Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the 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.)
Q. Sister-in-Law Wants Us To Postpone Our Wedding : My fiancé and I got engaged a few months back. A few months prior to that, his sister had announced her pregnancy. We felt it was a respectful length of time and announced our engagement. She was immediately seeing red and started being passive-aggressive to me. The problem? Our wedding is four months after her child's birth, and she feels like it should be at least a year later. My fiancé seems swayed by her argument. I've told him that even though she will be traveling for the wedding, there isn't much difference between traveling with a 4-month-old or a 1-year-old child. His sister is also already talking about having her second and third child soon. I asked him if we're expected to wait five years until all of her bundles are grown up before we can get married. I think she's just jealous because she feels her thunder has been stolen. She was the only girl growing up, and a spoiled one at that. I don't talk about the wedding in front of any of his family and try to keep all conversations focused on her to placate her. Am I wrong not to bow down and to keep our April wedding?
A: How derelict you have been. Of course you should cancel your wedding plans—your fiancé's sister might still be breast-feeding! It's so insensitive of you to think someone should get married under those circumstances. After her baby is born, ask immediately for your future sister-in-law to create an online spread sheet showing her fertile days and the times she has intercourse. That way you can anticipate her reproductive schedule and plan your nuptials accordingly.
Alternatively, unless your fiancé finds the wherewithal to stand up to his crazy sister, you might want to reconsider whether she should become your never-to-be-sister-in-law. "Respectful length of time" to announce your engagement? Someone needs to clue in the sister that she doesn't have some lock on good news and other people's lives go on irrespective of her milestones. Stop placating this idiot (again, another poor child with a whacked-out mother) and tell your fiancé her behavior and demands are out-of-line and you aren't going to play along anymore.
Dear Prudence: Third Wheel Twin
Q. Help! My Wife Wants To Be Naked but Won't Let Me: I've been married for 20 years, and we're now both in our late 40s. For the past three or four years, my wife has taken to hanging out around the house naked. She defends it as a more natural state of affairs, and reluctantly agreed to put towels down on the couch, etc. She's less diligent about closing blinds ("there's nothing wrong with nudity, it's natural"). I've tried to be supportive, and researched naturism, even going so far as to find a couple of clothing-optional clubs in the area. When I told her, instead of being pleased, she accused me of just wanting to go there and ogle other naked women! This isn't my thing, and I was just trying to be supportive, and this is the thanks I get. The problem is that during all my research trying to understand her point of view, I had really gotten interested in trying out a naturalist club. I'm just not into the mundane nude-at-home experience. How do we reconcile our different perspectives?
A: I went undercover to a nudist club for Slate, and let me assure you and your wife there is nothing less sexy than a whole lot of middle-aged naked people. I bet you could testify that having your wife let it all hang out on the couch while you're watching the presidential debates probably makes you focus even more on federal gas-drilling policies. Since you are accommodating her clothing-optional policies, ask her to sit down at the computer with you and read about the nudist clubs in your area. The websites will make clear these are ogle-free zones. And I assure you, most of the flesh will make you believe that as far as fashion is concerned, the Taliban has it right. Neither of you have to make a commitment to becoming naturists, but since she's halfway there, ask if she'll agree to spend a day at a club with you with the understanding she can head to the car and slip on her underwear any time she is uncomfortable. If she refuses, then you should drop your own drawers. Maybe having to pick your pubic hairs off the couch will convince her to take the nudity elsewhere.
Q. My Boyfriend and I Are Related!: My mom asked me to accompany her to a distant relative's 60th birthday celebration. She has a big family and we never really interacted much with her side, so I thought I'd go to meet some of my relatives. While I was eating dinner I looked up and saw my boyfriend's mother. I was surprised to see her and went over to say hi. Suddenly, my mom came over and began chatting with her, introducing me as her daughter. It turns out that my mother and my boyfriend's mother are actually first cousins! My boyfriend and I had been dating for a year and we were starting to talk about our future together. I don't know what the laws are, but even if it's legal for us to marry, I feel creeped out by the idea of my mother-in-law also being my second cousin. My boyfriend is devastated and says it doesn't matter. I feel heartbroken with the idea of breaking up but I feel like it's not right. Would it be completely gross if we stayed together?
A: I think it would be ridiculous for you not to stay together. My understanding is that the laws on cousin marriage are only about first cousins; I think they should be repealed because this is not the state's business. There's nothing to be devastated or creeped out about—the whole thing is actually kind of funny. If you and your boyfriend eventually decide to marry, you can get genetic counseling before you have children, which will likely be reassuring to you both. But no one should do more than shrug about kissing second-cousins.
Q. Ethics of Spying on Your Spouse: My husband is a sex addict, he's been to therapy and tells me his addiction is under control—he swears he is no longer cruising the Craigslist "casual encounters" or emailing escorts and women seeking casual sex. Trust obviously has been breached, and I need to know that finally, he is being honest and truthful with me. I already caught him lying to me once since his therapy ended, and although he swears it won't happen again, I don't trust him. I want to install a stealth computer-monitoring program on the P.C. he uses—my question is whether this kind of intrusion is justified by the circumstances, it is something I would never do if my husband didn't have a history that makes me unsure if my health is at risk and my marriage is a sham.