Help! My Husband Wants to Donate Sperm to His Ex-Wife.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 18 2013 6:15 AM

Giving It His All

My husband wants to donate sperm to his ex-wife. Should I let him?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am a young woman who recently married a very successful athlete. He is caring, kind, and thoughtful. We both want children, but in a world where so many children are without loving homes, I can't imagine having biological offspring when we could provide a wonderful life for children who would never otherwise have one. My husband has always been supportive of this, but recently he brought up an interesting proposition. His ex-wife, who is older than me and has never remarried, asked him to be a sperm donor. She has a successful career and would not need financial support, but I think the proposition is bizarre. He argues that they both have excellent genetics that would be "wasted" if they do not jump at what could be their only chance to have biological children. He said it is no different from donating sperm to a bank, except that he knows the mother will be able to provide well for his offspring. The two split amicably due to pressures of both of their careers. Am I being selfish to say she should find another sperm donor?

—Confused Wife

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Dear Confused,
There are many issues to sort out here, among them the materials and methods section of your husband’s proposal. The material is his sperm, but you haven’t elaborated the method of its delivery. Somehow I doubt these former lovers would go the turkey baster route. Additionally, no matter how much money the ex makes, your husband would be the father of the child, thus legally he would likely have a financial responsibility for his offspring, and morally he would definitely have an emotional one. It’s not hard to imagine that if they had a baby together, he and his ex would start to wonder why they split in the first place. So I agree with your instincts that this is a terrible idea for your marriage. But even if your husband tells his ex to go to a sperm bank and pick some other superb specimen out of the catalog, it does not solve your essential problem. Your husband wants to father a child. That is a normal desire, and if you two have a biological child or children it won’t ruin the world. Nor will procreating prevent you from trying to make life better for children in dire circumstances. You could go on to adopt children. You could put your time and resources into organizations working with needy kids. You and your husband must have a very honest conversation about what you really want out of life and what compromises you both are willing to make for each other. Or you may find yourself trying to adopt alone.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Lesbian on the Brink

Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend of three years and I are in our late 20s and we recently moved into a modest house together in the same town as his parents. Prior to that move, I had my own apartment and he lived with his parents. We recently were away for the weekend and I let my boyfriend give our keys to his mother so she could hang a photo for us that she had reframed. When we returned, our entire house had been redecorated. New photos on the walls, new pillows on the couches, new kitchen items and existing kitchen stuff reorganized. Upstairs there were new pictures over the bed and new towels. All my toiletries had either been replaced or rearranged, including my medicine cabinet. My laundry had been done, with my underwear and bras folded in my drawer. My closet was rearranged. She also went through my Facebook profile and printed off some photos I had uploaded and framed and hung them. I know this seems nice, but to me it just felt invasive. I feel completely violated. I am embarrassed at some of the things she came across (she went through my bedside table and all my drawers). My boyfriend doesn’t see the problem—she’s always been like this with him and I guess he’s used to it—and it’s causing a lot of tension between us. She spent hours and tons of money, so am I being crazy, ungrateful, oversensitive?

—Feeling Violated

Dear Violated,
You better check your diary. She probably annotated it with helpful hints about how her baby boy loves to have his feet rubbed, and observations that you sound snappish and oversexed. The only way any of this would make sense is if she was a producer on one of those extreme renovation reality shows. But what you’ve got is a prospective mother-in-law with no understanding of boundaries. So you need to create some. In your case I think you should go for a moat stocked with piranhas and a team of Dobermans. It’s a shame that until moving in with you, your boyfriend spent all his adult life with this prying, overbearing mother and apparently thought it was fine. He hasn’t grown up enough to understand the gross breaches she’s committed. Don’t bother asking for your keys back—surely she’s already made copies, “just in case.” Tell your boyfriend you’re getting your locks changed and that there also needs to be a change in what’s considered acceptable by his mother. If he can’t understand your point of view, then he might be happier having Mommy tuck him in at night.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
A few days ago I caught my Muslim co-worker sneaking some bites of an orange. Our company and our client are very accepting of the fact that it is Ramadan and have made accommodations to help him out. I don't know how the client will react if they ever found out that he's not sticking with the Ramadan fast. Since this client represents our largest billings, we can't afford to lose them. Should I mention it to my company or ignore it? On top of this, some co-workers are resentful that he gets to take it easy for a month.

—Don't Want to Get Anyone Fired

Dear Don’t,
I’m hoping you’re not the guy who let human resources know that your Jewish colleague had a BLT for lunch or that your Buddhist associate seems inordinately attached to worldly possessions. To mix theological metaphors, you are not the Grand Inquisitor, and if you start reporting that your Muslim colleague fell upon some citrus sustenance during the Ramadan fast, you’re the one who may suffer a career auto-da-fé. Yes, for a month observant Muslims are supposed to refrain from food or drink during the day. That’s not exactly taking it easy, and your workplace and client are rightly accommodating the needs of this adherent. It’s simply none of your business whether your co-worker made a judgment that a slice of orange was better than passing out at his desk. This NPR story makes clear that he is not alone, describing a crowded Ramallah café—at lunch!—where the blinds are drawn to protect the identities of the hungry. So forget the eating or noneating habits of this co-worker and focus your enforcement concerns on something more crucial, like who is using too much company toilet paper.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
A few years ago, my husband lost his job because of a medical problem. It was a rough patch for us, when we sometimes had to choose between eating, staying warm, or paying hospital bills. We managed to make it through, but there was absolutely no money for dentists. I lost a lot of teeth to decay, including my two front teeth. After we got back on our feet, I went to the dentist only to find out that it was going to cost me $7,000 up front to get dentures and a bridge. I don't have that money now, so I can’t fix my teeth few years. I’m a computer programmer, and my question is how do I deal with the judgments of my co-workers? I find them talking loudly about dentists and how they're having their teeth fixed in front of me, giving me sly looks as they do. I feel like being rude and saying, "Do you have $7,000 you can lend me so I can not offend you?" It's making me angry and upset. I understand my mouth is yucky and nobody likes to see it, but I can't do anything about it for now. What do I say? Should I ignore it?

—Front Toothless

Dear Front,
I’m so sorry you and your husband were the victims of a system in which medical bills can send people off an economic cliff. As this article about poverty in American notes, missing teeth can keep the working poor from getting the kind of work that will carry them into the middle class. But you have done it, so please take great pride in climbing back and finding a good job. Of course your co-workers’ overheard comments hurt, but a confrontation will only make things more awkward. I think you should cultivate a Mona Lisa look—mysterious, enigmatic, and above it all. Stay polite and concentrate on doing a good job. Let’s hope a sense of shame finally overtakes these goons. But I don’t think you should take one dentist’s word as gospel. There may be more economical ways to replace your teeth. Dental schools, for example let students do supervised work at much reduced prices. Here’s a list of resources for you to explore. Pursue this not to shut up your co-workers, but for your own health and confidence.
—Prudie

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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