Emily Yoffe: Is this your first clue that your mother-in-law is a maniac? If so, it's a pretty big one, and based on the visit, you need to make sure your in-laws are not alone with the kids. Smacking both your children—and letting a virtual stranger in on the violence—is more than a warning that she's not trustworthy, it's a screaming alarm. Do your best to keep your cool when discussing this with your husband. Say that you understand she's his mother, but she has put your children in harm's way and from now on all the visits will be supervised.
Columbus, Ohio: I am a freelance book critic for some local papers, and while my audience isn't exceptionally large, I do receive quite a bit of praise and respect for my reviews from my readers. That said, my sister's husband just published a book and immediately gave me a copy to read. My sister edited the book, which surprised me, given that she barely passed any of her English classes in high school. Regardless, I was excited to read it.
As I read the book, I realized that it's one of the worst books I've ever read! Not only does he ramble at times, it seems as though my BIL kept a thesaurus next to him and not only abused every adverb that could come to mind, but he used the words that didn't fit the intended context ("poignant smell" rather than "pungent smell"). It's a book where the author is trying to use every word known to man to sound more credible, but instead comes off sounding like a buffoon!
The story itself is fantastic. The writing, however, is atrocious. I commended him on his book, deeply impressed by the story and plot itself; I did not tell him that it was the most frustrating read I've had in a while.
My problem is this: my sister and her husband now want me to write some reviews! I'm torn. Do I write an honest review, telling everyone that the writing is horrible and getting to the story is like swimming in quicksand? Or, do I lie and write that it's a fantastic book? I'd hate to look foolish, but I don't want to hurt my sister and her husband's feelings either. What's the best way to approach this?
Emily Yoffe: Doesn't Marcel Proust open Remembrance of Things Past with the poignant smell of madeleine dissolved in tea? And if you peruse the best-seller list, it's filled with tightly plotted, atrociously written books. So your brother-in-law has pulled off quite an accomplishment. However, whether you liked the book or not, you are not in a position to review it because it would be a total conflict of interest. However, you should help get the book in the hands of some fellow critics, who perhaps will enjoy their swim through the quicksand of his prose.
Philadelphia, Penn.: How do I move past "accidental infidelity?" My husband of 14 years and I have had a wonderful relationship, and he's my best friend and great father. A couple of months ago, after working a late shift, he went out for drinks with some work colleagues. Everyone decided to leave, and one of his female coworkers asked him over for another drink. He didn't want to come home to an empty house (we were all asleep) and was enjoying blowing off steam after a bad shift. She was someone he never thought of "that way," but they were talking about work and she suddenly kissed him. He responded, and things went from A to Z very quickly. He doesn't know why he did it (other than it was surprising and flattering), but felt immediately remorseful. He confessed to me and is full of self-loathing, disgust, and is determined to make it up to me. It turns out she has numerous personal problems (which led to her being fired from her job, so there's no contact anymore) and had feelings for him for some time, but he was oblivious. I want to forgive him, but I'm so hurt and disappointed, and the forgetting seems next to impossible. He's not a bad man but just had a weak moment. Still, I'm so angry. How can I move past this?
Emily Yoffe: It would have been very easy for your husband to just keep the sordid evening to himself, so it says something very good about your marriage that he couldn't. Of course you are deeply wounded, but the fact that this one night out of 14 years should help you put this aside. Your husband wasn't "hiking the Appalachian trail" or cavorting with prostitutes, or banging every female in the office, unlike a few recent public figures. If you feel it would help, maybe you alone, or the two of you together, should go for a few sessions with a counselor. But keeping in mind that this is just a blip in an otherwise wonderful marriage should slowly help you move on.
Dallas, Tex.: I just don't like my husband anymore. When is it OK to end it? He's not a bad guy. When it's just the two of us, things are mostly fine; but we don't live life in a bubble. I cringe when I watch him interact with friends and acquaintances; and apparently it's gotten to a point where I occasionally fail to mask my disgust with his blowhard, self-aggrandizing discourse (subtle gestures for the moment, but I fear they might get worse). His unfair treatment (not abusive!!) of our son makes me angry because I end up in a position of having to support disciplines I think are unwarranted and overly harsh (like 6 weeks' grounding for 1 week of poor grades in one class where he was actually doing the work and trying). Sigh. To make matters worse, he seems perfectly content with me—surprising, since I'm certainly no picnic myself.
I always thought divorce should be reserved for when a marriage was truly untenable—abuse or infidelity, etc. But what if it's just not good? When it's been years since one of the spouses felt anything resembling happiness for more than a minute and a half? How bad does it have to be for it to be OK to walk away?
Emily Yoffe: I always wonder when I get letters like this how you failed to notice that you were marrying a rigid, self-aggrandizing blowhard from the get-go. Obviously something prompted you to marry this man and have a child with him. However, before you blow up your marriage, it sounds worth it to work on it. Or at least work on the parenting part, which will continue no matter whether you stay together or not. His harsh, punitive treatment of your son sounds awful. At the least your husband needs some parenting classes, or perhaps the two of you could find some workshops to attend together on how to be supportive parents. Try to improve this aspect of your marriage before you explore getting out.
Re: Horndog: I'm a female with similar libido to the horn dog. I've had to do just what he dreads: deal with the fact that very few people have that sort of sex drive. I go to the gym a lot and spend more time thinking about my hobbies and interests that don't involve my partner. It's not the best solution, but it has been an issue in many of my relationships and I finally had to give up hope.
Emily Yoffe: If only I could get Mr. Horndog and Ms. Horndog together. It sounds as if that would make all four partners very happy.
Shrinking: I've always been chubby. I've lost quite a bit of weight recently, to the point where I am no longer chubby and actually on the thin side. I've been getting many complements on my weight loss.