Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is online weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up below 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.)
Q. How We Met: As far as my wife knows, we met by chance. In actuality, though, she was a friend of a friend of mine on social media, and her profile piqued my interest. I did not contact her by that medium; with the information she shared, it was easy enough to meet her in person without giving myself away. We hit it off. I’m sure she’d be flattered to learn the truth, but I’d be embarrassed if she told anyone else. Currently, no one but me knows, although I do find myself shifting uncomfortably when the story of how we met comes up. Would it be best to just tell my wife the truth, or keep it to myself?
A: I can’t understand why you have kept from your wife this utterly charming story. You found her through a friend’s Facebook page and were so taken with her looks and personality, you had to meet her. And your instinct was right that you two would connect. That you have gotten married without telling her this has had the effect of making the flattering seem unseemly. The next time the “How we met” story comes up, later, when you’re home alone, tell her there’s a preface to the story that for some silly reason you have felt abashed about. But you now want her to know that even before you two met, you were sure she was the one for you.
Q. For Better or for Worse?: My husband and I have been married for almost two years. We are deeply in love and have a passionate sex life. He’s amazing and I’m incredibly blessed. There’s one point of tension that pops up that I need your help with. Before we got married, he told me about his struggle with pornography. He recognized its negative influence in his life and our relationship. It was our understanding that he would work through it. There have been several “relapses,” if you will, throughout our relationship, but he keeps promising to do better. Recently, I discovered he’d been lying about his progress for months. He’d been looking every few days and would even look while lying right next to me in bed as I slept. I support him as best I can, while dealing with my own negative emotions. I do believe that he does want to conquer this, but the lies and, to me, what feels like betrayal are wrecking an otherwise wonderful marriage. Do you have any suggestions on what to do from here?
A: I was waiting for you to say your husband’s struggled with viewing child pornography, or that his obsession with pornography was such that he downloaded it at work, thus jeopardizing his job. But your objection appears to be that he views pornography. You don’t in any way explain its insidious effect on your marriage. If a husband’s erotic life is pulled away from his partner and replaced with a masturbatory response to images on his computer, that’s a problem. But you say you two have a passionate sex life. Some women believe looking at pornography is the equivalent of cheating. It’s not. You complain he looks at it in bed, after you have fallen asleep. But if you’re asleep, how do you know what he’s looking at? If your objection is that his viewing porn hurts your feelings, get over it. You went into this marriage knowing he had this proclivity. As long as it’s not actually affecting your life, ignore it.
Q. Rapist Up the Street: My husband and I recently moved into our dream home in a great neighborhood. Our neighbors are very friendly and like to introduce everyone on the block. Every week when I am out doing yardwork (I am a young woman wearing appropriate clothing), a man from up the street slows his car to a crawl and inches by our house while staring at me. Last week, he turned his car around and sat staring at me from the middle of the street. He is friends with our male neighbor, and I occasionally see them chatting in front of our house. According to public record, this man has felonies for raping his ex-wife and teenage daughter. It seems likely that we will run into him at some point. My husband says our answer to an introduction should be to say “I know who you are” and walk away. I am genuinely creeped out by this man’s behavior and would like to mow the lawn without being watched. Do you have any advice about how to handle a chance meeting or the creepy behavior?
A: If a neighbor was convicted of raping his wife and teenage daughter, surely he is on the sex offender registry. (And what does one have to do to get one of those lengthy prison sentences we hear so much about?) I have written many times about how the sex offender registry has grossly expanded to capture people who are no danger to society, that their placement on this list ruins their lives and that of their families. However, the registry is going to be useful to you. I agree that it’s disturbing to have anyone park and watch you while you do yardwork, and a convicted sex felon—yikes! So call the police and describe what’s been going on. Let’s hope they pay a call on him and give him some words of wisdom about leaving you alone.
Q. Re: For Better or Worse: I was surprised by your suggestion to ignore the husband’s use of pornography. It seems like the wife (and husband) were brought up to believe that sexuality with anyone other than your partner is bad and the equivalent to cheating. In reality, it can be a healthy part of any relationship and even an escape for people to enjoy their fantasies that their partners might be squeamish about. My suggestion is that the wife should stop thinking that looking at pornography is inherently bad and perhaps should start enjoying it with her husband. Sure, it’s bad when it’s child pornography or as a replacement for your sex life, as you said, but it can be a fun and exciting way to change up your sex life and learn something about your partner’s wants and likes.
