Dear Prudence

Labor of Love

I care for my slowly dying husband, and I’m pregnant by another man.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
Four years ago, my sweet and loving husband, the awesome father of our three children, was struck down by brain cancer and suffered brain trauma following emergency surgery. I’ve cared for him at home, dealing with the hassles of hospitals, insurance, family drama (his parents blame me for his health issues). He will never recover and he is declining. It is like being married to a 41-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. He does not remember me, our long marriage, or our kids. I’m trying to place him in a nursing home, but there are waiting lists. About a year ago, I met a man who was genuine and kind. As the friendship grew, he began helping with my kids, even helping my husband by playing music and visiting with him. My boyfriend knows I am committed to giving my husband the care he deserves and respects that this is a package deal. Once my husband can be placed in a good facility, I will pursue divorce, while making sure he is properly cared for until he passes on. My boyfriend and I recently found out that, despite using protection, I’m pregnant. We are excited, as once I am legally able, we want to marry. My family is not happy, as in their eyes this is not appropriate, and they have been icing me out. They adored my husband, and have had little chance to get to know my boyfriend, since I live in another state. How can I smooth over my relationship with my family?

—Pregnant Caregiver

Dear Caregiver,
So your in-laws blame you for your husband’s brain cancer, and your own family disapproves of your finding love again while continuing to be the sole caregiver to your desperately ill and disabled husband. You’re wondering how you can smooth relations with your family, while I’m wondering what their appropriate karmic reward should be. It’s a miracle you’ve been able to keep it together, and you deserve all the joy you can wrest out of life. What an amazing man you have found, one who embraces you and your children, and who has stepped up to help you care for your husband. It’s wonderful you are happy about your new addition, but since marriage is a ways off, I think it would make sense for you and your boyfriend to visit a lawyer and clarify your complicated legal situation. You want to make sure your husband is properly cared for even after he is your ex-husband, and you want to make sure your boyfriend is prepared to care for your new child even in the absence of a prompt marriage. As for your family, they deserve nothing but scorn for their attitude, and for apparently not being there to help you provide care for your husband and your suffering children, but I understand you don’t want to create a breach that would be even worse for the kids. I suggest you try to arrange for them to visit the grandparents. Your children need their extended family, and they also need a break from their dying father. Maybe that visit will provide a bridge to better communication. But you do not have time to spend energy on those who aren’t worthy of it. I hope your husband’s end is peaceful, and that your life moving forward is filled with happiness.


Dear Prudence,
I am a professional married woman in my late 30s with small children. My husband and I met when we were in the same prestigious grad school program. I had better grades, internship experiences, and references, and had great job prospects out of school, while he struggled to get an offer. I joined my dream company with his encouragement, and he took a fairly low-paid job on the other side of the country while looking for better prospects. Finally, after several years, I managed to get him a spot at my company. Fast-forward 10 years, and his career has taken off while mine has stagnated. We’re both still at the same company and started at similar positions, but he has been promoted two levels above me and has gotten lots of recognition for his work. From my perspective, it looks like he really just got lucky—he was in the right place at the right time and frankly doesn’t work that hard. I know that I should celebrate his successes, but the competitive side of me can’t help but feel bitter and resentful, and like a failure by comparison. How can I move past this and stop feeling like I need to compete professionally with my husband? We otherwise have a great relationship and I try to hide my resentment, but it’s getting harder all the time.

