoothest transition for the kids. When the kids have questions, you answer them honestly, but appropriately for their age. So you say things such as, "Sometimes mommies and daddies can't get along anymore and they get a divorce. You have lots of friends, like Meghan and Hank, whose parents are divorced. But even when parents get divorced, they both still love their kids. And your mother and I will always love you and try to do what's best for you." If you put out of your mind the idea that your split was due to an extra-special violation that haunts the entire family, moving forward will be easier.

Q. Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place: I recently decided to propose to my girlfriend and am very excited. She is the most wonderful and beautiful woman, and my family and friends simply love her. The catch is my best friend. Though he likes her, he has asked me to postpone my proposal until he can figure out things with his own girlfriend. Recently they have fighting over where each stands on the marriage front. He knows he loves her, but does not feel ready for marriage yet, while she wants to know if it is in the future. They have been dating since college (so about five years), while my girlfriend and I have been dating for less. He knows that it would spark another fight if we got engaged right now. I told him I would wait a few months while I look for a ring and decide how I am going to do it. However, a week after this promise my grandmother took a turn for the worse in her dementia and might not have long to live. I want to introduce her to my future wife before she passes. I don't want to spark a fight between my friends, nor do I want to postpone my proposal or ask my girlfriend to keep it secret until he figures stuff out. What should I do?

A: Maybe you also want to get out your calendar and check when it would be all right for you and your wife to stop using birth control—you wouldn't want to interfere with your best friend's own conception plans, after all. Your friend's romantic difficulties are his own problem and have nothing to do with your happiness. If your girlfriend found out that your proposal is being manipulated by the demands of your friend, she might reconsider whether to say, "Yes." Tell your friend it's up to him to figure out his life, but you've figured out yours and you are not bowing to his pressure. Then start drawing some sharp boundaries with this guy.

Q. Mom Hell: This is more suited for long-term therapy, maybe, but here goes. My mom has informed the family that after 33 years of marriage, she's having an affair with an old flame and moving to Alaska soon. She's still living at home, yet calling this guy constantly and crying to my sister and me about how sorry she is. On the other hand, I'm getting phone calls from everyone from my dad to my grandmother to my extended family, all wanting to talk about this and come up with solutions. There are no solutions—I've paid for her to go to counseling, but she's convinced that this dude is her knight in shining armor. (To me, he sounds weird and controlling ... and the fact that he tracked her down online while being married himself is très sketchy.) My sis and I are at our wits' end—we've known for months, and we're ready for her to just go to Alaska and get out of our hair if that's what she wants so much. But now we're dealing with extended family who just found out and are at a different stage of handling the problem. My question is this: How do I salvage any relationship? I'm disgusted with her and never want to meet this man, but she's still my mom, and when she's crying to me, I want to make her feel better. How do I draw boundaries with everyone and generally behave like a thoughtful, emotionally mature person in the midst of such a mess?

A: Before she takes off panning for romantic gold, do your best to have her get a complete medical checkup. It sounds as if her behavior is out of character, and people who suddenly start behaving in bizarre ways could be suffering from any number of conditions. I just read how some temporal lobe dementias, which can be hard to diagnose, cause people to throw away well-established lives. Then if it turns out she's fine, there's not much you can do but bid her farewell.

Q. Get Off the Road, Grandma!: My 79-year-old grandmother has been displaying signs of dementia for years now, but since my grandfather's passing four years ago, she's gotten worse. She has trouble with very simple things and is a terrible driver! Recently, my uncle (who lives out of town) took her to purchase a brand new $30,000 car without talking to any of this siblings about it (you know, the ones who live locally and take care of her), just when they were thinking it's about time to take the keys away! Prudie, we live in a rather small community and are frequently remarked to by friends about how terrible my grandmother's driving is. My dad went so far as to notify the DMV, and her license has been suspended temporarily until she can undergo the test again, which they won’t do until her doctor clears her, and he won’t, because she refuses to get a CAT scan! Losing her license set off grandma and now my family is mad at my dad, when initially they agreed with him that she shouldn’t be driving. Shouldn’t her safety (and that of all other innocent bystanders) come before Grandma's feelings? She has lots of family here so she does not lack for transportation. Please tell me how this can be explained to our family who doesn't seem to understand this. I even think Grandma would be more okay with it if they were more supportive of her need rather than her wants.

A: Your uncle is a jerk, and yes, preventing your grandmother from killing innocent people—and likely herself—is what's important. Here's a piece I wrote exactly on this topic.

It has lots of links to organizations that give tips on how to have this discussion with recalcitrant family members. And good for your father for notifying the DMV!

Q. Re: Sibling rivalry: A few months ago, I wrote to you about my college dilemma because I wanted to go to my brother's rival college, and he said he would be deeply hurt if I did and wanted me to go to his alma mater. I just wanted to write to you that I took your advice and actually found a completely different school that I loved even more than my brother's rival school and just enrolled! I took my own path, and everyone in my family (even my brother) is extremely excited for me in this new chapter in my life!

A: Thank you for this wonderful update.

Q. Gender Neutral: I am 20 weeks pregnant, due at the end of September. This is my 2nd child, and because I found out the sex with my first, my husband and I have decided to NOT find out this time around—we are looking forward to the surprise on the day of the baby's birth. This is all well and good, and our family seems supportive. Our friends, however, are not. For some reason, my closest friend (whom I've been friends with since childhood) gives me a hard time about the fact we're not finding out. Every single time we talk. It's getting to the point where I'm ready to either just stop talking to her (which is difficult, because we work together) or being incredibly blunt, which I'm sure will hurt her feelings. She's driving me crazy though, with all the comments about not finding out the sex. Any thoughts on how I can kindly get her to stop bugging me about this? I've told her we're not changing our minds, but that has not stopped the comments.

