Q. Sex Life: My boyfriend has an intense irrational fear of accidentally becoming a father to the extent that he refuses to have sex with me even though we use two forms of birth control! When we first got together we had a great sex life, but he claims that back then the newness of the relationship was so exciting that it outweighed any anxieties he had about unplanned pregnancy. We've been together now for almost three years and our sex life has now dwindled to celibacy for both. I love my boyfriend and I understand that sometimes people have irrational fears, but I can't continue on in a sexless relationship! We are both struggling financially (which is certainly one of the factors for not wanting children right now), so we cannot afford couples therapy or individual therapy. I don't know what to do at this point!
A: I understand money is tight and you two can't afford counseling. So I suggest working with the tools you must have at your disposal. I assume each of you already has a couple of suitcases and duffle bags. So depending on how you want this to go, either you pack up your stuff, or you tell him to pack up his stuff, and you say you're through. You can explain that you've done some research and to your knowledge there are no co-ed monasteries, and you're no longer interested in being part of this experiment in celibate living.
Q. Re: Husband Nicknames: I used to have a boss, in his mid-30s, who would ALWAYS wink at people. It was stupid, annoying and creepy and I guarantee that the LW's husband is the target of justifiably snarky comments when he's not in the room. She needs to tell him to knock it off.
A: I agree that the husband is annoying his co-workers.
Q. New Mother-in-Law: My mother-in-law threw a fit, berating my fiancée the afternoon after her premature C-section due to complications and high blood pressure. Nurses came running as alarms went off, I returned to the room to find my fiancée crying and I ended up having to kick my mother-in-law out of the room and call security. I went out in the hall to ask her if she wanted to have a civil conversation and she was on the phone. I touched her elbow and she told her husband I was "laying my hands on her." I told her not to bother coming back to the hospital. Since then her story has escalated to me "laying hands on her three times and pushing her.” My fiancée is an only child, loves her parents in spite of a years-long strained relationship. What's a new husband to do? I don't want this woman around my child, her mental health is obviously questionable at best.
A: It does sound as if your mother-in-law to be has some serious problems. These will be compounded by the fact that your fiancée is still enmeshed with her and can't stand up to her. Right now is not the time to hash this out. You've been through a scary medical event, and I hope everyone is okay. Once you two are more settled in to parenthood, you need to explain to your fiancée that her mother is giving a totally incorrect account of the events at the hospital. You can say her behavior during the entire medical crisis was alarming and destructive. Tell your wife-to-be that you understand the bond between mother and child, but that now that you are parents yourselves, you need to make sure a mother-in-law with an explosive temper doesn't cause problems. Broken record today, but some counseling for drawing boundaries might be helpful for your wife, and she might be more willing to go if it was something you did together.
Q. Re: Ugly Scars: I am a medical librarian who loves your column. I just did a very quick search and found this article about a laser procedure that seems to have worked.
A: Thank you.
Q. Death of a Family Friend: I just found out that a friend of the family passed away over the weekend. She was close to my mom, but was generally a pretty difficult woman to get along with. During the past several months, I urged my mom to distance herself because (from MY perspective) the friendship wasn't mutually beneficial. This woman always borrowed money, sucked us in to HER family's drama, and showed up unannounced with a new crisis every month. My father has been ill and my mom was stretched thin, so I just suggested she step back from this friendship so she could concentrate on herself for once. Now, I find out that the woman is gone, and I feel terrible for all parties involved. The woman was estranged from her family so I wonder if she died alone? Was she in pain? Was there some comfort my mom could have given her the past few weeks? I just feel like a bad daughter for interfering with my mom's friendship.
A: You were giving your mother very reasonable advice, which was hers to take or not. If you feel you dictated your mother's decision, then your mother has a serious problem in standing up to people that she needs to address. Your mother's friend sounds like a sad, disturbed person who was draining your mother dry. I think you gave your mother good advice. There are some people who just can't be helped, and trying to help them comes at great cost. Comfort your mother by telling her that she was a very good friend for a long time, and there wasn't going to be anything she could have done to change this woman's unhappy end.
Q. Re: Ugly Scars: I am someone who, like the previous writer, has countless scars all over my body. A few years ago, someone told me about a product, Mederma, that lessens the appearance of scars. I used it religiously, and while my scars haven't vanished, they've greatly diminished. I also use moisturizers on a regular basis, since I've found that scars are more noticeable when my skin is dry.
A: More advice, thanks.
Q. Do I Need To Buy Expensive Gifts for My Girlfriend's Children: I am a 42-year-old man and my girlfriend recently moved in with me. I have an 8-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and she has two sons who she does not have custody of, but does have visitation rights. Her sons are good boys and we've bonded really well. Our children are spoiled. They have almost every electronic game on the market and wear obscenely expensive tennis shoes. I take care of the kids on Saturdays while their mother is at work and we usually spend the day outdoors. The oldest boy is 15, and on a recent hike he asked if I would buy him the new Nintendo Wii. The boy’s father showers his son with expensive gifts. I explained to the boy that it wasn't my place to buy something like that for him, but if he would start taking on some chores around the house I would be willing to work something out with him and the boy agreed. When his mother heard of the agreement she became furious with me. She says I should treat her children as my own and should give to her children without asking for anything in return. I am standing my ground on this issue and we are probably going to break up. Am I obligated to buy her children expensive gifts?
A: I feel so sorry for these kids. The adults in their lives sound like a bunch of irresponsible babies, so they are going to have a hard time learning to be responsible themselves. I agree with you about not buying your girlfriend's son an expensive electronic. I also agree that teenagers should do chores around the house, but they should do it not to get toys, but because that's what people who live in a family do. It's sad that you moved in with a woman, upending the lives of three children, without apparently having even a basic agreement on how to raise kids. If adults want to shack up, that's fine. It's not so fine if they're doing it because they're not ready to get married or are unsure about a future together, but the children involved get drawn into the vortex of an unstable relationship. If you're already half out of this relationship over this one fight, then end it quickly before the kids get attached to the new adult in their lives. And reconsider showering your own daughter with material goods as a way to make up for what's missing emotionally.
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