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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions. And tell me that yesterday was the last day I'll have to scrape snow off the windshield until next winter.
Q. Cold Feet: Two weeks ago I left on a short vacation to visit a friend across the country. I said goodbye to my amazing fiancé with tears in my eyes even though I was only going to be gone for six days. We're in our late 20s, have been together for four years and have always had a strong, loving relationship. When I reached my friend's apartment, I met her roommate "Josh" who turned my world upside down. I have never given another man a second look during my relationship, but Josh and I had such an instant connection, it was unsettling. We spent hours talking, sharing stories, and getting to know each other's backgrounds. While my fiancé and I have lots in common, there are issues that we have compromised on (number of children, religion, saving vs. spending). Josh and I, however, seemed to be in sync on every issue we addressed. Nothing physical happened, but I left the trip feeling sad that I was leaving Josh! I am absolutely dumbfounded by these feelings. I obviously don't know Josh well enough to know that we would work out as a couple, but he introduced a doubt in my relationship that I can't seem to shake. I still love my fiancé, but now I'm questioning if our foundation is strong enough for a marriage ... which is supposed to happen in six months! What should I do?
A: I don't know you or Josh, but I can assure you that if you two became a couple you would also find issues on which you would have to compromise. The alluring stranger you've only known for a few days is the one with whom you've never had to fight over credit card debt, or messiness, or how many kids you want. I, however, can't tell if Josh helped put in relief some deep, fundamental problems in your relationship. Or if Josh just reminded you that you're still young and settled on a life partner awfully early in the game. Or if Josh is it and you'll regret forever not pursuing a possible relationship. You need to accept that every so often even for the happiest couples a Josh comes along to make one wonder, "What if." So you have some deep thinking to do. Maybe after a few more weeks at home the thoughts of Josh will fade away and you'll have your answer. Maybe this encounter will have made you realize you've been fooling yourself. What you do is not do anything rash, and instead use both your rational and emotional minds to explore what is the best decision about your future.
Q. Help!: My boyfriend and I are in a loving, dedicated relationship. He is such an amazing guy and all of my friends and family say he is one of a kind. The other day, though, I discovered some bizarre videos on his cellphone. He catches the subway for work and he has been surreptitiously recording women's legs. There are no faces or other intimate body parts—just legs. At first I thought it was an accidental recording but there are five or more videos. I don't know what to do. Is this illegal, recording women's legs? Is this a deal-breaker? I love him so much I wonder if I should just pretend I haven't seen it.
A: If only he lived in Massachusetts for that brief period before the Legislature closed the loophole in the law that allowed Massachusetts perverts to take upskirt photos. Your beloved apparently is skirting illegality by limiting himself to leg videos. I'm no lawyer (please chime in defense or criminal experts), but my understanding is that there is no expectation of privacy about one's exposed limbs. However, your boyfriend is exposing himself to being declared a creep because anyone who realizes he's filming her is going to be appalled. Sure, there's nothing wrong with a man enjoying a woman's lovely legs. And maybe your boyfriend has what's on the whole a basically harmless fetish. But he's not limiting himself to looking at legs on the street and online, he's gathering his own cache, which is worrisome. (And I'm betting he's got more than five of these videos stashed away.) I don't see how you can pretend to ignore what you've discovered. Let's face it, neither do you—you know you'll never think of your boyfriend the same way and that you need to find out what's going on. So tell him you saw the videos and ask what's up with that. His response will help you sort out just how one of a kind he is.
Q. Divorce: I am divorced from a man who was abusive to me for the majority of our marriage. We have two children together—the older, a girl, is 11 years old. I left my husband when she was old enough to know about the horrible way he was treating us, so she has many strong, negative opinions about him. I never badmouth my ex-husband to the kids at all, but I also do not tell her to stop saying negative things about her father when she expresses them. I have had people tell me how horrible it is that I let her speak so poorly of him and that I shouldn't encourage it. I don't encourage it, but I don't dissuade it either. Am I wrong for this? My ex-husband physically abused me for years and the last time it happened I ended up in the hospital (which my daughter saw). Should I be forcing her to speak to her father on the phone when she doesn't want to and stop calling him a "jerk"?
A: Your daughter knows the truth, so it would be much worse for her if you were to paper this over and encourage her to think and say, "Oh, Daddy is a good man who just sometimes got a little too angry." Sadly, he is more than a jerk, he's a criminal. I hope that if you ended up in the hospital because he assaulted you, that he was arrested and did time. In any case, kids who have been through this kind of trauma would benefit from seeing a therapist to help them air their feelings and come to terms with what it means to have such a father. If she doesn't want to speak to him, that should be her choice, but again, a neutral third party will help her sort this out so that she doesn't feel so torn over loyalty to you, etc. She also needs a way to talk to other people about why her father is not in her life. This can be anything from, "We don't see our dad," to telling some form of the truth to those she is closest with. Good for you for getting out of this marriage and stopping the abuse. But this is something that will echo through the years for all of you, and having outside support should make a big difference.