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.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Married and Sexually Confused: Before I met and married my husband 11 years ago I felt I might be bisexual. I fantasized (and still do) about being with women and men alike; however, the opportunity to be with a woman never presented itself and I never pursued it. I've made jokes about being with a girl, but my husband says it "does nothing" for him. Fast forward through the years and I still feel like I am missing out on something sexually and am kicking myself for not doing this before I settled down. Our sex life has run hot and cold—my drive is much higher and I like more variety than he does. I have a good female friend who recently shared with me that she is bisexual and we have briefly discussed experimenting together. We are both secure in our marriages and are not looking for a relationship outside of friendship and fooling around together. Plus, I feel this may actually help me get what I need sexually while taking some pressure off my husband. I've thought about going for it without telling my husband just to see if it is something I like. However, I don't like the thought of doing this behind his back and I am equally nervous about telling him. I don't want him to question everything in our marriage over this. Am I crazy for even considering this?
A: I can't tell if you've been truly been honest with your husband about your sexuality. Joking that you'd like to go on tour with Beyoncé is not exactly explaining that you think you are bisexual. Since you're seriously considering finally acting on your desires, I think it's time to explicitly own up to them to your husband. I acknowledge that sneaking around with the other woman may actually heighten the thrill of that romance. But you will really be putting your marriage in jeopardy if you get caught. So talk to your husband. This will be a complicated conversation that will arouse many emotions in both of you. He may be devastated. Alternately he may surprise you and say he sanctions your exploration. You, of course, have to be prepared that he may express some so far unspoken desires of his own that he'd like to act on himself.
Dear Prudence: Kinky Mom
Q. Haven't Lost That Nagging Feeling: My wife and I have a 7-year-old son who goes to after-school day care every weekday. It's staffed by people in their late teens/early 20s, all of whom seem perfectly nice. The other day, one of them, "Miss Diane," asked if she could drop by next weekend to pick up our son and take him to the park, and/or to get a snow cone, or something along those lines. Here's the thing: Neither my wife nor I can think of a single reason to say no to this request, but we both kind of have the creeps about it. I guess my question is twofold: 1) Are we being unreasonable? Everybody always says "follow your gut" in situations like this, but my gut isn't making a reasoned argument. And 2) If we go with our guts, is there a polite way to turn "Miss Diane" down?
A: I agree that's weird. It would be one thing if Miss Diane wanted to earn more money babysitting and explained to parents she was available on weekends. But this suggested outing leaves me uneasy. You simply tell Miss Diane that you've got plans for the weekend, thanks. I hope there is an adult somewhere managing this day care operation. You should go to this person and tell about Diane's request, that you think it's not appropriate, and that the supervisor and Diane need to have a talk.
Q. Grieving friend: Just over two years ago, close friends dating back to college days lost a child suddenly. They have been devastated, as have we, his godparents. We know that grieving and mourning take many forms, and in this case, the mother has decided to cut my husband and me out of her life. I'm not sure why except that we celebrated many holidays and milestones at our home, and perhaps those memories are too painful for her to revisit. Her sister said she may never be able to return to our house. Nearly all efforts to meet with her for lunch or coffee have been rebuffed with a few exceptions involving group events to memorialize her son. Invitations have been via email and responses are simply "I'm busy" with no mention of an alternate date. She has maintained some contact with our two adult children, especially one of them who provides her with an expensive service at no cost. He is increasingly uncomfortable with his parents being systematically ignored. Having been pushed away so many times these past two years, I need advice. This comes across as anger toward me. Should I ask what I have done and offer an apology? Should I continue to make occasional overtures? Or should I accept the fact, as my husband suggests, that she may no longer want us in her life? I'm at the end of my rope, yet I don't want to give up on someone who has been a friend for so many years.
A: You understand the agony of your friend's grief, but I agree that two years out her behavior toward you seems inexplicable. Except if from her perspective there is a reason, whether fair or not. It could be you unintentionally said one of those things that send grieving people around the bend. It could be she feels you didn't do enough. And yes, it could also just be that you represent the time when her beloved son was alive and she can't bear the sight of you anymore. It sounds as if you have a connection to her sister, so please use that. Tell the sister you understand your friend's pain, and you wish you could provide solace to her, however she has without explanation cut you out of her life. Ask if the sister knows if there's something you did or didn't do as regards the death of your godson that has caused this breach. If there is no real reason, then write your friend a letter. Tell her how much you miss your godson and that you know his loss is something she must bear every day. Say that you miss her and the closeness you used to have, and you're hoping that she can let you back in her life. If she can't, then your husband is right and you just have to accept this. As for your grown children, they are adults and can make their own decisions about their relationship with your (former) friend. But it is not cruel for your child to explain to your friend that at a given point in the near future he or she is going to be unable to continue providing services.
