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About six weeks ago my husband and I received an anonymous email that said we should check out what our daughter-in-law was posting on an Internet forum we’d never heard of. We were given a link and her username. We were shocked to discover she was spending vast amounts of work time posting to this forum. More upsetting was what she was posting about us and our son. We have been generous financially and otherwise to them and their children, but according to her posts she resents us and thinks we are “interfering.” We don’t think we are, and we’ve never had our offers refused. Worse is how she talks online about our son. He is very helpful around the house and she acknowledges he gets the kids ready for day care most mornings, plays with them after work, then works in the evening at home to advance his career. Despite this, she gripes about him and details the ways he annoys her. Perhaps the very worst is finding out she has a rather unsavory past, including phone-sex work, drug addiction, and embezzlement. We knew nothing of this, but she mentions these things without a trace of guilt or embarrassment on the forum. Do we say anything to our son about what we’ve discovered? There is a part of me that would love to just ignore all we’ve learned and try to maintain a good relationship with her because we love our son and grandchildren, but my husband has been steaming about our son being “taken” by someone we suddenly realize may not be a very nice person.
—Sick at Heart
It’s a poor idea to grouse incessantly in a public forum, even if anonymously, with identifiable details about your in-laws and your husband. However, if in between posting her complaints, your daughter-in-law is able to attend to her work duties, this foolish way of blowing off steam is a misdemeanor. I admit I don’t get it, but lots of people, especially those who have come of age in the Internet age, are pretty casual about posting private things online. But then you got to the part about her essentially boasting about a history of drug addiction and embezzlement, and the scary staccato violin music started playing in the background. However, you give no indication that until you started reading her confessions you had any inkling about your daughter-in-law’s past or worries about her character. In the absence of compelling, current information that she is back on drugs or engaged in financial shenanigans, I think you need to stay out of this. Consider that it’s likely the whistle-blower (or snitch) would have also contacted your son, so he might already be privately weighing this information. But if he doesn’t know and you bring this to his attention, it has the potential to seriously destabilize their marriage. That could end up with you two cut out of your grandchildren’s lives, which would be terrible for everyone. You’ve now had your eyes opened, so keep them that way, while holding your tongue unless something alarming requires you to speak.
I am in my 50s and my boyfriend is a loving and attentive man in his 60s. When we got together, our libidos jumpstarted to a degree that amazed me. I know that we are lucky. I also know that my baseline of sexual desire is not as high as he thinks. In the three years we have been together, life has taken a few whacks at me, and he’s stayed constant and true through life stresses and illness. Now, we are sorting out the process of combining households within a year. He is so excited about our upcoming life changes that he is once again alight with love’s passion. There are so many amorous texts that I can’t take the time to answer (I work, he doesn’t). I find myself tired after endless nights of hot flashes, and longing for some time together when we are not in the middle of an onslaught of deep kisses and fevered caresses. It seems unthinkable to complain about being so desired, and I can’t stand the thought of crushing his excitement. But as we approach living together, I’m exhausted by the prospect of so much daily ardor. Sometimes, I want to converse without being told I’m sexy and that he wants me. How do I tell him this without making him feel scolded and unwanted?
—Exhausted by Love
First of all, toss his Cialis for daily use in the toilet and see if that doesn’t give you some relief. Second, carry a Taser for those times you want to unwind with a glass of wine and a Bravo show, and he wants to shove his tongue down your throat. If you are exhausted by the idea of his endlessly stoked passion, then don’t call the moving company. You’re still working, and it sounds like he’s got a lot of time on his hands, which he uses to tell you what he wants to do with his hands once you get off work. When a couple is in the first flush of desire and all they want to do is tear each other’s clothes off, that’s fun. But you’re three years in, and with your hots for him having cooled, you just want the same for your hot flashes. There is a bigger problem here than incompatible libidos: You don’t know how to tell him how you feel. If you two are going to see each other through the last part of your lives, you have to be able to converse freely about the hard things that come up—and I am not referring to his genitals.
My father is in his 70s. He is in great physical and mental condition. However, when he eats, he seems to have a habit of wanting to talk immediately after putting a lot of food in his mouth, and the food often falls out on the table or clings to his lips and it’s pretty disgusting. He’s been eating this way for a while, and I think he would be embarrassed if he was made aware of how grotesque he looks when he eats. Should I try to ignore it and accept this as part of what happens when you get old? Or is there a way to talk about it without hurting his feelings? I have tried to delicately say something like “Oh, you dropped some food there” when a particularly large chunk lands on the table, but he just picks it up and moves on without seeing the problem.
—Mouth Closed, Please
Here are some of the things I have instructed my daughter to say to me if the time comes that this needs saying: “Mom, you’ve got to do something about your beard.” “Getting older does not mean you no longer need deodorant.” “You’ve gotten into the habit of talking with your mouth full of food, and you’re spewing it everywhere.” Delicate is no match for distasteful, and you must be kind but direct. Tell him you’re so grateful that he remains in superb mental and physical shape, so you feel you can speak to him without having to dance around. Say that he probably isn’t even aware of this, but when you have a meal together, he talks when there’s still food in his mouth, and it’s not a pretty sight. Do make sure you have this discussion while away from the dinner table. I hope you have the kind of relationship where he will understand you’re willing to say something awkward because you value his company so much.
My 3-year-old son is undergoing a series of doctor visits as part of an autism evaluation. At a recent visit, he was sitting at a desk performing basic skills (lacing beads, pointing to matching pictures, identifying letters) and after about 30 minutes of this he wanted to move around. He reached up and jostled a framed degree on the wall, which tipped off its nail and fell to the ground, knocking down a second degree with it. One frame broke upon hitting the floor, and I promptly cleaned it up while the doctor and my son moved on to other parts of the evaluation in a different room. My wife and I disagree about our obligation. I feel we should replace the frame, as our son broke it. She feels differently, saying the doctor should have the room more kid-proofed as this facility exclusively sees children with behavioral issues. Clearly the office could have done more, but my son is still the person who caused the frame to fall. What are your thoughts?
I agree with both you and your wife. Sure, this was an accident, but it’s gracious to offer to replace a frame your child broke. I sincerely hope that if you do, this doctor waves off your gesture and says the diplomas should have been placed out of reach and not to worry about it. (And do not offer to replace the frame unless you can afford to do so.) You are understandably anxious—your little boy is being evaluated for a serious developmental condition. Once you decide whether or not to make an offer about replacing the frame, neither you nor your wife should put any more emotional energy into fretting over something so unimportant. It sounds as if the doctor handled this with aplomb, understanding that after half an hour of testing, anyone would want to stand up and stretch.
More Dear Prudence Columns
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More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
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“Won’t Stand for It: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman annoyed at her husband’s erectile problems.”
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“Bridling Bride: In a live chat, Prudie advises a man whose fiancée wants to be in his family’s photos at the wedding.”