Help! My Husband Tried to Record My Friend Undressing.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 7 2013 6:00 AM

Cad Cam

My husband tried to record my friend undressing—and then told us about it!

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Dear Prudence,
My husband is a man of excellent character. We don’t keep secrets from each other; we even share our passwords. We’ve been together four years and married for one. A month ago, my best friend, who is quite large-chested, stayed the night at our house. The three of us had quite a bit to drink. In the morning my husband sat me and my friend down and made a confession. He said he had put his phone in her bedroom hoping to make a video of her getting undressed, but he forgot to hit the record button. He said he was telling us because he felt so guilty and that he was sorry that what he intended to do was so super creepy. I was very angry and made sure he really understood how badly he'd hurt me and my friend. My friend said what he tried to do was terrible, but we all agreed to move on. He spent weeks apologizing profusely. We established he didn’t have an emotional attraction to my friend and this was not part of a pattern of behavior. He explained he felt as if he wasn't himself for a few minutes, and it scared him. He was very angry with himself, but he's been able to work through and forgive himself. Now, a month later my friend says she needs therapy for what happened, and is convinced that my husband has some sort of deep sexual and psychological problem. I understand she feels violated; however, I can't help but feel that she is projecting some of her other issues into this situation. She told another close friend, who encouraged her to file a report with the police on my husband. I asked her not to. The second friend then called and criticized me for telling the first friend not to call the police. So now, I’m angry at my husband for causing a rift in my two closest friendships, and angry at my friends for wanting to take such drastic action against him (they’ve both decided not to contact the police). I’m concerned they will tell more people and my husband and I will have to just live with the consequences. I’m thinking of ending my friendship with the two women, even though I know one is the victim—thankfully we live in different cities—because I don’t see how we’ll remain close as the years go on and we have children. I just don’t know what to do or think.

—What a Mess

Dear Mess,
The gods of technology intervened to stay your husband’s hand from his dastardly deed. Upon realizing he didn’t actually commit his offense, your husband should have taken this whole disturbing episode as a sign that he needed to quietly get help. Instead, he doubled down and for some outlandish reason revealed his failed plan. Anyone hearing this story is going to find it hard to believe this was the first and only time your husband has ever attempted something so troubling. On the other hand, his telling you two indicates he is not a skilled voyeur, nor is he psychologically astute. His confession is the type made by a miscreant to relieve the burden of guilt, but that ends up spreading toxin to everyone it touches. How lovely for your husband that he has been able to forgive himself. In the meantime, your two closest friendships are shattered. I agree with you that the discomfort you and your friends will feel around each other will probably be impossible to overcome. It was also unnecessary overkill on their part to suggest calling the police. Sherlock Holmes may have looked into the dog that didn’t bark, but the police have better things to do than investigate the breasts that didn’t get filmed. If your friends blab to others who then ask you about it, just say nothing happened and there’s nothing to talk about. Since your friend says she needs therapy because of this, it would be a gesture of goodwill to pay for a predetermined number of sessions. While you’re at it, make that a twofer. I think you should insist that your husband talk this out with a professional. He scared himself, and you, and he needs to put the matter to rest.

Dear Prudence: Sex Tape of an Ex

Dear Prudence,
I have now been with my lovely, wonderful, and smart girlfriend for nearly three years and I love her. We started dating as we were nearing graduation at different colleges. She has settled successfully into fashion merchandising, her area of study, while I have struggled to find a footing in a creative field after studying liberal arts. We enjoy each other's company immensely and I am mostly content. But there is one thing that undermines my full contentment: She is uninterested in pursuing intellectual hobbies and interests outside her work and social life, while I am committed to discovering and pursuing cultural and intellectual stimulation. She has a naturally high intellect, but it would seem she has a lazy mind. She rarely reads anything but online articles, displays no interest in developing an ideological or political viewpoint, and ignores most news. I have encouraged her repeatedly to seek out books, hobbies, and pursuits of more cultural relevancy rather than shopping and being social with friends, but this is met with a shrug. Am I crazy for wanting to raise the bar of my intellectual entanglement as a necessary part of my romantic relationship with this girl? Or have my liberal arts studies and well-adjusted, progressive middle-class background made me a pretentious blowhard? Her family background is one of economic hardship, divorce, and no higher education.

