Help! My Friend's Husband Verbally Abuses Her and Breaks Furniture.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 4 2012 6:15 AM

Ol’ Yeller

In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a verbally abusive husband.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: I hope there are some not insane people on the PTA and that a group of you can get together and discuss this rationally with the principal. If not, take this up with the superintendent. Racism and anti-Semitism at an elementary school is not a free speech issue. It's something that has to be attended to before the principal allows this to become a school principle.

Q. Too Early To Admit Pregnancy: I just found out that I'm pregnant yesterday. Tomorrow, the next night, and several nights next week I'm getting together to celebrate the holidays with different groups of friends. Tomorrow night we are going out for sushi and cocktails, except sushi and cocktails are now off limits. I can order veggie or shrimp sushi (which is cooked) and a sparkling water with cranberry juice, but I'm just afraid that I have no poker face and some close friends might be looking for clues. Do you have any recommendations for how to behave?

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A: Congratulations! I agree that it's possible these clues will lead to a round of questions along the lines of, "Do you have good news?" But since it's so early and you're not ready to tell, you can just say that your stomach's been unsettled lately, so you're taking it easy on the booze and raw food. And when you feel ready to tell, you'll have some friends saying, "I knew it that night you ordered cooked sushi!"

Q. Grandfather-in-Law With Dementia: My husband comes from a very conservative and strict family and I've learned to keep my opinions to myself and be on my very best behavior around them. We see them only once or twice a year, so it's not too hard to do. A few years ago, my husband’s grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He too was a very reserved man, with great respect from the community and well honored by his family. However, with his diagnosis he has become a bit indecent. It started with a few stroke on the arm and legs two years ago, but at the most recent Thanksgiving, he grabbed my chest while we were passing in the hallway. I'm the only female in the family under 40, so I don't have other "peers" to compare notes with. Is this kind of thing usual? Should I say anything to anyone? Especially to my very conservative in-laws? I'm not sure whether to brush it off as I don't feel necessarily assaulted, but it does still make me squirm.

A: Tell me there's someone this week with in-laws who aren't horrible! What joy to be constantly on your "best behavior" around these judgmental, superior people. You need to tell your husband and your in-laws that because of Grandpa's illness he has started grabbing you. Explain you understand it's a result of his losing his faculties, but you would appreciate if people could keep an eye on him so that he's kept away from you. Maybe your in-laws will get a lesson in thinking they have all the answers.

Q. Thanksgiving Relations: I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my boyfriend's family, and we all stayed at his brother's home. His brother and sister-in-law became very adamant—even though we were sleeping in separate places already—that we not have sex while we were visiting. My boyfriend and I had already assumed this, since it was a family weekend and a very small home; besides, by having separate sleeping spaces this was implied. When they made this request, we said it was an inappropriate and unwelcoming question, and that it implied a value judgment about our characters. This disagreement led to a whole weekend of unpleasantness and conflict, and the hosts kept bringing it up with us. It got so bad that my boyfriend and I had to leave and stay at a hotel. Are we overreacting in saying that our sex lives are none of their business, or is this an appropriate house rule to set when you have guests?

A: Nope, all in-laws are crazy. Maybe this was a veiled invitation: "Hey, we expect not to hear you having sex in our house. And if we do hear you, we'll be forced to enter the room to check out what's going on." Unless you're dead broke, staying with these ridiculous people is not worth it. From now on, book a hotel for the entire stay.

Q. Kid-Free Holiday Parties: I'm a childless mid-30s woman living in a downtown one-bedroom condo. I'm having a casual holiday get-together soon at my home, and my boyfriend and I are a bit at odds over invitations. I am not comfortable with having children over. That may seem terribly Scrooge-like to some, but my place is small, I prefer an adult vibe for my events, and the thought of sticky hands and shrieking after 48 hours of cooking and cleaning is more than I can handle. Is it OK to issue adults-only invitations? Is it better not to invite parents at all? I completely understand someone not wanting to get a baby sitter, and I'd be happy to meet with the kids in a restaurant or someone else's home, but what's the correct etiquette for my own home? None of the potential guests are relatives; they're my boyfriend’s friends, and we don't live together.

A: Yes, you're entitled to have an adults-only party. So make it a "Holiday Cocktail" event at a time, say 7 to 9, that makes it clear children aren't welcome. Many parents will enjoy getting a baby sitter and getting out. The ones that won't should send their regrets.

Q. In-Laws: I hope you can help me with my awkward issues with my in-laws. They are genuinely sweet people and have traditional values, as do my parents, however; they are uber-conservative and I am often afraid of what I do/say/wear around them. There are two main issues: the first being, they insist on being called Mr. and Mrs. Smith instead of their first names, and sign all their cards to me accordingly. I am unaccustomed to this kind of formality and wish that they would allow our relationship to be a little less frigid. Next, they have a dress code for me to follow at their house. I have never been one to dress scandalously despite working in fashion and loving clothes; however, raising all boys and keeping themselves very sheltered, my modest clothing is "racy" to them and I am no longer allowed to wear tank tops or shorts in their home. Hopefully I do not need to further clarify, but I am not large chested, nor do I wear low-cut or shorts shorter than a 4-inch inseam. I love my in-laws and they have raised a wonderful son, but my relationship with them remains awkward and I am at a loss. Please help!

A: OK, I'm not getting evidence today that all in-laws aren't crazy. Where's your husband? it's long past time he had a talk with them that the Mr. and Mrs. Smith thing has worn out its welcome and it's time for his wife and them to be on a first-name basis. Also, he can say that you are going to leave your burqa at home and dress like a normal person. He can add that if they don't like it, you two won't be visiting very often because his wife is way too old be told what she is "allowed" to wear when visiting them.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. It may be time to start planning that holiday getaway on a desert island.

Emily will be answering reader questions on Reddit on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. ET.

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

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