Nicole Cliffe is filling in as Dear Prudence this week.
I am a man in his 50s, married to my second wife for 16 years. Our sex life has clearly diminished over the course of the years—with quick, routine sex before sleep at best every two to three months or so. As a result I have focused my sexual energy (which I definitely still have) toward erotic fantasies about my wife. I envision her in all sort of wild, tabooless sex with strangers and friends alike.
As I possess some pretty decent Photoshop skills, I have started to visualize these fantasies in very convincing fake pictures—of a high quality, almost arty level (at least, so I like to flatter myself thinking). I have kept these pictures strictly for myself, occasionally masturbating to them, although I find the real thrill in making up and realizing the erotic scenes. It’s simply a nonharmful way to channel my sexual energy. Regrettably, my wife has run into the pictures, and she is disgusted by them, although I have ensured her they are only for myself and I have no desire whatsoever to see any of these fantasies actually come true. Am I really doing such a horrendous thing? I am not the cheating kind, I would never leave my wife, and the only thing I afford myself—just to keep my libido satisfied—is creating these erotic visuals. Should I give up my secret “hobby”?
—I’m Not a Creep
There are two very different questions here, although you are only asking one: Should you give up your secret “hobby”? Absolutely. They may be Photoshopped, but they are recognizable images of your wife, and she is deeply, deeply opposed to them. Delete them, empty your trash, apologize.
I know that you have said you will never leave your wife, but you need to be asking yourself about the way forward. Sexual incompatibility is a big deal, and it can really eat away at intimacy if you let it. Are you able to cope with your conflicting libidos without these images? Can you share your fantasies with her? Would she be OK if you masturbated next to her? This discovery has created a logical moment in your marriage for you to put everything on the table. She may also be discontented with your sex life, and I have hopes that eventually you may be able to come a little closer together (pun very much not intended).
Keep in mind that she is still recovering from what she found, which must have been an extreme shock. She likely is creeped out and needs a little time. Maybe it might be wise to say, “I’ve deleted all the pictures. You are welcome to look. Can we have a talk about our sex lives in a month? I’m so, so sorry to have upset you in this way, and I recognize that I should not have done what I did.” You’re in the doghouse now, but, if or when things are back to normal, don’t let them go back into stasis.
I have known “Jenny” since we were in diapers. We are in our early 30s now. I am a queer career woman. Jenny is married to the love of her life and trying to have kids, which isn’t going so great. I have tried to be her supportive BFF here, but recently I think Jenny crossed a line.
We were with friends and in the middle of a box of wine. Someone asked Jenny what she planned to do if she couldn’t get pregnant. Jenny reached over and patted my stomach and said, “Here is my back up plan.” I tried to laugh it off, but Jenny told she was dead serious: She expects me to be her surrogate if she can’t get pregnant.
I reminded Jenny I don’t want kids. She said, essentially, “What does that matter? It would be my kid, and it isn’t like you are using the ‘plumbing properly.’ ” I understand Jenny was pretty sloshed at that point, but I felt uncomfortable then, and I still do. I have never wanted kids and find pregnancy more than a little of a horror show. I have never even jokingly offered to bear Jenny’s kids. How do I start this conversation?
—Not Your Baby-Maker
The kindest thing you can do for Jenny is to give her the gift of clarity. You will not be her surrogate. Your mind will not change. If you have been her backup plan, now is her time to find a new one.
This is a single conversation, which you can begin with “I was really shocked and surprised by what you said at the party, especially since we’ve never discussed the possibility of surrogacy.” If she gets furious, leave. You’ve done nothing wrong.
If she attempts to start a second conversation that opens with anything other than “I am so sorry to have put you in that position,” you can simply say you have said all you have to say, and this topic is non-negotiable.
Please enjoy being a queer career woman. You sound very cool.
[Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, this question was also answered by Danny Ortberg in the Dec. 9 live chat.]
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A friend (not a great friend, not a best friend, just a friend) of mine found out her husband had been serially cheating on her throughout their marriage. At the time she had two young boys and was pregnant with her third. They have been divorcing. She claims he never wants to see the kids or be involved. He does not have any formal custody rights. I don’t excuse his behavior and definitely don’t think he is the perfect dad.
