Got a burning question for Prudie? She’ll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at 1 p.m. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.
I’ve come to understand that some misbehavior is common among men who travel for business, but I don’t really know where I stand. I love my wife dearly, and we have a happy marriage. We both travel a lot for work. As soon as I arrive at a new destination, I find myself sitting in strip bars, going to porn theaters, and cruising through red light districts. I don’t know why I do it, and often I don’t even want to be there, but something keeps pulling me to these places. I’ve never cheated on my wife, but I’m afraid that I’m going to make a terrible mistake. Once I found myself in a (legal) brothel being solicited by women who I’m sure were wondering why I was there if I didn’t want sex. I left, felt nauseated for the rest of the trip, and could barely look my wife in the eye when I got home. Would it be OK to go to only strip clubs, but not other sexual establishments? Or do I need to cut it off entirely, something that I’m not sure is possible? I’ve debated finding new work, but that would only solve half of the problem as my wife travels as much as I do, and similar problems appear when I’m home alone.
“Something keeps pulling me to these places,” you write. I think we know what’s pulling you, and if you just lock your hotel door and pull on it in the privacy of your room you could save yourself a lot of trouble. “Do I need to cut if off entirely?” you wonder about your activities. Yes, you need to cut it off entirely, before your wife is inspired by Lorena Bobbitt and cuts it off for you. Thank you for this insight into the dim-witted, nonthought processes of men who behave badly. In essence there is no explanation, as disgraced U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner so eloquently made clear this week. There’s just finding yourself at the “legal” (nice touch!) brothel, or sending pictures of your erections to strangers, and then shrugging in disbelief at how it all happened. I assume you don’t hold your boss in higher esteem than your wife. Yet your boss can send you around the country and be assured that you will meet with the clients, file the reports, and discharge your duties without needing a minder. Your obligation to your wife is to honor your marriage vows, but you essentially feel that if she’s not acting as your zoo keeper, you can’t be responsible for your sexual actions.
I’m sure there are many diagnoses that can be slapped on your illicit conduct, but how about if you start practicing being as responsible about your sexual behavior as you are about your work behavior. Toward that end, stop with the passive voice. You don’t “find” yourself at brothels and strip clubs. You get to town, look up their addresses, then get a ride there. Since you need help with impulse control, try finding a cognitive-behavioral therapist. Right now, it’s less important that you explore the origins of your behavior than that you substitute your potentially ruinous actions with benign ones. That may mean making sure you schedule acceptable social activities when you’re traveling. It may mean getting into some kind of 12-step program and having a sponsor to call when you feel the urge to inexplicably be someplace you say you don’t want to be.
Dear Prudence: Crack Mom
I have a very good friend who recently completed her first year as a high-school teacher. She is passionate about the work and loves being a teacher. The problem is the relationship she has with her students. She says she uses text messaging to remind students of assignments and whatnot, but I’ve been around her enough to know that’s not strictly the case. She’s mentioned giving her students relationship advice and consoling them through break-ups. She’s even read me a few messages in which she and her students tell inappropriate jokes back and forth. She takes kids to the local hangout after school for snacks. Recently she posted pictures on Facebook of a student’s pool party, where she was the only adult. Should I speak up and let her know my concerns or just bite my tongue?
Thanks for this reminder that women can behave just as badly as men. Your friend is on track to become a feature on a scandal segment of 20/20. Apparently the word has not sufficiently gotten out to people who are both technologically adept and morally obtuse than when they leave a multiplatform trail of their indiscretions, bad consequences tend to follow. Your friend has crossed more lines than a telephone company junction box. I’ll say she’s passionate: She’s giving relationship advice; she’s swapping dirty jokes; she posts pictures of herself in a bathing suit playing in the kiddie pool with her students. All of this is retrievable by parents or administrators once someone—and someone will—blows the whistle on her. Maybe she has the potential to be a decent teacher, once she figures out she’s not starring in one of those body-switching movies in which an adult gets to relive her high school years. You’re her friend, so speak up. Tell her you’ve become increasingly alarmed at the intimacy of her relationships with her students and she is setting herself up for losing her teaching license. If that loses you a friendship, then accept that her behaving like an overgrown kid would cause you to lose respect for her anyway.
