Dear Prudence

Sexual Reeling

My wife had more sex before our marriage than I did—and it’s driving me crazy.

Emily Yoffe.

Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My wife and I met 16 years ago when she was 19 years old, we married three years later, and I have been faithful and happy with her. I know she had two boyfriends before me and that she had oral sex with one and intercourse with the other. Somehow I got the idea that she had been forced into the oral sex and didn’t enjoy it. So when she would attempt to do that to me I made her stop. She felt rejected and that has impeded both the frequency and her enjoyment of any form of sex with me. She recently clarified that she was the one who initiated the first oral encounter and that she liked it. As a result, we have enjoyed this activity more in the past few weeks than we had in the last several years. Every other element of our sexual relationship has also improved. But I’m incredibly jealous at the amount of sex she had before she met me, far more than I had before I met her. I’m nearly going insane that she performed oral sex five times more in three years on them than she has with me in 16. How do move on so that I am not constantly thinking about these guys and the relative number of sexual encounters every time I have sex with my wife?


Dear Unlearn,

I think you have solved the national crisis in math education. We might improve our high school graduation rates if math problems read like more like this: “Melissa performed five times more oral sex on her two boyfriends for the three years prior to meeting her husband Eric than she has performed on him in the subsequent 16 years. So how many blowjobs …” (I realize it’s more likely we simply would increase our high-school oral sex rate.) Your situation is an excellent demonstration of why the words that come out of your mouth can be as important as the organs that you put in it. To stop brooding over what your wife was doing in the backseat of the car more than a decade and a half ago, start blowing your horn to celebrate the end of your semicelibate marriage. You two were set to go through life feeling frustrated and rejected because of a silly misunderstanding. That your wife likes to give oral sex, that she’s crazy about sex generally, is a dramatic turnaround in your sexual fortunes, one that should enhance the quality of your marriage. So lighten up and embrace this new connection, instead of undermining it by focusing on the quantitive pleasing she once did. If you forced her to tally her extra curriculars, then shame on you. Since you’re clearly a numbers guy, turn the math to your advantage. Calculate how long it will take the two of you to surpass your wife’s previous record, and start humping toward that goal line.


Dear Prudie,
I’m a woman in my early 30s and my grandfather, who is in his late 80s, is my only surviving grandparent. I’ve been visiting him a lot in the past couple of years and I really enjoy spending time with him. He even handwrote me a 20-page account of his service in WWII. However, when I was about 9 years old my mother told me that she had been molested by him and that we weren’t going to see him anymore. A few years later we started seeing him again occasionally, so I thought my mother had made up the story. (She’s mentally ill, so it’s possible.) However, I recently learned that the molestation story was true. My cousin told me my grandfather also molested my aunt, my mother’s sister. My mother now has nothing to do with her father and his health is starting to deteriorate. I would like to continue to see him, but don’t know if it’s right. I could visit without my mother knowing, but don’t know if I should tell her. What should I do?

—Conflicted Granddaughter

Dear Conflicted,
Among a parent’s most basic duties is to keep one’s children safe. If it’s true that your grandfather molested both his daughters, he was an utter failure as a parent. The violation at the hands of her own father may not be the cause of your mother’s mental illness, but surely it contributed to her psychological problems. If your grandfather had been prosecuted for his crimes, owned up to them, and been punished, that would have made it easier for you to take pity on him now. But he’s never had a reckoning. So I think you should supply one. The next time you visit him tell him how much you’ve enjoyed getting to know him, but that you’ve heard some information recently you have to discuss with him. Say that when you were a girl your mother told you he molested her. Since she’s a troubled woman, you never knew whether to believe her. But you’ve just gotten confirmation that he also molested your Aunt Connie. Then let him respond. Maybe he will cry and say he knows he’s done terrible things. Maybe he will say his daughters are a couple of liars. See how you feel about his response and make your decision whether to continue to visit. If you do that doesn’t mean you forgive him—you don’t even have standing to forgive him—it can simply mean you have sympathy for a failing old man, however sick his psyche. As for what to tell your mother, you are the one who can judge the fragility of her mental state and just how much news about her father she can bear.


