Santa Barbara, Calif.: I work for a small business with two co-workers and my boss. Recently one co-worker's father passed away, and a donation was sent to a local charity in his memory. We received a thank you note from his mother (someone we have never met, by the way), which was addressed and directed to my boss. Although I would never say anything, it really bothered me that this 50-year-old man couldn't acknowledge the donation himself. Am I off base here?
Emily Yoffe: I'm not going to devote this week to the "thank-you note" controversies—although after my exhortation last week to write them after receiving baby shower gifts, I was showered with e-mails from people saying it's rude for people to want or expect thank-you notes. I say to these people they should keep not sending them and this problem will solve itself because your friends and loved one will stop giving you gifts.
However, in this case a thank-you note was sent by a grieving woman on behalf of her family and you're complaining? Give me a break!
Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend just told me he's not sure that he wants to have children after all. We have been together for a year and a half, and have started talking about getting engaged and looking for a place together. When we've talked about the future, children have always been in the picture, and I was clueless, until yesterday, that he actually was unsure he really wants them. I love him, but I know that I definitely want children. I am not sure how to figure out if I can stay in the relationship and get married without knowing if he will ever be ready to have kids. How do I approach this? Thanks for your guidance.
Emily Yoffe: He hasn't told you he doesn't want to have children, instead he's conveying that now that children aren't just some abstract possibility, but are starting to take form in his mind (if not yet in your womb), he's realized he's scared to death. This is perfectly normal, and it's healthy that he could express this to you. So don't escalate this into something it's not—yet. Tell him you appreciate his honesty. Say one of the things you love about each other is that you know you can each say things that are hard and not necessarily welcome, and they will be heard openly.
Tell him you want to talk more about this with him—you can say you hadn't realized this before, so you both need to work through the questions having children or not brings up. Then listen, and discuss without rancor and without telling him that he's crushing your dreams. Part of his concerns surely come out of worrying what kids would do to your relationship, so the way you handles this will say a lot about how you would handle the difficulties of child-rearing. As you work through this, you should put on hold moving forward on engagement and living arrangements. Let him know that children are a vital need for you—but the two of you now need to figure out if you needs are in sync before you make major decisions.
Seattle: In re: "Dry Land"...
If a couple that loved each other in all other ways wasn't finding it in bed, couldn't sex therapy help?
Emily Yoffe: It's definitely worth a try.
Dating sites: I haven't tried it, but Geek to Geek (gk2gk.com) comes recommended by friends.
Emily Yoffe: Here's a recommendation to the woman who both would like to find love and have someone who understands that being alone is deeply satisfying.
Philadelphia: I've reconnected with a female friend from high school online who is now married with children. However, she e-mails me every day, and sometimes multiple times a day.
There is nothing untoward or risqué whatsoever about the conversations. But a friend of mine thinks it was odd that a married woman with children would be e-mailing me every day. I've wondered if her husband knows she's doing that and if I should ask. But I don't want to make the conversation get weird if isn't already. What's your take on this? Is this OK?
Emily Yoffe: It used to be that people who wanted to have affairs with old high-school friends had to wait five or 10 year intervals to run into them at reunions. Now, thanks to Facebook, life is just one big high-school reunion. Like you, I don't know what her intentions are, but it doesn't sound as if you need or want multiple daily updates from her. You don't have to say, "Marcia, are you trying to have an affair with me?" but you can say, "Marcia, it's been great reconnecting, but I'm afraid daily personal e-mails are distracting me from my work."
Detroit: Here is a question that is bothering me a lot. I recently learned that my FIL is continuing a long term affair. I knew there was an affair but did not know that the relationship continued. He is also very close to his mistress's children. What bothers me is that he openly seeks to develop the relationship with them when visiting us, even inviting them to our place. My husband is very hurt but will not say anything or talk to anybody about it. My MIL behaves as if nothing is going on. I would appreciate your thoughts.
Emily Yoffe: I would stay out of your in-laws' marriage except to the extent he wants to use your place to further his cheating. Your husband needs to step up (and if he won't, you should) and say, "Dad, we love to see you, but I cannot be drawn into helping you conduct a relationship with another woman and her children. Your personal business is your own, but I'm afraid you can't use our home in the pursuit of it."
Washington, D.C.: Please help me with my in-laws. They are always late. Whether it's dinner at our house or dinner requiring reservations, they show up at least a half hour late. Even outings to the zoo or the park—late, late, late. I used to tolerate this, but now that I have a toddler, being late can really wreak havoc. My little one is usually done eating by the time they arrive, which means someone (i.e., me) has to entertain him for the remainder of the dinner. And they consider it extremely rude to order food before everyone is present. I find it extremely rude that they are always late and never apologize. What can I do? I've tried telling them dinner was at 6 p.m. (when it really was at 6:30 p.m.); they were not amused when they found out I had done this.
Emily Yoffe: In-laws, shape up!
You and your husband have to have a united front and explain now that you have a toddler, your schedule isn't as flexible as it used to be—you're sure they can remember what it was like!—so you have to start eating at the appointed time, etc. So if they show up really late at the zoo, the visit with their grandchild will unfortunately have to be cut short. It's their choice to change or not—but if you stick to your time table, you won't be driven so crazy by them.