A: Forget the "kindly"—four more months of this harassment is four months too many. Just say, "Maureen, we've been over this way too many times. The baby's sex will be revealed in September. I don't want to talk about whether I'm going to have a boy or a girl until then. Thanks."

Q. Friend's Dad Hugs Me Too Much: I am 16. I am new to my town. One of my closest (and few) new friends is Clara, who is in several of my classes. We hang out a lot after school, at her house or mine. Clara's dad works from home, and he and Clara seem very close. He hugs her a lot, and he calls her his "little lady." He tries to hug me a lot, too—two or three times if I come over—even though I told him I don't like hugging. He got offended when I said that and told me he's not a pervert. I felt really bad about saying that and Clara was mad at me for a few days. Clara's dad drives me home and he always finds an excuse for Clara to stay home, so we are alone. He will lean over me or pat my thigh. I want to remain friends with Clara, so I've tried telling him I will bike home, but he said that is not safe. I'm scared if I tell my parents what Clara's dad is like, or if I tell anyone, I will lose most of my friends. I don't want my parents to freak out. What should I do?

A: Tell your parents. This guy has already crossed the line and his telling you he's not a pervert means he's a pervert. Don't go over Clara's house any more. It's tough starting at a new school, and it will be sad if you lose Clara as a friend, but you need to stay far away from this creep.

Q. Re: Sex drive issue: It could be the pill, if she's on it. Some brands can wreak havoc on libido, so it might be worth stopping for a while or switching brands to see if that does the trick. A friend of mine had the same problem and when she stopped taking it ... look out!

A: Good suggestion, thanks.

Q. Mind Your Own Business: My husband and I are divorcing because of his multiple affairs. We have two elementary school age children together. Their teachers know about the divorce. My daughter in fifth grade told me on Friday that her teacher pulled her aside last week and gave her a message from my ex. The teacher is good friends with my ex's sister. She told my daughter that my ex loved her, that he missed her, and that if she ever wanted to tell him something, she could tell her teacher who would pass on the message. My ex doesn't pay child support and chooses not to see his kids, though I would welcome him spending time with them. I am so offended by my daughter's teacher's presumption that she could talk to my daughter about her dad. I want her to be fired but think that's unlikely. I have taken the weekend to calm down. But what actions should I take now?

A: Contact the principal. What the teacher did was outrageous, and thank goodness the school year is about to end or else your daughter might have been forced to switch classes. You need to hear back from the principal about what action he or she took. If it's not satisfactory, take your complaint up the line to the superintendant's office.

Q. He Can't See His Kids: I just found out my husband has been sleeping with his ex-wife. They have kids together. She wants him back in a very big way. I don't feel we can reconcile if he and she still have contact. So a condition of us staying together is that he can't see his kids from his first marriage. They live far away, so this doesn't seem like it will affect them too much. My husband is balking at this requirement. Should I cut my losses and leave?

A: Tell me this is a joke. Your husband may be a class-A jerk, but your "condition" for staying in the marriage is monstrous. Do everyone a favor and end this fiasco.

Q. My Husband Slapped Me but I Want To Stay: My husband and I have been married for five years and have a toddler together; we've recently talked about expanding our brood. My husband has been under a lot of pressure at work and with his family lately. He's been stressed in a way I've never seen him stressed before. Last night we began arguing, and after I said something admittedly nasty, he open-palm slapped me. He has NEVER hit me, or anyone, before in his life. He was immediately apologetic to the point of tears. He has been nothing but remorseful and has suggested counseling for us and for him. I love my husband, and even after the slap, my inclination is to stay with him. I feel like a complete idiot for blaming the slap on his stress and my nasty comment, but at the same time, I feel like those elements exacerbated the situation. They don't excuse the slap but they do make me believe that a slap (or any violence) won't happen again. Am I being absolutely stupid?

A: No, you're not being stupid. Your husband did something horrible, immediately regretted it, and wants to make sure he never does it again. Ending your marriage over this one incident—as long as it remains just one incident—would cause pain way out of proportion to the offense. Counseling should help you both develop rules of engagement that will make your marriage better.

Q. Re: Sex frequency: Like the OP wife, I am a happily married female with a limited libido. (Medical condition.) But my hubby and I have sex at least every single Sunday. No matter what. Yeah, I am not always “in the mood,” but as you point out it's usually enjoyable anyway, and let's face it, women have less, um, physical performance pressure than their male counterparts.

A: Good for you. And as you say, once you get going, you find it was a good idea!

Q. Chronically Late In-Laws: My fiancé and I are getting married soon. His family (parents, siblings, cousins) are a chronically late bunch—events big or small they are always at least a half hour behind schedule. The family was about 45 minutes late to my bridal shower! While I love them in every other situation, I am beyond the point of feeling frustrated with them—because I know this is how they are always going to be. However, I am not sure how to broach the subject of our wedding time with them. I would like family to arrive about an hour before the service so we can get some photos then. No matter what time I tell them to arrive I know that they will be late. Should I just face the fact that they will not get there when we ask them to and just get the pictures that we can with my family before the service and finish photos with them after the service? I have been trying really hard not to be anything resembling a bridezilla but this topic really gets me going!

A: You are marrying into this crew, so you have to let them know that after waiting a reasonable time (say 15 minutes) whatever the event, you are going to go ahead without them. That includes weddings, dinners, birthday parties, etc. I really like your idea of getting the photos you can beforehand, then filling in the rest later.

Emily Yoffe : Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.