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.)
See Dear Prudence live! Emily Yoffe will be at Washington, D.C.’s historic Sixth & I for a special Mother’s Day themed event, hosted by Slate science editor Laura Helmuth. For tickets and more information, click here.
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Paternity Test: I’ve been married just over two years, and if you had asked me two weeks ago I would’ve said my husband was near perfect. We’d been trying for almost a year to get pregnant, so I was over the moon to show him the positive test result. Then everything came crashing down when he asked me to take a paternity test for his “peace of mind.” I’ve never given him the slightest reason to doubt my fidelity (which he acknowledges) and he doesn’t have a history of being cheated on (although I am his first serious relationship). But he says he just can’t bond with our child until he knows for sure it’s his. I absolutely refuse to do a test during my pregnancy—there is a (very) small chance of miscarriage that I’m just not willing to take for a non-medical reason. He agreed to wait till the birth, but has now turned into a different person—distant and polite. I know that the next step is counseling, except I’m at the point that I’m not sure I even want to save the marriage. What sort of dad is he going to be if his love and trust for me is so conditional? Part of me is strongly tempted to say “You’re right, this child is not yours,” and just raise it myself. Am I overreacting?
A: There’s a strange mental disorder called Capgras delusion in which a person thinks a loved one has been replaced by an imposter. But you are actually living this—your husband has been replaced by a cold, hostile, accusatory lunatic. He doesn’t even have the excuse of having some kind of pregnancy-related hormonal disturbance. I don’t blame you for feeling, “Who is this stranger?” But the stranger is your husband who until this bizarre personality change was the love of your life. You need to tell him you two need counseling now, that you have never been so shaken, and that he is making you question the foundation of your marriage. If he won’t go, then you have to go by yourself. Do not make any major decisions right now. Let’s hope that long before your child is born, your husband will have returned from what turns out to be a temporary derangement.
Q. To Catch a Predator: During my senior year in high school, I had an affair with Mr. Milo, one of my teachers. I think I learned from the affair and do not feel like it harmed me unduly. Two months ago, Mr. Milo was arrested for sleeping with a junior at my alma mater. He will probably go to jail. My boyfriend knows about the affair and thinks I should come forward to show that Mr. Milo has a history of being predatory. I do not want to expose myself by revealing I slept with him. Am I morally obligated to come forward?
A: I bet Mr. Milo has a long string of students he seduced, some, like you, who think it was both wrong and thrilling. But what a teenage girl might think makes her special can actually be very destructive, and thank goodness this predator has been caught. He became a teacher so that his place of employment would supply him with an ever renewable resource of underage girls. Prison is a just punishment for such people. I think you should come forward. But you don’t have to decide all at once on how much you want to participate in the case against him. Contact the prosecutor’s office and say you would right now like to talk confidentially with them. It may be they wouldn’t need you to be a witness, but you could be very useful toward their building a case and understanding his M.O. You are lucky that you don’t feel scarred or used by your experience. But you also must be cognizant of the damage such predators do, and this is your opportunity to stop other young women from being exploited.
Q. Unsanitary Husband: My husband and I are at a divide when it comes to basic hygiene while sick. Whenever he has a cold, he will audibly suck the mucus from his nose to his throat, and then cough it up into a tissue that he keeps on hand! It totally grosses me out, but he thinks this is normal and the only way to get rid of the mucus. He refuses to take any medicine for no reason other than that he’s stubborn and wants to let his body do its job. I was raised to believe that audibly sucking mucus back into the throat is just bad manners. Surely spitting phlegm into a tissue that’s lying around is unsanitary. I was taught to go to the bathroom to flush it in the toilet, in private. Who is right?
A: You might have to check with my husband on this. I’m just recovering from a two-week siege with bronchitis and he’s put up with my hacking, hucking mess. But I agree there are limits on how gross the sick person can be, and there are few sounds more repulsive than the Gatling gun regurgitation of mucus. Sometimes, there’s nothing else the sufferer can do. But making a habit of hanging out on the couch and sounding like you’re a cat coughing up a hairball is not going to endear you to your loved ones. But if your husband won’t try to put a lid on it while in earshot of you, then you just need to leave the room—and maybe even someone has to sleep on the couch. You say your husband is too stubborn for medication, but if he had a viral illness, basically all you can do is wait for your body to heal and treat some of the symptoms. As for the tissue issue, again, sometimes the sick person has to deal quickly with what’s erupting. But afterward this germ-filled effluvia should be promptly disposed of.
Q. How Do You Know When You Have Been Assaulted?: Things have been a bit tense in my relationship lately. I take some of the blame since I have been out late a lot more than usual in the past few months with my new hobby. Well, last night I got home (late) and my boyfriend was livid. He said “You know this little hobby of yours has gone too far. Why can’t you for once do something for me?” I probably deserved it, but I shot back a sarcastic “Like what?”—at which point he jumped me. Now, I admit I didn’t exactly do anything to stop him and I certainly willingly participated, but deep down I didn’t really feel like I was comfortably complicit with the whole thing. I left in a huff this morning and we haven’t talked about it, but we have symphony tickets tonight and I have this bad feeling I might cause a scene. What should I do?