—Bitter Wife

Dear Bitter,
Stop hiding your career frustration and start figuring out what he’s doing right and what you’re doing wrong. The first step is to open up to him about your fear that your career is stagnating and your desire to get it on track. He obviously has this company figured out, so ask him for a blunt (but kind!) assessment, and some advice. Try not to refer to the fact that you think his trajectory is simply due to luck because he’s not that smart and his work ethic is wanting. Analyze if there are other factors holding you back. Some people thrive in academic environments but are less suited to the more open-ended atmosphere of the corporate world. Maybe you do your work in an excellent fashion, but fail to take advantage of other opportunities or to push for recognition. Then look at some externals of your life. Has motherhood cut into your professional life? If it has, that should be a conscious decision, not a default. Whether your husband doesn’t work very hard, or is simply efficient, that gives him more time for home duties. His doing more would allow you more time to climb the ladder. It also could be that your company has improperly and without your knowledge put you on a limiting “mommy track,” which means you have to find a way off. Trusted colleagues may have insight on this issue, or general advice on how you can continue to rise. You burn with ambition, and that’s great. But instead of letting it consume you from the inside with resentment, turn the flame outward.


Dear Prudence,
I’m a fortysomething divorcee and mother. For the last nearly four years, I have been seeing a wonderful young masseuse about twice a month. When I first started going to her, there were a lot of strategically placed towels. Over the years, my comfort level with her has changed and we have become friends. Nowadays, we don’t bother with towels, and I don’t worry that I get somewhat aroused. Over the last four sessions, her massages have finished in a female version of a happy ending. While I know this is frowned upon and maybe illegal depending how you look at it, I don’t see any problem with what happens. We are both adults and I pay her for her massage, not for the extra. Recently I told one of my close girlfriends about it. She was shocked and told me I must report her. Am I crazy that I enjoy this me-time? Is it really that bad?

—Massage Delight

Dear Delight,
I have a hard time imagining how you report this to the police or to the licensing board. “After weeks of intense orgasms, I realize this has to come to an end. Help me cancel my next appointment!” The police would probably try to keep a straight face, but the licensing board likely would start an investigation that could end with your massage therapist losing her license. (“Massage therapist” is the preferred term over “masseuse” or “masseur,” because it avoids the sexual allusions that come with the latter two. So maybe you’re right to call her a masseuse.) Your massage therapist may have become a friend who gives you benefits, but your other friend is right that what she’s doing violates the core tenets of her profession. Surely over time the massage therapist not only relaxed you, but relaxed the standards of draping and propriety. She probed, you moaned, and now your sessions climax quite literally. It’s grossly unprofessional, but you’re not crazy to enjoy this, and you two are consenting adults. What is crazy is that you blabbed. (Although I suppose it’s equally possible your friend might have responded, “Is she free on Wednesdays?”) Keep this to yourself, and tip generously at Christmas.


Dear Prudence, 
A house in my neighborhood has an extremely tattered American flag atop a flagpole. I would like to purchase a new flag for the home and ask if I could have the old flag, so that I can ensure it is properly disposed of. I am struggling to think of a way to walk up to the home, and ask for the flag that will not offered or seem judgmental of the occupants. I don’t want them to feel bad that they might be unable to keep up the exterior of their home. But as a veteran I feel the need to help Old Glory. 

—Star Spangled

Dear Spangled,
You never know who you will meet on the other side of the door of a neighbor you don’t know. It sounds as if the entire home is in need of an overhaul, not just the flag. So these neighbors may be dealing with all sorts of problems, a tattered flag being the least of them. The easiest advice would be to tell you to just ignore the flag, but I think your impulse is a generous one. So I say do it, but be prepared to be turned away, even rudely. If you ring the bell, when they answer explain you are a veteran. Say you love to see a flag flying, and it would be an honor if you could replace theirs—and dispose of it appropriately—and put up a new Old Glory. Let’s hope that you will enjoy seeing your gift proudly wave.


Discuss this column with Emily Yoffe on her Facebook page.

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More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

Insemination From Beyond the Grave: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman debating whether to have a baby using her dead husband’s sperm.”
Campus Escort: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a father whose daughter wants to work as a paid companion to cover college tuition.”
Jeepers, Peepers: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband tried to secretly film a 19-year-old staying with them.”
No One Will Believe: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman who fears telling anyone her brother-in-law came on to her would tear the family apart.”