Help! My Husband Is Mourning the Death of His Mistress and Expects Me To Comfort Him.

Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 26 2013 7:15 AM

My Husband's Mistress

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband is devastated that his lover has died—and expects her to comfort him.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: I doubt he needs a therapist, but he certainly needs an M.D. First he needs to check in with his internist and explain what's going on. Then if a further diagnosis is needed, he needs to see a sleep specialist. It surely sounds as if he has some kind of sleep disorder and likely it's treatable. Convince him to do this right way before the baby comes and his crying and thrashing is just part of the general background noise.

Q. Babies and in-Laws: Due to the economy and the price of real estate in our area, my husband, myself and our almost 4-year-old child are currently living with my parents, renting their basement while we save up for a down payment for a place of our own. While it's not an ideal situation, (there's no kitchen or shower, so we have to share theirs), we get along pretty well for the most part. Right now we're debating having another child. Both my husband and I have agreed that if we don't have another child in the next two years or so, we're probably not going to try for one after that point. Here's where we disagree though: My husband thinks we should just start trying and see what happens. I think, since we're technically living with my parents, we should ask for their blessing before we start trying. Who's right?

A: Oh, goodness, this is way too close to the baby-making party! If you start this conversation, I assume once your parents understand exactly what you're asking, they'd run screaming from the room. We are experiencing a birth dearth in this country because so many people of childbearing age are in your situation. But it sounds as if you're both employed and making good financial choices. Sometimes there's no ideal time to have a child, but it's the right thing to do anyway. But this is a private matter between you and your husband. After the baby comes, you can discuss with your parents whether they want to provide baby-sitting services. But you do not need their permission for baby-making.

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Q. How to tell people my husband left me: My husband of three years moved out last week and has no interest in reconciliation. I work in a large office where most people have known me through my entire relationship with my husband (seven years). We were very much in love, so this will come as a shock to everyone—it was a shock to me! I have continued going to work because I don't want to sit at home and cry, but I'm not ready to tell anyone, but my closest friends. What do I say when people ask me how Jim is doing? And when I am ready, how do I tell my co-workers and clients? I don't want to be an object of pity.

A: How wrenching, and I hope you do turn to your family and friends who will support you through this tough time. You tell as much as you're ready. When people say, "How's Jim?" if all you want to say is, "He's fine, thanks," then so be it. As you get more used to the break, you can add down the road, "Sadly, he and I have separated. But we're both doing okay." If people ask follow-ups and you don't want to answer, a simple, "It's a painful subject to talk about. Thanks for understanding," should do it.

Q. Re: to Mean Girls: I was raised in a household like this, and sadly, this is the norm for these girls. I imagine they are encouraged to speak to their mother harshly, and sadly, it becomes a bonding point with their father. They will be mortified when they become adults and look back at this. I can still remember standing up to my father in my 20s when he tried to get me to "join in" in ridiculing my mother. Hopefully, the LW can have an impact now, so these girls will not have a lot of regret later in life.

A: It's good to hear from someone who has lived this ugly dynamic, and was able to change it. Good for you for seeing that "bonding" time with Dad was part of playing out a pattern destructive to everyone. It may be that the teenagers don't want to hear this message now. But if they are essentially decent people, it will echo.

Q. I'm a Tightwad: Both my husband and I grew up with very little money. Our parents were mostly living paycheck to paycheck. As we have both grown up with no money, we have saved very penny we have earned and have a very nice savings account. I know that this seems like a stupid question, but we have become overly concerned with spending it. We had to buy a new couch to replace our old college dorm room couch and we spent over a month talking about it weighing the pros and cons. It has become so bad that I spend all night staying up thinking about if we can afford things even though I know I can. Am I ok, maybe just a little too concerned or is this something I should talk about with someone?

A: If more people were like you, the housing crash might have been a lot less disastrous. A couch is a major purchase and there's nothing wrong with doing your research and making sure you're getting the right one. But you do not want to spend sleepless nights debating whether to get a matching ottoman. It doesn't sound like you need psychological counseling, just a better system for making financial decisions. Read some reputable books on creating a budget and living within it. Knowing you're making good decisions should keep you flush and rested. 

Q: Sister-in-Law Furious About When I Revealed My Pregnancy: My husband's sister thrives on being a passive-aggressive, attention-hogging know-it-all. I've always managed to be civil to her and praise her ideas to get her to shut up about lecturing me on what foods I should buy, etc. I announced my pregnancy to both families at 20 weeks. I received a scathing email from my sister-in-law recently demanding to know why I wouldn't tell "her family" for 20 weeks. My exact response was, "Don't I have the right to choose when to announce my pregnancy? Both families were told at the same time." She answered back, "Well, whatever." Since then, my husband's family has been distancing themselves from me. My husband says I should apologize and just let his sister's comment go. But I'm tired of being grilled about all of our life choices and the timing of revealing them. Do I actually owe this brat an apology?

A: Thank you for simply revealing your pregnancy and not having a gender reveal party. Before the baby comes, you and your husband need to get on the same page as far as dealing with his family is concerned. It could be that your husband's sister has some sort of personality disorder so everyone tiptoes around her in order to try and keep the peace. That means she sets the family tone, which only encourages her worst qualities. If kowtowing to the sister is the primary family dynamic, then you two need to stop bowing and start standing up for yourselves. Tell your husband you are happy to apologize when you're in the wrong. But in dealing with his sister, everyone else is always in the wrong, and in this case you have nothing to be sorry for. Tell him you understand there are difficulties and sensitivities with his family, but now that you've got a baby coming, it's more important than ever to set some standard for how people treat each other. If he can't see your point of view, a few sessions with a therapist to help you two hash out these in-law issues would be a good investment.

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

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