Help! My Brother-in-Law Peers Through My Bedroom Window and Surprises Me in the Shower.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 10 2012 2:16 PM

My Creepy Keeper

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose brother-in-law “watches over her” by peeping through her bedroom window.

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A: How misguided these parents have been to deny the existence of their late child and to keep the truth from their daughter. I understand they must have been in agony at their loss, but pretending their child was never born was the wrong way to try to mitigate everyone's pain. You should go back to your sister and say that the questions her daughter is asking you are strongly indicative that she knows, or suspects, the truth. That she had a twin is a discoverable fact, and it would so much better if this fact were told her by her parents than if she dug up the records herself. Then say given the age of your niece and the questions she is asking, you wanted to tell your sister that you no longer feel comfortable being part of this deceit and if the girl keeps pressing you, you are going to tell her the truth.

Q. Re: "Wanted to make sure I was alone" overnight: Another red flag from the first poster's note: coupled with the husband's request of the brother "watching out" makes it sound like this could be some trust issue of the husband toward his wife. Could it be he's actually encouraging the brother of some level of spying to make sure nothing's going on while he's out of town (entirely unjustified either way, I'd say).

A: Good point, and double creep alert! This new wife needs to get some immediate clarity here and if what you suggest is what she finds, she needs to quickly get out.

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Q. MIL the Phone Stalker: I got married four months ago and am now 13 weeks pregnant. Ever since we found out about the pregnancy, my MIL has been calling me almost nonstop. She is one of those people who could talk for hours with a brick wall. She will chatter incessantly with me occasionally muttering responses. She sends me pictures throughout the day on her cellphone—completely meaningless photos of what she's eating, wearing, a cute dog at the park, her friends and relatives, and so on. If I don't reply she'll call me and ask me what I thought. It's impossible to hang up because 1) it's so hard to get a word in and 2) if I say I have to go, she'll reply with something like, "Oh yes of course, I know you're busy dear. And here I am going on about Uncle Bob's knee surgery. Did you know his insurance didn't cover that? In fact, his daughter had to ..." We talk almost every day, sometimes up to three times a day, with each call lasting at least 40 minutes. I don't want to insult my husband's mother so I haven't said anything to him yet. What can I do to discourage her calls? I'm so stressed my hair is falling out and I feel panicky whenever I hear my cellphone ring.

A: Being able to handle someone who wants your attention nonstop will be good training for motherhood. I usually suggest with in-law problems that the grown child of the offending parent take the lead in having the discussion. So first ask your husband to intervene. He can explain that you're very busy and just don't have time for daily chats. He can add that the two of you will call once a week to give her updates. It could be, however, that your husband is thrilled that his time talking to his mother has been diminished since she found fresh meat. People like your mother-in-law are vampires who will suck away your time, energy—and hair!—if you let them. If you're husband won't do the dirty work, then you need to tell her you'll have a weekly conversation with her, but otherwise you don't have time to talk. Then ignore her calls and do not feel guilty about not picking up. When you do talk, after 15 minutes tell her that's it's been delightful hearing from her, but you have to go. Then hang up.

Q. Re: Erased Deceased Twin: Kate Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, describes just this situation, of a twin being erased and the remaining twin eventually finding out. Might be instructive for the parents or for the aunt/uncle.

A: Or the niece! Giving her this novel would be quite a way to let her in on the past. However, I recommend giving her the clearly articulated truth.

Q. Re: MIL Phone Stalker or Just a Lonely MIL?: Maybe the MIL is just a lonely woman, in which case the LW could try to show her a bit more compassion, especially since no doubt the LW and her husband will expect the MIL to be a (free) babysitter in the near future? I'm being sarcastic but I have noticed expectant mothers and brides sometimes have this "me me me" attitude, and maybe the MIL is just happy she has a preggo DIL and is trying to be her friend. How many of us would love to have a friendly MIL?

A: I think very few would like to have a mother-in-law so friendly that the stress of spending all your time handling her is making you go bald. The compassionate way to handle people with no boundaries is to establish some. Then even if they don't like it, they can start to understand there are rules for how to behave and the rules apply to them, too.

Q. Help My Parents Are Religious Nuts!: Please help me ... my parents are super-conservative religious. They converted when I was 10. I'm 15 now. I never really felt the same, but I pretend to go along, or else I'd be in a lot of trouble. Their new religion is really conservative about anything to do with sex. Well, I totally messed up. I'm a guy, and well, my mom walked into my room one night when I was masturbating. OK, I wanted to die, but she screamed and went and got my father. They were really mad, lectured me about how wrong it is, and just won't let it go. They told they pastor, and he has recommended that they send me to the country for a while. His brother has a farm, and I'd be expected to do a lot of manual labor in addition to going to school. I don't want to leave my friends, and I don't want to work on a farm, just for doing something that the health books I peeked a look at (at a friend's house) says is normal behavior. How do I get out of this!

A: You've let it go, and now they won't. You should not have to be sent away because you're engaging in behavior that is totally normal. It is so normal that parents should be more concerned if their teenage son doesn't start handling such urges himself. I hope you have some relatives who have not converted to this punitive religion who might be able to intervene on your behalf. If not, I think you should go to your guidance counselor at school and explain that you are in danger of being kicked out of your home and you want to be able to continue at the school. It could be that you might be able to live with a generous friend's family until your parents develop more compassion for their own child.

Q. Forgiveness: I'm looking for guidance about remaining friends with someone who knew about my spouse's affair but did not tell me. "Jana" has been my wife's best friend for almost 20 years. They've always said they're more like sisters than friends. Some months ago my wife began cheating on me, and after a few months she told Jana about her affair. Jana apparently felt uncomfortable being placed in that position and did not approve of the affair. She encouraged my wife to end it. But she never told me. Now that my wife and I are trying to reconcile, I've found it difficult to forgive Jana for her role in the affair. She's apologized profusely to me and explained why her loyalty to my wife overrode her loyalty to us as a couple. But I feel like I can never trust Jana again and am not sure how to recover from the affair while she's still my wife's closest friend.

A: I understand that you are displacing your anger, but there is nothing to be angry at Jana about. As much as Jana may be your friend, too, she and your wife have the more serious friendship. She bluntly told your wife she disapproved of her behavior and refused to support it or be her confidante. She was not obligated to then tell you. Jana is not the one who has betrayed your trust, your wife has. As hard as it may be, concentrate on repairing that relationship. 

In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this week’s chat!