Q. Boyfriend's Kink Is Not My Thing: My boyfriend of three years and I decided to try new things in bed to spice things up. He told he had a fantasy and I went along with it even though I felt a bit weirded out about it. It was awful and left me feeling disgusted with myself. My boyfriend on the other hand was very happy with the experience and wants to do it again. How can I tell him it's not going to happen? I don't want to make him feel judged or like he can't tell me things.
A: He was able to tell you what he wanted and you were open enough to call him master, or handcuff him, or dress up as Dora the Explorer. Now he has to be open enough to hear your honest reaction, which was "Blech!" Sure, you don't have to put it that way, but he has to accept that this particular experiment had the effect of making you want to flee from the bedroom. It's not a put down for you to explain your reaction to his particular desire. It may be that you two are ultimately incompatible in the bedroom. It may be that he has a whole range of fantasies and one of those would jibe better with yours. And maybe there's something in your personal spice rack that would shake things up.
Q. Adult Parental Favoritism: My mother has always favored my sibling. I was always aware of the unbalanced generosity and I moved past it in later years. Ten years ago my father passed away and left a generous life insurance. My mother has bought my sibling a car; paid for my niece’s and nephew’s college, cars, clothes; and carried my sibling and spouse when they ran short of money. I had an accident that left me off work for two years and nothing was offered me except best wishes. Fast forward to the last year and a half—she has spent most of her money on sibling and herself. My sibling is now about to lose their house and she is asking me to help them. I said no; when I was down nothing was offered me. She then asked me if I would assist her if the need arose, I said yes but thought to myself just bare bones assistance. Am I being selfish? I feel much guilt because I never really went without and I have a good income and retirement set aside. Do you think there is something I should do for my sibling? I am in my first house they are in their third, a McMansion and totally upside down. They have bought Corvettes, 4x4s, campers, boats while we buy Toyotas we drive for 10 years.
A: Ah, the revenge of the disfavored child! I love this mash up of Aesop and Grimm. It's the ant and the grasshopper with a Cinderella twist. You have nothing whatsoever to feel guilty about. You have always taken care of yourself—even through an extended recovery—while your sibling was indulged. It doesn't sound as if your sibling had any qualms about this disparity, not even when you were flat on your back. Sure, I think there's something you can do for him or her. Express your sympathy, then explain some of the rules of frugal living that have allowed you to get to this point in life so comfortably.
Q. Re: Married and sexually confused: Poor her, she is married to the one straight guy in the universe who wouldn't find that hot. :-(
A: Ha! Others are asking how is this different from someone saying, "I tried to let you know early on, but maybe I should have been clearer about monogamy not really being for me." That's a good point, but if one partner is on the verge of an affair—for whatever reason—better to address this in the marriage first.
Q. Wedding Date: Is it wrong for Guy to ask Girl, an ex-girlfriend who is now married to someone else, to be his date to a family wedding? Guy says it's not that kind of date and shouldn't be a big deal to just go as friends. Girl says it's completely inappropriate and not respectful of her marriage, plus gives off the wrong impression. For background, Guy and Girl broke up years ago and now live in cities on opposite coasts. The wedding is taking place in their hometown, and Girl would know a couple of family members but does not know the couple getting married.
A: I don't know if you're Guy, Girl, bride, or groom in this scenario. What I do know is that one benefit of marriage is that you get to stop dating. In fact, it's generally accepted as a requirement. (Not that this chat, or any other chat, would confirm that assertion.)
Q. Desperately Seeking Children: My husband and I married in our mid-30s, so the inevitable questions started popping up, like, "When are you going to have a baby?" and "Are you going to adopt?" One of these regular questioners is my boss. My husband and I would love to have a baby of our own or adopt. However, I have multiple health issues (I also had radiation and chemotherapy as a toddler) and I'm now almost 38. I can't be rude to my boss, but I really feel like it's none of her business.
A: This is such an unfortunately common question. People who are badgered about this should just tell their questioners they don't care to discuss such private matters. But your variation is that your busybody is your boss. Right you are that this is absolutely none of her business. But she's your supervisor, so there could be blowback if you blow her off. The next time she brings this up, ask if you can go into her office briefly. Tell her you know she's asking out of affection and concern, but you need to end this particular line of conversation because you want to keep your personal life out of the office. Then take it to a higher-up if she won't let this go.
Q. Re: Boyfriend's kink is not my thing: My husband's fantasy involves me dressing up in ways that I find ridiculous and somewhat uncomfortable—complete turnoffs for me. Over the years, I have seen how happy it makes him. It also makes him unbelievably generous in bed. I resisted for a long time and felt disrespected by him because he really wanted me to do these things. I more willingly participate in these fantasies with him because they have helped us communicate better, they make him happy, and I get a lot more positive, engaged attention from him than I have ever gotten from anyone else sexually. It has taken a lot for me to do this, but I'm very glad I have.
A: Thanks for this perspective. It does make me very grateful my husband doesn't suggest I get into something more interesting than my usual Jockey for gals.
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