—Smart Girlfriend, Lazy Mind

Dear Mind,
The question you pose has an inherently paradoxical nature. It is perfectly reasonable to want a partner you feel shares your intellectual bent; you’re also a pretentious blowhard. You say your girlfriend has a lazy mind, but your being unemployed (and apparently not having to worry about student debt) leaves you with many hours to devote to perfecting your intellect. She’s actually busy with her career, which must be as satisfying as it is necessary since you say she comes from a family with no financial resources. You put her down for enjoying shopping and hanging out with friends. But since she’s in the fashion industry, shopping is part of her continuing education and a professional necessity. Maybe she also has more friends than you do; I’m liking her better than I like you. However lazy you say her mind is, I bet your girlfriend understands that though you can transform someone’s fashion style, you can’t remake someone else’s mind. If you wish you could totally do over the way your beloved thinks, maybe you need to apply your own intellectual firepower to the question of whether you really love her.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Several years ago my widowed mother moved across the country to be nearer to me and my family. She was in her early 70s, and subsequently fell in love with a wonderful widower around her age and they married. To their surprise, his grown children began to exclude him from their family plans soon after the ceremony. It’s been over nine years and he no longer gets invited to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter with them. His grandchildren have been pressured to not see him. What’s confusing is that my mother’s husband and first wife were amazing parents who raised their own children and several orphaned relatives. All these siblings and cousins get together regularly, but leave their father and my mother out of their plans. The father and my mother have reached out many times, but his children said they want a relationship with only him, not both of them. I have tried to bring the families together, but was told not to get involved. One of his relatives confided to us that toward the end of his first wife’s illness she had instructed her oldest daughter to take care of her father after she died, so now his family feels my mother has made it impossible to honor their mother’s wishes. The stress has caused both my mother and her husband to be hospitalized several times. They remain committed to each other but recently told us that they have decided to move on and share their elder years only with our family. Is there anything else that can be done to repair this rift? When is it OK to stop trying?

—Saddened and Confused

Dear Saddened,
There are families who continue to get together for the holidays even after members have committed assaults, embezzlements, sexual improprieties, and general outrageousness against each other. Either there’s some part of this story that’s being left out, or your mother’s husband’s children are a bunch of cruel, heartless ingrates. Grown children generally are thrilled if a lonely, elderly parent finds love and companionship and does not need their constant attention. (The objections tend to be about a newcomer threatening a potential inheritance.) Even if they resent the arrival of a replacement, they are supposed to pull themselves together and welcome the new spouse, not alienate their parent from all his loved ones. I’d say after nine years not only is it OK to stop trying, it’s necessary. These are two old people who have been hospitalized for the stress this situation has caused them. You should reassure them that you respect their decision and are delighted they will be able to spend the holidays with you. Make sure your children treat your mother’s husband as if he is their grandfather. The poor man will go to his grave with a wounded heart. But when he’s at your Thanksgiving table, let’s hope he feels thankful to be part of your family.

—Prudie

Ruth Bader Ginsburg street art

Photo courtesy of Ginsburg Fan

Dear Prudence,
Here’s a Washington, D.C. etiquette question for you. I was recently dining at a hip new restaurant with my husband and some friends. Seated at the table next to us was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had recently noticed some flattering street graffiti art about Justice Ginsburg and I had a photo of it on my phone. My husband, friends, and I debated at length whether it would be appropriate to show this art to her. Everyone but me thought it would be rude or at least annoying. Ultimately, I went with my instincts (assisted by a couple of glasses of wine); after the justice had finished eating and I was on my way out of the restaurant, I stopped by the table and showed her the graffiti on my phone. She was very pleasant, seemed interested, and the entire exchange took maybe 20 seconds. Since then, we've polled numerous family members, friends, and co-workers. A small majority support my husband’s view that it was not appropriate. So, was I just being friendly or was I a pest?

—Ginsburg Fan

Dear Fan,
I’ve lived in both Los Angeles and D.C. and you’re right that the prevailing ethic is to let celebrities dine out and go about their lives in peace (unless you’re a paparazzo). It was fun to eat out in L.A. and have a companion say sotto voce: “Bruce Willis to your left.” The only time I ever saw an entire place lose its cool was when Elizabeth Taylor walked in for lunch at a Santa Monica restaurant. People unashamedly craned their necks at one of the biggest stars to ever live. In D.C. you can see the president’s daughters at children’s sporting events, or pass a senator loaded down with bags at the airport (I saw you, Lindsey Graham!), and most everyone leaves them alone. But I think the short, positive, nonintrusive interaction you describe is fine. I can imagine it was just too much to have such a perfect piece of graffiti on your phone and not let Justice Ginsburg enjoy it. She was done eating and you kept it under a minute, so you’ve got my vote.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

Three's a Crowd: My husband slept with the nanny. I kicked him out. Can I keep the nanny?”
Hands-Off Relationship: My husband had sex with me while I was in a drunken state. Should I divorce him?”
Spousal Surveillance: My husband has been monitoring me through my laptop. How can I get him to stop?”
Willful Blindness: My fiancé was sexually abused as a child. My stepmom defends Jerry Sandusky. How could they possibly meet?”

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

There’s Something About Mary: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a woman who hasn’t told her boyfriend she used to be a man.”
Bad Granny: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose mother-in-law plays intellectual favorites with her grandchildren.”
When Parents Aren’t Enough: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on neighbors who care ceaselessly for their disabled son—to the neglect of their infant daughter.”
A Breast Too Far: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman who discovered her mother-in-law suckling her newborn son.”

Check out Dear Prudence's book recommendations in the Slate Store.