A: That would be a 180 on the wife’s part! But you’re right, she should give it a look. At the least viewing some of it might take away the power it’s having over her psyche.
Q. Re: How We Met: Prudie, the story is adorable and your advice spot-on. I think the wife will be utterly charmed.
A: Thanks. From the responses this is one of those things you either find charming or creepy.
Q. Sisterly Betrayal: In the last five years, my 37-year-old brother has been convicted of three DUIs and has avoided a fourth DUI because the police dropped the ball on getting his bloodwork. All of these have been in different states, and as a result, my brother doesn’t suffer the cumulative effects of having several DUIs on his record. Six months ago, he served a month in jail for his third DUI conviction. My parents have assisted him during all of this, helping him out so he can keep his job and house. They seem more concerned about him being employed than not drinking and driving. I am so angry at his murderous habit. Recently, he was in a car accident where he passed out from a 0.35 BAC and ended up in the hospital. So far, the police have not come to arrest him. I am tempted to call the police tip line and tell them about his previous arrest record and to throw him in jail already. I need to do something before he kills someone but don’t know where to begin. He’s refused rehab, saying the one time he went made him want to drink more.
A: Let’s hope that if he ends up killing someone it is only himself. This is absolutely enraging and you’re right that each time your drunk brother gets behind the wheel he is the potential murderer of those in his path. Stopping such people is infernally hard, but you should definitely contact the police and give the details of this latest accident and ask why it hasn’t been investigated. You can draw their attention to his previous DUIs in other states, including his incarceration. Since he served jail time, you should also contact the prosecutor’s office where he was convicted and give them the information on this latest accident. Perhaps your brother is on probation and this could result in his reincarceration. In any case, anything you can do to stop him is not a betrayal. You may save his life. More important, you may save a lot of innocent lives.
Q. Re: How We Met: I’m sorry—I still find this extremely creepy, and would not find it charming if my husband revealed it to me. If he had reached out to the friend and asked for a casual introduction, that’d be one thing. I’ve always said that if the genders in Sleepless in Seattle were switched, it’d be a creepy stalker movie. This letter proves that.
A: So you’re saying Sleepless in Seattle is not a romance but a creepy stalker movie. Because why does it make it different to switch the sexes? He read her Facebook profile, thought they would hit it off, and boy was he right. I don’t think we have to worry about someone being a creepy stalker if the woman’s response to his interest is so mutual that she marries him.
Q. Regular Family in a High-End Town: Our family of five lives in a nice but modest home in a well-to-do town with top public schools. We believe we’ve taught our children to value what they have. The problem is, how to deal with the competitive environment—parents who can throw money at tutors or coaches, supplemental math and science clinics, and those things contributing to top grades and top college applications. It’s not that we want to be like that (we feel it’s so much pressure and overload, although that seems to be the norm), but we also can’t afford it. And what’s the appropriate response to “My kid is top honors/best at soccer/a genius/going to Stanford.” My standard reply is, “Oh how nice.” Any advice on how to help my kids muddle through this as they enter high school? It will only get worse.
A: Stick with your standard Stanford reply—it’s perfect. You have been helping your kids all along but showing them that the work they do is theirs. They are learning to take responsibility for themselves and that they are the students, not you. If your kids need extra help, you can help them contact teachers or figure out how to get it through the school system. Your kids probably aren’t actually complaining that they don’t have their own cadre of paraprofessionals like Courtney and Hank, so don’t let your insecurity infect them. They will get into college by working hard in school, taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities, and doing something worthwhile with their summers. And something worthwhile does not have to be an internship at NIH or multithousand-dollar trip so that your teenager can aid a third-world country. It can be coaching local Little League or working behind a counter. And when you feel down about your parenting, read this hilarious piece by the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri on current parenting styles.
Q. Re: Sisterly Betrayal: Frankly, I’m surprised his prior DUIs haven’t come up. Prosecutors definitely have the ability to go “out of jurisdiction” and get prior convictions from other jurisdictions and those can often be used to support a higher level charge. Three DUIs in five years generally means your next DUI is a “felony DUI” and you’re looking at more than a year in jail and major fines, not to mention revocation (not just suspension) of your driver’s license.
A: Sadly, we read all the time about people who rack up an arm’s length of such arrests before they kill someone. I don’t know why the penalties for this crime aren’t more severe.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a great week!