Q. Re: Regrets: Watching my mom get her master's degree when I was in kindergarten made a huge impression on me—if there's something you want to do, it's not too late!
A: Clearly it did, because that was a long time ago. Thanks for this lovely anecdote. And you raise a really good point that even young children can be proud of their parents' accomplishments.
Q. New Feelings Following Engagement: A few months back, my significant other and I got engaged. We are incredibly excited and I have zero doubt I want to marry this person. However, in the same last few months I've been more and more attracted to other people. In one case, I'm having dreams about a close friend of mine who until now I would not consider my “type.” In other cases I find myself especially attracted to members of the same sex. I've never experimented before. I am hesitate to bring this up for fear of scaring my SO, but I am not sure what I should do with these feelings. Am I just having a weird reaction to the engagement? Do other people go through this?
A: Sure, some people, when they feel the opportunity for other sexual possibilities closing off, suddenly feel it's time to raid the candy store. But whether this is your internal way of working through the import of "Forsaking all others" or whether it’s your psyche screaming "Don't do this, I want more fun" is for you to figure out. If you realize it's the former, it's not helpful to say to your beloved, "The idea of being monogamous with you is making me want to sleep with every attractive person I meet, and I mean every attractive person. Just wanted to let you know." But if it's the latter (despite your having "zero" doubts about your marriage), than before you find yourself saying "I do" and feeling suffocated, yes, you have talk about what's going on with you with your bethrothed. And if you need to have that conversation, you must recognize there's the possibility of getting unthrothed.
Q. Re: Racially-insensitive in-laws: I hope this doesn't sound tendentious, but hubby's silence is the same as complicity, and as we have seen in the last couple of days, unchallenged racism can have deadly consequences even if unintended. He needs to explain to his loved ones how and why these casual remarks are no longer socially permissible.
A: Good point. That's why the wife needs to go back to her husband and say he may be intimidated, but since he loves his family and presumably thinks they are reasonable people, they should be open to hearing how their behavior is hurtful to others—and potentially themselves.
Q. Child Abuse—Nonphysical: My partner of 15 years has a 14-year-old grandson who visits us every other summer for a week. We have nurtured this young man as best we can. His mother moved him to another state when he was 6 and fails to follow the child-custody agreements (no school report cards, no weekly phone calls, limited visitation). The child cannot read past a grade-two level. He is supposed to wear glasses, but his mom refuses to replace them (he lost them over a year ago—we just found this out this week when we picked him up for our visit). Whenever we send items to him for his birthday, his mother gives them to her younger children or sells them at garage sales. Can we contact child protective services and report this mother for neglect? What actions are available for us to change the life of this young man? He is healthy, respectful, but his maturity level and academic ability are like a 7-year-old. I know it is not physical abuse or even verbal, but I find it inexcusable that a child in America can reach the age of 14 and not be able to read. He doesn't even know his home address or home phone number, carries no ID. Please let us know what is the best action to take to remedy this calamity. The father has been to court previously to get full custody with no success.
A: Oh, what a tragic mess. I'm astounded that a mother so neglectful and incompetent can retain custody and I hope there is not something worrisome about the father that has prevented the courts from handing the child to him. This child needs a rescue. Before you call CPS—and it absolutely may be necessary—do talk about your plan with the father and make sure you are up to date on the legal situation. It could be that all of you need a conference with a lawyer—a competent one—to discuss how to act in the best interest of this child. I just don't understand how the mother has been able to get away with flouting her legal responsibilities for visitation, etc. But this boy needs intervention and he needs it before the school year begins. I cannot imagine how a school system has not noted they have a 14-year-old who is illiterate. I'm worried there is no school system and this boy is being "home-schooled." But you are right, he simply can't be returned home to this grotesquely neglectful situation.
Q. Re: New feelings again: I think it may be my internal process. The weird thing is I've never been one to have a lot of partners (four total, all opposite sex). And like you said, it's not helpful to bring this up. Do I just expect to come out the other end of this OK? The thing that alarms me is the suddenness and the intensity of my attraction to my friends and to members of the same sex. I find myself thinking about it all. the. time.
A: You just got engaged and you're finding yourself thinking about having sex with members of the same sex all. the. time. So my suggestion is that you put. off. the. wedding. planning until you have spent more time trying on the idea of marriage. This may be a passing phase. It may be your libido announcing something new about you.
Q. Oversharing MIL: I enjoy a great relationship with my mother-in-law and, thinking we had every reason to trust her, my husband and I shared some personal and sensitive health-related issues with her. Due to the sensitive nature of what we shared, we requested that the information remain confidential. Nearly a year later I have discovered that she has shared these details with at least a dozen people, some that I don't even know. Because she was out of town at the time of this discovery, my husband, in fear that she would share this information with those she was visiting, sent a respectful but firm text message reminding her of our request for privacy. Her response was completely juvenile and absurd. We would like to further clarify that our privacy is important, but her response is leaving me feeling like we've done something wrong. Should we pursue this?
A: She violated your trust, got caught, and now she's acting out. Of course a text message is not an ideal way to deal with this, but I understand your desire to make sure she didn't go blabbing to a new set of people. You've asked her not to talk about your health matters, and there's nothing more you can do right now. But when she returns, your husband has to sit down with her and say that she may have talked to friends out of concern and anxiety, but that you two won't be able to have confidential conversations with her in the future if she doesn't understand that private information has to stay private.
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