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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. Let's get to it.
Q. Secret Vasectomy Was Cause of Our Infertility: For the past two years my husband Harry and I have struggled with infertility. As a teen I dealt with an STD that could have affected my ability to have children. For that reason, and because Harry said his sperm count was fine, I have always blamed myself for our inability to conceive. We've kept our struggle with infertility very quiet. Thankfully, our families have never pressed us about when we're going to have kids. Last week I broke down to my wonderful mother-in-law about how difficult this experience has been. She frowned at me then said, “Harry reversed his vasectomy, then?” I was shocked, because Harry never mentioned having a vasectomy to me, but apparently he had one as a young man. When I spoke to Harry he admitted that he hasn't reversed the vasectomy and that he wasn't sure he wanted kids. He thought if we tried for long enough and never conceived I'd eventually give up trying. He's apologetic, because he never realized how much I blamed myself for our infertility. He has offered to have his vasectomy reversed or to adopt a child to make his lie up to me. My best friend thinks Harry's a sociopath, though, and that I should divorce him for being incredibly cruel. I'm in shock, devastated, have no idea what to do.
A: I just looked up "sociopath" and here's the definition: "(Noun)—A man who allows his wife to despair that she's infertile when he's secretly had a vasectomy. (Synonym)—Harry."
Thank goodness you spilled to your mother-in-law and she spilled that Harry can never spill his seed. What you should do is run to the best matrimonial lawyer in town. Make an appointment today. You are only two years into this sham marriage and if you end it, perhaps can find someone who is not a pathological liar and manipulator with whom you can have children. The fact that a single man would get a vasectomy, then marry a woman who wanted to have children and let her believe there was something wrong with her makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I don't see how you can share another meal or your bed with this monstrous person. Get out now.
Dear Prudence: Abortion Advocates on the Job
Q. Adopted Son Engaged to Biological Daughter: Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I adopted our son because we believed that we were sterile. Not even a few months into the process, I learned that I was pregnant. Our son is 26, our daughter is 24. I had long thought it was suspicious how upset either of them would get when an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend were mentioned. Now I know why: a family friend saw them kissing in public. They finally admitted it to me and explained that even though they were raised as brother and sister, the fact that they knew they were not blood-related prevented them from seeing each other that way. They've been dating for five years, they are engaged, and they are planning to marry. How do I deal with this information? Is it even legal?
A: This will certainly reduce the friction between the bride and groom's family for wedding-planning purposes! And you'll never have to share holiday visits with the in-laws when the grandchildren come along. A few months ago I had a letter from a gay man in an incestuous relationship with his twin brother. They wanted to know if they should reveal their relationship to their family (I said no), but at least they had no plans to marry, even though they lived in a state that allowed gay unions. It's true your children are not biologically related, so the genetic reason for barring sibling unions wouldn't apply to them. Still, my legal training (which consists of a quick trip around Google) indicates that no matter that your children do not share DNA, they are legal siblings and sibling marriage appears to be illegal.
It's one thing to marry the girl next door. It's another to marry the girl down the hall. Obviously, there is something shudder-inducing about your children's revelation. They are shattering a very deep taboo. At the least, they (or you, if they won't) need to consult with an attorney about the legal implications of their situation. Since they've opened up to you, you have to be open with them and explain you find their news deeply disturbing. Maybe they would agree that all four of you see a counselor together. If they intend to become each other's intended (even if they can't actually tie the knot) all of you are going to have to figure out how to deal with this very tangled skein.
Q. Dad's Night Visitor: My mom died from cancer a year ago. My dad has been raising my brother and my sister and me since then, and he's been doing a pretty good job. I know he's lonely, but now he has what he thinks is a secret girlfriend or something like that. Twice in the past month I have woken up in the middle of the night and heard him talking with the same woman in his bedroom. I stayed up and watched her leave the second time I caught them. I respect my dad's need for company, but my brother is 10, and I feel uncomfortable that this strange woman comes into our house when I sleep. I am 15 and read this column because my mom used to, by the way. Should I talk to my dad? That seems really embarrassing.
A: I'm so sorry about your mother's death. You sound very mature and insightful, and it's lovely you are looking out for your brother. Yes, what you've discovered is embarrassing, but this is something you should be able to talk about with your father. Tell him you need to speak to him alone, then say you've heard a female voice in the middle of the night a couple of times. Say you know he's lonely and you understand if he's seeing someone who he doesn't feel ready to bring around as his girlfriend. But say sneaking around isn't working and you're worried your little brother is going to find out. Be as calm and mature as you can be. It will probably be a relief for your Dad to get this out in the open. It's not up to a 15-year-old to dictate your father's personal life, thankfully. But he needs to figure out a better way to assess when it's appropriate that he introduce you to the woman (women?) he's seeing.
Q. Birthday Celebration: My boyfriend and I have been together about 18 months now, and I foresee us having a long future together. Things have been great, but it looks like there will be a prickly issue once a year—my birthday, which is coming up in a few weeks, happens to be the same exact date as his mother's. Last year, our birthday fell on a weeknight, and I had dinner and planned an activity with friends (including my boyfriend). His mom lives about an hour away, so he had dinner with her and gave her a gift that weekend, and all was well. This year our birthdays fall during the weekend, and my boyfriend has informed me that his mother has planned a big party for her birthday, even though it is not a milestone birthday. It will involve over 25 family members and a fish fry. As a strict vegetarian, I do not eat fish. I have been invited, but clearly will not be co-guest-of-honor. My boyfriend said he will take me out for dinner the next night to celebrate my birthday. I know I am past the age where birthdays should be important, but I can't help but feeling that his mother is making a power play, as she is well aware that it is also my birthday and I don't eat fish. I am also feeling like my boyfriend is picking his mother over me, since I apparently will not get to celebrate my birthday at all until the next day. Am I just being selfish or are my feelings warranted? What should I do about it?
A: Mom's throwing herself what sounds like a fun party and that's great. Your boyfriend should remind her that it's your birthday, too, so he's going to raise a glass to you after the birthday cake arrives. But since you're all adults, surely you are able to put off your private celebration until the next night. In addition, his mother is not required to have a tofu fry to accommodate you. I'm certain there will be plenty of side dishes in addition to fish so that you won't be in danger of starving to death on your special day. This party is only a power play if you make it one.
Q. My FIL the Doctor: I have an interesting predicament. My husband and I just found out that we're expecting triplets! These are our first children, and we're beyond excited, albeit a little nervous about complications that can arise from a multiple pregnancy (especially since I'm 37). I've been going to my Ob/Gyn for years and am very happy with her, but most women in my situation choose to switch to a specialist who regularly deals with multiple pregnancies. As it turns out, my father-in-law is one of those doctors, and has a great reputation. I get along with him really well—he's a wonderful man, and a great dad to my husband, but I'm just weirded out by the idea of my FIL being "down there." We live in a metropolitan city where there are certainly other options, but my husband wants me to see his father since this is what he's great at, and we really do need a specialist. Am I wrong for being weirded out? Should I take it as a blessing?