Help! I Killed a Man in Self-Defense Years Ago, but My Wife’s Family Won’t Leave Me Alone About It.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 25 2013 6:15 AM

Grave Secret

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man whose in-laws have discovered he once killed a man in self-defense.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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 prudence@slate.com.)

Q. A History of Violence: Some three decades ago, I killed a man. He had broken into my home, armed; we struggled, he died. It was clearly self-defense and, frankly, I have no regrets or remorse. A few months ago, my wife's brother did an idle Google search and discovered a report on the incident, which he's shared widely in the family. He's also taken to calling me "Killer." Normally, I'd be amused but some friends and family have reacted quite negatively, with one breaking all ties, another telling my wife that they'd rather not have me around their children, and a couple seemingly eager to either psychoanalyze me or get the gruesome details. How do I get people to understand that I am not interested in dredging up the past and that something that happened long ago has very little bearing on who I am today? I'd happily write off the rude and the stupid but these people are important to my wife.

Advertisement

A: Apparently these friends and family would prefer that you had been killed by the intruder, so they could then honor your memory as a tragic victim. I understand our country is divided over many issues, guns particularly among them, but surely even the most ardent gun-control activist can recognize that when an armed intruder is in your house, Robert's Rules of Order do not apply. Since this nonsense appears to be going on in your wife's family, I think the first line of defense should be that she step up and defend you—unarmed, preferably. She should say to her brother, and the others who are now giving you the cold shoulder, how disturbed she is at this dredging up of a terrible encounter from years ago and the blatant misunderstanding of what happened. She can briefly explain you encountered a gunman in your own home, defended yourself, and of course no charges were brought. She should say she hopes everyone can be grateful you're alive and that neither of you want to discuss this incident further. When you encounter the psychoanalytic couple, just say it was a terrifying event you have no desire to relive. If after this the shunning continues, then you're well rid of these insanely judgmental people.

Dear Prudence: Errant Dildo

Q. I'm Not a Hoarder!: Several times in the last month, my husband has gone through my closet (we each have our own) and made comments about the amount of stuff I have. He doesn't understand that many women, myself included, like to accessorize, and use different purses or shoes to match our outfit. Once, he even started putting things aside to donate! Purses are the main "problem" in his opinion, but I really don't have that many, and they are organized to my satisfaction. At least I could understand if I was taking up his space, but this is my space. He has been on an organizing binge lately, and I think my closet is in his crosshairs again. Before he gets in there again, I'd like to have a couple of ideas as to how to divert him. Even with this very annoying quirk, I love him, but this is driving me crazy. The real problem for me is the lack of respect for my space. Suggestions?

A: I have an idea: You could install Ssscat, a cat deterrent device, in your closet so that your husband gets the message to stay out of your space. Of course, you'd have to remove the items you want access to during this training period. I'm finding it hard to believe this is a singular, new obsession of your husband's. It's pretty weird for a guy to start prowling his wife's closet all of a sudden and culling her accessories. You say he's been on an "organizing binge." So I'm wondering if this is a clue that your husband possibly has some OCD-ish issues in general. Whatever the case you need to explain to him that even when two people live together, they need to respect each other's space, objects, and privacy, and unfortunately he is not welcome in your closet because he has violated the sanctity of your lair. If this continues, get thee to a marriage counselor because maybe it would help him to hear from a neutral professional that it's not OK to give away your wife's purses.

Q. Sexuality After Childbirth: Since giving birth to my first child six months ago, I've become very uncomfortable with my sexuality. I have a wonderful partner and there is no tension in the relationship, but I now have an aversion to the idea of having sex. Besides being afraid of the physical act after the usual childbirth injuries, I keep thinking about all the sexual violence I've read or heard about in the news. If I think about sex, I want to put it out of my mind and gather up my baby and protect her. What should I do to get back to normal?

A: Please contact your gynecologist right away and describe what's going on with you. This sounds like it could be a postpartum depression and you want to attend to this immediately. Sometimes this disorder manifests as terror of bad things happening to your child and dwelling on all that's terrible in the world. You also need a thorough physical checkup and advice on postpartum sexuality and recovery from any birth trauma. Please do this today. There is help available for you, and you should be enjoying this sweet and tender time of life, not living in dread.

Q. Parents and Finances: My parents have frequently made bad financial decisions and they fell on bad times about a decade ago. This was around the same time when I had graduated college and got my first job and I have been supporting them ever since. I pay for their mortgage and bills and also send them extra money for expenses. I recently found out that the property my parents own in our country of origin is worth quite a bit of money. I've encouraged my parents to sell it so they can live more comfortably, but my father is emotionally attached to the house and doesn't want to sell it. Meanwhile, I am expecting my first child soon and the upcoming expenses will make it very difficult for me to continue supporting my parents. I have tried hinting this to them but they have taken no action to sell the other property or to address my concerns about future money. I am willing to continue paying for their mortgage and bills, but I want to stop sending them anything extra. Is that reasonable of me or should I be expected to continue sending them money because I have set a pattern and enabled them to depend on me?

A: Enclose a note with your next payment that this is the final one. You really don't owe these bloodsuckers an explanation, but you can say that with a child—their grandchild!—on the way you must now look out for your own family's finances. You can tell your parents it puts your mind at ease to know they have a valuable property that they can sell to help support them. A decade of financial blackmail is long enough and you have to start thinking long-term about putting money away for your child's college education, and your own eventual retirement so you never become this kind of vampire.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Nov. 25 2014 3:21 PM Listen to Our November Music Roundup Hot tracks for our fall playlist, exclusively for Slate Plus members.