Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here 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.)
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Q. Need More Heat: I have a happy marriage for the most part. I’m a take-charge kind of woman, and my husband normally is happy to let me control most situations unless they are serious issues dealing with our family. Our marriage works on that capacity. The trouble I have is, in the bedroom, I actually want the opposite. I want him to take the lead, be more commanding, and me to be more submissive. He goes along, does what I want, and half the time I have to guide him, goad him, and tell him to tell me what he wants or just simply do it. I’m finding it difficult to have a discussion with him about what turns my crank per se. Our sex life is good, we both walk away satisfied, but I just know it would be so much better (for me) if he went outside his normal personality a bit. How do you suggest I go about telling him, hey, I want you to be more demanding/bossy/alpha/dominant in bed?
A: It is somewhat ironic that you’re in the position of saying, “OK, next on the agenda, I order you to stop taking orders from me when we’re in bed, and start acting more caveman. I want you to drag me by the hair (don’t pull really hard, just kind of tug) and take me against the bathroom wall when we’re getting ready to go out because you find me so sexy you can’t wait.” The reason the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was such a sensation is because lots of women, even alpha women like yourself, want to feel taken in bed. But when you are an alpha woman and you have an egalitarian relationship, it’s hard to say, “Please be a beast!” I understand the quality of writing in Fifty Shades is execrable, but the book does provide you with an opening. Get it, go to some a relevant passages, show them to your husband and say, “This turns me on.” Then talk to him about how your sex life is great and satisfying, but you have a desire to be dominated in bed. Say you know this takes you out of your familiar roles, but you think it would be good for you two to be more wild in bed. Maybe he will rise to the challenge, or maybe your beta male will need more instruction from you about how you don’t want to give him any instruction.
Q. Weird Showering Friend: I have a friend who randomly showers at my place when she comes over. I don’t mean when she stays the night. But like when she’s here for a couple of hours for lunch. Apparently she does this at other people’s homes sometimes too. There’s nothing wrong with her shower, and she’s not someone who’s obsessed over cleanliness. She just likes to have a random midday wash every now and then. I know she’s not doing anything wrong, and I have no reason to refuse her request other than I think it’s weird. What reason should I give her to politely say no?
A: I would say that someone who randomly gets up from a social event and says, “I’m just going to be popping into your shower for a quick freshen up” likely does have some obsessional issues. You can have compassion for her while insisting that when she visits she sticks to chatting over sandwiches. Just say, “Sue, I love catching up with you, but if you feel the need to break off our socializing and go shower, I’d prefer if you just go back to your place and do it there.”
Q. Homewrecker: I divorced my husband because he was unfaithful, and had been cheating on me for months with a co-worker. I have not dated since the divorce almost six years ago. A few years ago I met a man at work who is now my best friend. We are kindred spirits, can talk for hours, and have a great time. He is married and I know that I am in love with him. It is not my interest or intention to take him away from his wife and children, yet I feel as if I am harming myself because he is the center of my world, and I am not looking anywhere else because he meets my emotional needs. I am often angry with him because he cannot meet all of my needs. If something happened between us I would never be able to forgive myself or him. I cannot imagine a life without him and part of me feels that I need to let him go. The thought of that is overwhelming and upsetting.
A: Presumably, six years ago your husband’s co-worker could have written me exactly the same letter, except her confessional would have included the fact that she and her married co-worker also had a beautiful physical union. You haven’t even dated since the breakup, so I assume the dissolution of your marriage was traumatic for you. As a belated recovery, you are now engaged in the same kind of emotional infidelity that ended your marriage. Listen to yourself: You would never forgive yourself if you two ended up in bed; but if you don’t get there soon, you’re going to be really mad that he’s refusing to meet all of your needs. Please untangle this with a therapist. Then sign up for some online dating. At least when you meet jerks, they will make it obvious really early on.
Q. Feeling Guilty and Spoiled by New Boyfriend’s Parents: I have been dating my boyfriend for almost a year. His parents are very well-off financially, and from the beginning have been incredibly kind and generous to me. They love to entertain, dine out, and drink fine (and often expensive) wine. As they only live 20 minutes away, we often go over for dinner and end up staying the night in their large, comfortable home—it feels like a getaway for us, as we are underpaid twentysomethings with small apartments and roommates. They have never accepted money from me, which I have felt guilty about but have justified because they seem to enjoy our company. However, we returned recently from BF’s brother’s wedding across the country and they paid the bill for everything—airline, hotel, meals, etc. and now I am feeling especially guilty. Is there anything I can do to “repay” them—even if I can’t afford to write them a check? This compounded with the fact that my mom is a lower-middle-class single parent who is too embarrassed to entertain in her small, older home and can’t afford to spoil my boyfriend the way his parents spoil me has got me feeling like I’m in a bind!