Dear Prudence,
I’m an elementary school teacher and I just found out that root of my co-worker’s five year grudge against me is for something I didn’t do. I had an awful student teacher who I complained about. It turns out my colleague was mistakenly told my comments were directed at her. Now I know why this other teacher threw lesson plans at me and has given me the silent treatment since then. Fortunately we worked in different buildings. But she alienated everyone in her building and was transferred last year to teach in my building—everyone here knows about her problems. Her behavior toward me continues to be terrible. She refuses to even respond to my “good morning” at faculty meetings, even with other people around. Should I try to clear this up? I don’t want her bizarre grudge to make people think I’m part of the problem. But I can’t imagine going to my male principal to explain this ridiculous situation. Should I accept that there’s nothing I can do about this crazy co-worker?

—Trying To Be the Bigger Person

Dear Trying,
I hope someone at your school is concerned that such a paranoid, explosive, and immature person instructing our youngest citizens. I doubt that someone who alienates an entire building of colleagues is capable of setting an example for the kids. But you should try to straighten things out with her. Though she’s not speaking to you, ask her to join you for a cup of coffee. Even if she refuses, tell her on the spot that you heard there was a misunderstanding between you two several years ago. It turns out she mistakenly was told that you were talking about her when you were actually describing a low-performing student teacher. (I don’t buy this story, by the way. This woman seeks out enemies.) Maybe that will be enough to get her to treat you with minimal courtesy. If not, go to the principal. Given her reputation, he probably won’t be surprised he has a teacher in his midst who is capable of carrying on a five-year tantrum.


Dear Prudence,
I live in a lower-middle-class suburb where the houses are close together and the driveways short. My neighbors are financially desperate because both the husband and wife have been out of work for several months. Recently, they have started buying items at garage sales and reselling them at yard sales at their house. Every Saturday and Sunday, I am awakened at 6 a.m. by car doors slamming and people haggling outside my bedroom window and walking across my lawn. I’ve talked to my neighbors, who are nice people, but they said they have no alternative. Zoning ordinances limit us to four garage sales per year, so if I report them, they’ll be fined and forced to stop. I don’t want to do that, but I can’t take this anymore. Suggestions?

—All Sales Final

Dear Sales,
Your neighbors have fallen off a personal fiscal cliff, and although you’re not obligated to lead a rescue party, it would be nice if you could throw them a piece of rope. I bet there is a weekly flea market within driving distance of your home. Table rental can be as low as around $10. So you could print out information on these places then offer your neighbors a microloan or gift and say you’ll spot them for one or two weeks’ table rental. If they have a good eye, they should be able to turn a bigger profit there than they’re getting in the front yard. Say you understand their plight but you’re losing sleep and getting your lawn trampled and the weekly events have to stop. If they won’t go along with any of this, then you’re justified in calling the authorities. As annoying as all this is, just be grateful your neighbors haven’t turned to the same method of earning extra income as high-school teacher Walter White.


Discuss this column with Emily Yoffe on her Facebook page.

More Dear Prudence Columns

My Twin Sister Says I’m Fat: Prudie offers advice on twins entangled in family rifts, rows, and rivalries.” Posted Aug. 25, 2011.
Give Grandpa a Kiss-Off?: A creeping suspicion tells me to keep my father-in-law away from my kids. Should I listen to it?” Posted Sept. 1, 2011.
Longtime Companion: Is it OK to hide my gay affair since my wife doesn’t want sex anymore?” Posted Sept. 8, 2011.
Deadly Family Secret: My mother-in-law hid a life-threatening condition that could strike my child. How can I forgive her?” Posted Sept. 15, 2011.

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

Type “R” for Revenge: Dear Prudence advises a woman who got her cheating ex fired by sending a nasty email—in a live chat at” Posted Aug. 29, 2011.
The Nudist Next Door: Dear Prudence advises a reader whose new neighbor needs better curtains—during a live chat at” Posted Sept. 6, 2011.
Am I Dating a Swinger?: Dear Prudence advises a woman who craves a monogamous relationship but can’t seem to find one—during a live chat at” Posted Sept. 12, 2011.
He’d Like a Virgin: Dear Prudence advises a woman who lied to her fiance about her sexual past—during a live chat at” Posted Sept. 19, 2011.