Help! My Pregnant Sister-in-Law Wants Us To Postpone Our Wedding.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 23 2012 5:45 AM

A Very Long Engagement?

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose sister-in-law demands she postpone her wedding.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: He's just proven to you he's not being honest and truthful, since you caught him lying after his supposed successful therapy. You know who and what your husband is, so the question is who you are and what has this marriage done to you. You know that being an electronic parole officer is not going to make your husband faithful and reliable. You say he has put your health is at risk and your marriage is a sham. So the real question is not whether your snooping is justified, but when you are going to decide to get out.

Q. Son's Surgery vs. Stepdaughter's Big Dance Recital: My 3-year-old son has been battling a life-threatening disease since May. He has already undergone one aggressive surgery as well as brutal medical treatments to combat the disease. Since the diagnosis his father and I have struggled to balance our son's care with the needs of our 5- and 1-year-old daughters and my teenage stepchildren. Neither of us wants to become inattentive parents to our healthy children, but sometimes our son's emergency medical needs take precedent over those of our other kids. This past week, our son's doctors told us he would need another high-risk surgery to further combat his disease. They scheduled the surgery for the same day as my stepdaughter's fall dance recital. My stepdaughter loves dance, and it's her main extracurricular activity. This recital is the first time she has a solo performance, so it's a very big deal to her. My husband could theoretically go to the dance recital after our son goes in for surgery and be back from the dance recital around the time that our son comes out of surgery. My stepdaughter and her mom really want my husband to be there, and I know he wants to see his daughter dance, too. But I have asked him to stay with me during the surgery, because this isn't something I want to experience on my own, and I'm also terrified something might go wrong during the surgery. My stepdaughter is very upset, as is her mom, and my husband feels like he's in a no-win situation where he has to let down one of his kids. I have never asked my husband to "choose" our children over my stepchildren, and I never wanted to have to ask that. But I think that our son's high-risk surgery takes priority over the dance recital. I'm in need of someone who is unbiased to give me some advice.

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A: I'm so sorry for the agony you're going through and I hope your son is headed for recovery. Of course you want to be good parents to your other children, but this is not a normal time and you only have so much attention and emotional energy to go around. I hope other family members are stepping in to give support to you and your husband and especially to the other kids. If not, do not be shy about asking for it. Often people don't know what to do, so you should say, "Can you take the kids to the playground on Tuesday? We have a doctor's appointment that afternoon." If you haven't, set up one of those websites for people going through medical treatment that have calendars and wish lists so people can sign up to bring you meals or run errands, etc. It's understandable your stepdaughter wants her father to be at her big event, but I really wish his ex were acting like an adult. She should have explained to the girl that as much as dad wants to be there, a medical crisis is one of those things that has to be attended to. Too bad the ex is only making things worse. Perhaps a compromise is that your husband provides the technology to make sure the recital is filmed—he could even watch it streaming. It's also possible that depending on how you feel and whether you have a family member or dear friend to be at the hospital with you, that you would be OK with having your husband go to at least part of the recital. This would mean that your husband puts his phone on vibrate so he can receive a message from you if need be. Also, please ask at the hospital for a support group for others going through the illness of a child. Airing your feelings and getting advice from people who truly understand will make you feel less alone.

Q. Rape Ruining Marriage?: Almost four years ago, I was raped by an ex-boyfriend. Since then, I met and married my husband, who knew about the incident from the beginning of our relationship. In the time we've been married, I've gone to countless hours of therapy, and spent two years on anti-depressants before finally feeling stable enough to go without them. However, these emotional advancements have come at one cost: I am not interested in sex, at all, whatsoever. It has gotten to the point where I haven't had any sort of intimate contact with my husband in over a year. I was never particularly sexual, so it doesn't bother me, but it hits my husband hard. I feel sort of guilty, and think that my husband deserves better, but at the same time, he has occasional fits of rage, which he blames on “too much stress from no sex.” I'm very confused, I really think my husband deserves a healthy relationship, but I'm not willing to put myself through the hell I went through just to get back to being a functioning human being. The idea of sex sends me into a panicking tailspin of shame and anxiety, and yet, the progress I've made is significant enough that I'll not throw it away. What is the best way to keep my sanity, and have a healthy relationship?

A: Please find a new therapist. From your description you are terribly stuck and four years later have not been able to put your life together. I wish I knew more about your husband's "fits of rage." Does he rage at you because of your celibate marriage? Do you feel threatened? Or does he pop off when the remote won't work and ascribes his anger to sexual frustration? In any case, you need to do way more work on yourself before you can consider functioning in a healthy relationship. Your marriage is so far from that, that unless big changes can be made, dissolving it might be the best thing. Perhaps your husband is staying because he thinks you're too fragile to leave, but this marriage is leaving both of you so frustrated and even fearful that it's doing neither of you any good.

Q. Re: Love "cousins": My first cousin married her second cousin, and they are well into a happy and healthy marriage with beautiful and healthy little babies. There's nothing wrong with planning a future together.

A: Thanks for this. I agree this should be a non-issue.

Q. Bad Mother: My cousin Linda is a high school teacher. She is also a mother to two kids (a girl and a boy) and you'd think she'd be a perfect role model to these kids. But she is one of the worst mothers I've ever seen. She screams at the kids constantly, calls them names (such as dumb-head) It absolutely breaks my heart. I barely see her, and only recently met her kids (they are 4 and 2 years old) Now I have no doubt in my mind why I don't attend family functions. I don't feel like there is a way for me to tell her to stop being a bad mother without my other family members back-lashing at me. They all have seen how she treats them lower then dirt. Please give me advice.

A: Given Linda's feeling about young people, that's an interesting career choice on her part. Her behavior is so awful that sounds as if she needs some serious intervention by one or two family members who she views as having authority. To get this started, quietly discuss with people what you've seen and how concerned you are. Explain this kind of verbal abuse can have lifetime effects and you think Linda and her children would be helped by seeking some family counseling, and you hope someone can recommend this to her. Unfortunately, sometimes family dynamics are such that they end up empowering the sickest members because no one wants to tangle with them. If that's the case here, call the Childhelp hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD and speak to a counselor about what you can do.

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

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.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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