A: Stop feeling guilty and have a dinner party. Clear out the roommates, and invite his parents and your mother. No foie gras or truffles, just a home-cooked meal made by the two of you to reciprocate the hospitality of your boyfriend’s parents and let them get to know your mother better. Please get over the notion that only the well-to-do can entertain in style, or that living frugally is embarrassing. You are right that your boyfriend’s parents don’t want and won’t accept your money. One of their life pleasures is being successful enough so that they can enjoy good food and wine, and even pick up the tab so that their son’s delightful girlfriend can attend a family event. But your having them over, even if it’s for spaghetti, will say that you are both grateful and learning to be a confident hostess yourself.
Q. Former Boss With Blurred Social Media Boundaries: My former boss at a large West Coast firm is relatively new to social media. He is a likable guy, my dad’s age, with a nice family. They hosted my own family for dinner—even for Easter—on many occasions over the years, and though we’ve moved on, my husband and I think of them warmly. As the former manager of my old firm’s popular social media accounts, I remained online friends with my old co-workers; now I’m connected to many new co-workers and friends at my new company, too. My old boss “likes” and comments on every single thing I do online. Every. Single. Thing. He’s far senior to me in our field and knowing him has proved beneficial to me professionally; I don’t wish to offend him or worse, hurt his feelings. But now he’s friend-requested my little sister and she is skeeved out. I’ve noticed he does this to other former co-workers, so this isn’t an e-stalking situation so much as it is a weird, overfamiliar breach of etiquette that, I guess, isn’t written yet. Do I say something? If so, what? I’m freely sharing these mild, not-too-personal things, and engaging with one another is the fun of social media. Just not, maybe, engaging with every single thing, at all hours of the day and night. Oh, and several people have approached me about this—folks from my old job who wonder if he’s all right, and other friends asking who the guy squatting on my page is.
A: I’d say that this is e-stalking and this Dad has discovered that with one quick “friend” request he has an endless data bank of vacation photos (oh, those beach volleyball shots!), etc., where he can indulge himself while pretending he’s only keeping up with young people in his field. Please tell your sister not to accept his super-creepy request; no explanation to him is needed. This is a delicate situation for you since he likely is a reference, and he holds sway in your field. I’m not up on the latest Facebook privacy settings, but you are a social media maven, so surely there’s a corral you can put people in who you don’t want to defriend but whom you want to have extremely limited access to your photos, updates, etc. Cordon him in there. Presumably he won’t know what happened, but if he complains he can’t see your fun pictures anymore, just explain there’s a new setting for social versus work friends, and don’t be bullied into allowing him full access.
Q. Re: To feeling guilty: As the daughter of well-off parents who have also been generous to my friends and husband, I agree with the advice given. Your BF’s parents have made no indication they expect any reciprocity equal in financial terms, so be generous to them how you can—plan an outing to a park or a museum on free admission day, have a dinner party, or make some homemade baked goods. Write a thank-you note if you want after they host you for a long weekend. They sound like good people, and if they haven’t sneered at your socio-economic status in a year, it’s likely they never will.
A: I agree with everything here except there should be no qualification for “if you want,” regarding the thank-you note for their paying the tab for the trip. When they take you out to a restaurant and pick up the tab, you can just thank them at the time for a lovely meal. But after they have paid for a trip, a gracious note will be appreciated by them and speak well for you. And bringing some homemade brownies when you come for dinner is a lovely idea.
Q. Professional Harassment: I am a young female just starting out in the workplace. There is an older, married man who works in the office next to me, but for a different company. I see him most work days, and we usually exchange pleasantries. We chat everyday or so, but always about professional topics. Since he is experienced in this industry, I have felt comfortable asking for his advice. He also has a great deal of sway in local business. Anyway, this past weekend I ran into him at a networking happy hour. He obviously had a couple of drinks, though I was fairly sober. He proceeded to say a couple of inappropriate things to me, and in shock, I ignored these comments (though I am now mad that I did not stand up for myself). To give you an idea, he mentioned how much he specifically likes a body part of mine, and that if he was not married, he would definitely be interested in me. Apparently he also found out my actual age from a mutual acquaintance (which is not a huge deal, but I try not to bring it up since I am fairly young for this industry), which had him practically drooling! Do I confront him about this incident? Or do I ignore it? It would be one thing if we were within the same company, but since we are not, there is no official channel, nor do I see this affecting my actual work. However, I do see him everyday, and he is always interacting with my co-workers as well.
A: So many mentors; so many creeps. Fortunately, you don’t work for this guy, but you do run into him daily. I think you need to speak up. It could be he was so drunk he only has a sketchy memory of what he said. But he needs to know that he behaved totally inappropriately to you. (And don’t berate yourself for being too shocked in the moment to know how to respond.) Next time you see him, tell him you need to have a conversation, then tell him that his remarks at the networking event were way out of line. Let’s hope he turns red, apologizes, says he had so much to drink he doesn’t even remember, but it will never happen again. Whatever he does, start a time-stamped file and record what happened at the event, what you said to him later, and what your response was. This is just a little insurance in case he decides to badmouth you. I’m hoping what does happen is that he realizes he just stepped in it, appreciates your handling this privately (for now), and steps way back.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a great week!
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