Q. I Don't Want to Watch Her Give Birth!: My best friend has found herself unexpectedly single halfway through her pregnancy (boyfriend ran off with somebody else). She is heartbroken and I've been doing everything I can to support her. She has now asked me if I can be there for her during delivery. The problem is, I was a support person when my sister gave birth and I felt like vomiting and fainting the whole time. I am still traumatized by the memory of the birth—there was nothing magical or sentimental about it for me. I couldn't think of a nice way of telling my best friend I would rather be knocked unconscious with a brick, so made the mistake of saying yes. Is there a way I can back out of my obligations without hurting her feelings, or am I now stuck as a horrified audience to her baby's birth?
A: It will not be supportive if during the big event you faint and crack your head, thus requiring medical support of your own. Your friend may have asked you not only because you two are close, but because she knows you've assisted a pregnant woman before. She just doesn't know you've never stopped reliving the horror. All this still mean you can be the person to bring your friend to the hospital and be there to hold her hand as labor progresses. But you have to let her know that when the big reveal gets underway, you need to be in the waiting room, for the benefit of everyone. Tell her if she wants to ask someone else to stand by her, you totally understand. Also suggest she look into hiring a doula, someone who is trained specifically to provide the kind of support you can't because you would be breathing into a paper bag with your head between your legs.
Q. Re: Incompatible libidos?: Why not at least try sex therapy? Great guys don't just grow on trees. That said, I'll second the statement that great guys who are great in the sack do exist and are worth the wait.
A: Great guys aren't easy to find, and yes, she could try sex therapy. But this sounds to me like a fundamental incompatibility. I doubt her diffident milquetoast is going to turn into a Viking no matter how many homework exercises a therapist suggests.
Q. Drunk Cheating: This morning, as I returned from a weekend trip out of town, my boyfriend of three years sat me down and confessed that the previous night, he had gotten drunk and had sex with his boss (tomorrow is actually the woman's last day as his boss—she recently accepted a position elsewhere). Obviously, I am devastated. We love each other tremendously, and had recently started discussing marriage. To make matters worse, this is not the first time he's done something like this. A little over two years ago, he drunkenly made out with a mutual friend. Further complicating the situation is the fact that four years ago, I actually got drunk and cheated on my first serious boyfriend, so I guess I can empathize. I know that the drinking is a problem. For both of us. But beyond that, I don't know what comes next. I don't know how to move past this. I don't know if I want to leave him, but I don't know if I can stay.
A: You acknowledge you both have a relationship problem with the bottle. That is the first thing that must be addressed, whatever you decide about whether your romantic relationship can survive. I suggest that together, or separately, you go to AA, or find some other program at which you can figure out what needs to happen with your drinking, from abstinence to better control. Until then, I don't see how you stop the pattern of alcohol-fueled bad behavior and regrets.
Q. Baby Shower Bonanza: My best friend, who I love dearly, got married last year and I arranged all the trimmings—bridal showers, stagette, bridesmaids weekend and afterparty. I was happy to do it for her as she has been very supportive of me over the years. However, she just announced that she is pregnant, and made it clear that she expects the same level of social planning for this life event—gender reveal, shower, mommy spa day, etc. The problem is I'm still paying for the events from the wedding, and working two jobs does not leave much time for planning elaborate parties and weekends away. How do I tell her I can't be her event planner?
A: I'm surprised your friend was able to get pregnant, given that she seems to think the celebrations should never have ended. When you're still paying off someone else's wedding bills a year later, you've been taken advantage of. I've weighed in on my distaste for the gender reveal parties and all the endless, expensive hoopla surrounding life's milestones. So you need to reveal a simple truth to your friend about her expectations now that she's expecting: Sister, you're on your own.
Q. BIL Cheated On My Sister: Several months ago my sister confided in me that her husband had recently admitted to having had 12 prolonged affairs throughout their marriage. She swore me to secrecy—I am not supposed to know about it and she has never wanted to talk about it since. I do what I can to check up on her and be supportive while respecting her wishes, but knowing this secret is starting to drive me crazy! She does not want me to act any differently toward her husband, which is hard. My father thinks of his son-in-law as honest and trustworthy and is entrusting him with end of life decisions, estate planning, etc. I am afraid to speak up—I do not want to cause pain and strife. While I keep telling myself it is my sister's decision to say anything, I fear I am being cowardly by keeping silent.
A: At least your sister has not gone through life with a husband lacking in the libido department. He also seems like he must have fantastic time-management skills. Twelve prolonged, and presumably some overlapping affairs, and no one except his wife the wiser! Where he is wanting is in basic, human decency. Your sister obviously felt she had to tell someone, but it's too bad that having dumped her secret on you, she seems not to even want to address the fact that her husband makes a mockery of their marriage. You are entitled, however, to tell your sister that her secret is weighing on you, especially when you see your father trusting him with important family decisions, because you no longer see her husband as trustworthy. You could tell your sister that without spilling the beans, you want to flag your father that you have concerns about him placing such sensitive family issues exclusively in the hands of your brother-in-law, and feel there should be oversight by other family members. But after that, you've done what you could and it's your sister's decision to stay with this louse.
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