My husband and I married a little over a year ago. He has two children from two previous marriages, and I have one from my previous marriage. He has had some difficulty building a relationship with my son, whom my husband says is nothing like his own children. After we married, my husband’s mother brought pictures of his first wife out of storage to display. My husband says his mother doesn’t like me because I won’t be manipulated the way she manipulated his previous wives. Recently, I came home from work to find out that my husband took his biological children to a photo shoot organized by his mother with the rest of his large, extended family. His family is very proud of themselves and their heritage, and I could have forgiven their rudeness in not inviting me if it was a bloodline thing. However, the photo samples show that they included an ex-wife’s children from another of her marriages. Am I crazy for being offended that I, his current legal wife, and my child, his current legal dependent, were excluded? My husband says if I want a photo of me and my kid, I should make the appointment. How should I handle this?
—Not All in the Family
Congratulations, woman who won’t be manipulated by your mother-in-law—you’ve just been manipulated! It was a masterstroke on her part to make sure your husband didn’t tell you about the session, then have you see the evidence that everyone who passed through the family was included except you. I like your use of “current” to describe your marital situation. Keeping things conditional seems like a good idea with this guy. Let’s see: He’s stunned to discover that your child is “nothing like” his own. He knows his mother likes to make his wives miserable, but he can’t stand up to her, which may explain why there’s been such a high turnover. Then he tells you if you want a picture of you and your (weird) kid, go arrange it yourself. Yes, it’s offensive, and you’re right that the question is how you handle this. Don’t focus on the photo session. That’s done, so be sure not to let your blood pressure soar every time you see the pictures displayed at your in-laws’ home. Given your discomfort with his treatment of your child, his disregard of your feelings, and the record of marital failures between you, tell him that you two need a neutral third party to help guide you through these early marital brambles. Surely you both would like this current marriage to be your last.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been dating a great new guy. We have a lot of chemistry, and I think there’s potential for a long-term relationship. There’s just one problem: I’ve realized that he doesn’t wash his hands after using the restroom! My apartment is small, and you can hear everything that’s happening in the bathroom from outside; I’ve never once heard the water running after hearing the toilet flush. I’ve held his hand after he comes out of the bathroom to check them out, and not once have they felt cold or wet. I’m not a germophobe, but to me this just seems like a basic practice of good hygiene. The rest of his hygiene is fine: He’s a great-looking, well-dressed, good-smelling guy. Should I say something? If so, what? It seems like a small thing to end a relationship over, but it’s bizarre and distasteful.
—Starting To Get Grossed Out
Your boyfriend’s not German, is he? If so, maybe he’s the source of the E. coli outbreak raging through that country! Let’s assume he’s neither washing nor sanitizing his hands. You’ve been with him for several weeks and your health remains sound. So while it should be standard to wash after using the facilities, letting this go until you get to know each other much better is not jeopardizing your health. For the time being, pretend your apartment has thick walls and you just don’t know about his hand-washing habits. I think you two need to be much better acquainted before you start improving him. (Let’s stipulate we’re talking about “number one.” Washing after “number two” is absolutely mandatory.) When you’re really a comfortable couple, take his hand in yours and tell him he’s wonderful, then add, “You know that sign in the bathroom that says, ‘Employees must wash hands before returning to work’? That sign also means you.”
More Dear Prudence Columns
“Financial Affairs: I want to bequeath money to my mistress in my will. Is that wrong?” Posted March 24, 2011.
”A Fool for Love: My wife is super hot but dumb. How can I make the best of our union?” Posted March 17, 2011.
”I Can’t Relate: My estranged half-sister wants to get to know me, but I’m afraid my parents won’t approve.” Posted March 10, 2011.
”Diamonds Aren’t a Girl’s Best Friend: My ex is blackmailing me for sex. How can I get out of it?” Posted March 3, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“This Baby Shower Is a Wash: Dear Prudence advises a reader who thinks her brother impregnated his girlfriend to steal her own baby’s thunder—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted March 21, 2011.
”Teacher Gone Wild: Dear Prudence advises a schoolteacher caught on tape acting a drunken fool—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted March 14, 2011.
”Dead Letters at the Office: Prudie counsels an office worker who found love letters while cleaning out the desk of a recently deceased colleague that are not from her widower—and other advice-seekers.” Posted March 7, 2011.
”Nightmare Vacation: Prudie counsels a reader who regrets her promise to take an ailing family member to Disneyland—in this week’s live chat.” Posted Feb. 28, 2011.