Q. Mother-in-Law: My recently widowed mother-in-law has been visiting with us for eight weeks now from overseas. Since the death of her husband, it has been understandably difficult for her to be on her own with all of her children living far apart. I want to be a good daughter-in-law and do my part in making this part of her life enjoyable. She is extremely helpful around the house and loves spending time with her grandchildren, but she is also quite demanding when it comes to what we will do and when we will do it. When it comes to his mother bossing me around, especially when he's not there, it is difficult for me to take. I feel like a child in my own home and it is wearing on me. I think I could handle it for maybe six weeks at a time, but she is talking now about coming to visit for three months at a time twice a year! Is there a way to politely say, "I know you have no one else and you are miserable on your own, but I just can't stand having you here that long?" Or do I just need to suck it up and do what I can for her, while I still can?
A: I would find six days of this hard to take, let alone six weeks. It's sad that your father-in-law has died, but I hope your mother-in-law had a life that extended beyond him, because it's time for her to resume it or establish one. If another one of her children wants to take her in, fine. But her stated plan has her living with you half the year! That's not fine and you simply have to explain to your husband that, say, a one-month visit, twice a year, is your absolute maximum and that beyond that, she has to make other arrangements for her time. This message, by the way, should be delivered to her by her son.
Q. Hypochondriac Husband: My husband is 27 years old and has always been a very healthy individual. However, ever since I got pregnant last fall, he is always having new health symptoms. He's had muscle twitches, tingling feet, and dizziness. All of these symptoms have been checked out by doctors (some multiple times) and nothing is ever wrong with him. Yet, he keeps having these symptoms and keeps going back to the doctor. He's convinced that he has ALS or MS or something awful, and it is driving me insane! I'm going to have our baby in two months, and he keeps scaring me with all of these symptoms. Honestly, it is making me really angry because even I don't believe that there is anything wrong with him. My best guess is that he is having anxiety about the baby being born. He knows he's driving me nuts, and I know he feels bad about it. However, it makes me feel like I'm losing my partner right as we are about to become parents. Any advice you have would be much appreciated.
A: If he's had tests that have ruled out MS or ALS, it's concerning that he refuses to see that as good news. What you experience as hypochondria on his part, he is experiencing as illness. (I'm giving him more of a pass than the sleepless wife because your husband's symptoms are of recent origin.) There's a recurring feature in the Washington Post health section that describes people with debilitating symptoms who go from doctor to doctor for years, being told they're fine or that they have conditions they don't have, until someone finally diagnoses their actual illness. So before you get totally fed up, just do your husband the kindness of acknowledging that something is wrong and you want to help him find out what it is. However, you are right that dizziness can be a symptom of anxiety—look up some research on this and show him. Don't put it in terms of, "You're crazy and driving me crazy, so take a pill and shut up." But since he's covered all the medical bases, suggest to him that his internist, or a psychiatrist, might want to try prescribing an anti-anxiety medication to see if that gives him relief. Since you're getting heart palpitations over your husband's symptoms, you might also benefit from letting off steam with a therapist over a limited number of sessions to help you work out strategies for dealing with your own anxieties about your marriage and parenthood. Let's hope that with the baby's arrival you're both so busy that your husband finds he forgets to focus on himself.
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Q. Awesome Guy, Meh Sex: I am marrying a great guy (stable, open communicator, thoughtful, etc.) but as the years have gone by our sex life has gotten more and more boring. I had an, um, adventurous past, and though we've slept with the same number of people, I don't think it made him more skilled in bed, whereas it just broadened my horizons. I really know what I'm missing. To put it nicely, he's kind of a wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am sort of guy. Which is fun sometimes! But a little repetitive. He likes it three ways and three ways only. As a result, my sex drive has really plummeted. It's just not something I look forward to anymore, post-honeymoon hormones. Any advice?
A: If you've done everything you can to spice up your sex life and his response is, "I can't wait for Wonder Bread to return, I could eat it every day!" then you've got a problem. This is something you need to address directly with him now and you also need to give serious consideration to what you want out of life since he may not ever be able to fulfill this need. Every relationship requires compromises, and it may be that his good qualities outweigh the essential boringness of your sex. But if you are chafing between the sheets before you say "I do," then maybe you want to say, "Let's not."
Q. Best Friends: I have a best friend to whom I am very close. I am female and he is male. We live together. I have known in the past three years that he is interested in a romantic relationship with me. But I have never felt the same and have made that clear to him. The problem is that we are close intimate friends who treat each other as partners. It very much resembles to the world a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and often feels that way. But it is not physical. Although we have tried on occasion, it has never felt right for me. He is attractive, kind, smart, easygoing, funny, but most of the time he annoys the heck out of me. I find myself irritated at him often. He says if I really loved him I would be blind to his quirks. And I think if I did want him sexually he would be right. Is it possible for me to learn to want him sexually? My mind says he is a keeper but my body feels differently. I don't want to lose him. He really is great!
A: If you want a partner you actually connect with on all levels, get out of this setup. You essentially are announcing to the world that you are coupled up, your pal wants you to be, but you feel "yech" when it comes to doing the deed. You also find him relentlessly annoying, and he pressures you to have sex. He sounds like a lousy best friend and you should remove yourself from this trap. Maybe with some distance you will find that his virtues outweigh his flaws and your feelings shift. I'm betting while you may miss him in certain respects, you'll find yourself relieved not to have to be daily deflecting your irritating roommate's advances.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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