I do think he is selfish, and a flake, and could be better. I know he has canceled and been a no-show on scheduled visits. But he still reaches out to her and tries to see his kids. She does make it difficult for him: refusing weekend or overnight visits or purposefully saying the kids are busy on days he asks to see the kids. Now that he says he is in a serious relationship and wants his new girlfriend to meet his kids, my friend has gone ballistic. She is now forbidding him from seeing the kids in any fashion at all.
The kids (all under 10) have made comments saying that their dad is going to go to hell because he is bad. She is essentially practicing parental alienation. I tried compassionately telling her the kids should have a right to have a relationship with their father, and she dismissed this notion entirely. What are my moral obligations here?
Because you are not her best friend or a particularly good friend, I think you should end the friendship. If she asks why you’re not returning her calls, I want you to be honest with her. She is absolutely damaging these children and their future lives and relationships, and I am horrified by her actions.
If she does not ask, I would email her a version of what you emailed to me, then set up a filter for her responses to go into a separate folder so you can look at them only when you feel ready. I feel, as you do, that you have some obligation here, even if that is just to put your judgmental cards on the table. Her husband already knows, because the kids are parroting their mother, and if he wants to take it to his lawyer and see if he can rearrange his custody agreement on the grounds of parental alienation, that’s his business.
I’m a young woman living in NYC. My boyfriend and I don’t live together, but we stay at each other’s places a lot. He lives in a fancy apartment building in a prime part of the city, where many wealthy families and working professionals live. I have a French bulldog who regularly stays at his place with me, and we just got a terrier puppy. There’s a family on the floor above us who have infant twins and a 5-year-old girl, “May.” I rarely see the parents, and the children are mostly cared for by a nanny, “Katie,” who I’ve become friends with. May adores my dogs and loves playing with them. I don’t mind, as she’s very charming and sweet, and she considers me one of her “only friends” and tells me that her parents are always very busy. Last week, I was getting the dogs ready for a walk, had the door a bit open with my bulldog’s leash tied around the doorknob, and was trying to put my terrier’s leash on when he ran into a bedroom. I chased him and heard the elevator open and close while I put his leash on.
When I went to the door, my bulldog was gone. I ran downstairs, and searched the lobby, and the floors leading up to ours, when I had the idea that perhaps May would like to join in the search. When Katie answered the door, she asked if I “wanted my dog back from his play date” and said that he was in May’s room.
When May saw me, she burst into tears, explaining that my dog was her only friend, and apologized, begging me to let her keep him. I explained to a confused Katie that May had actually taken the dog without my permission, and I took him and got out of there. My boyfriend was shocked that I hadn’t been more angry in the moment and wants to write a letter to May’s parents, telling them what happened, and encouraging them to fire Katie, as well as get May some therapy. I think this is extreme and that May was at fault, not Katie. I also have had only a little bit of contact with the parents. What should I do?
—The Dog Days Are Over
I agree with you that Katie hasn’t really done anything wrong. If the nice lady who let the child I nannied for spent time with her dogs, and then one day the child said you were letting her have a play date with him, I might knock to confirm, but I might not.
I am not surprised you were not “more angry in the moment,” as this is a very sad story. You have a lonely little girl begging for companionship, one who has always been kind and careful with your dogs.
I wish you knew her parents a little better, but I do think this is something they should know about, pitched very gently: that May has always loved your dogs, and you enjoy letting her spend time with them, but she took one without permission and hid him and tried to persuade you to let her keep him. They are unlikely to enjoy being told their daughter is lonely, but we all have to hear things we don’t like from time to time. I would say that you are not angry at May, and you wish to continue letting her play with your dogs and take walks (together) with them, but that you are concerned by her loneliness and would want to know if you were in their boat. I would also float the idea of getting May her own dog. They may hang up, walk away, or be angry with you, but you’ve told them some things they need to know and offered some suggestions. That’s all you can do.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe will return in December with Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
In the meantime, read more of Nicole’s wisdom at Care and Feeding, Slate’s parenting advice column.
Lately I’ve been attempting to broach the subject of having a will made with my mother to no avail. The issue is my stepfather. He’s a very overbearing, selfish, and at times emotionally abusive man. My siblings, extended family, and I would be more than happy to see the backside of him, but even though my mother has talked of divorce, she won’t pull the trigger. My grandmother has sizable assets that will be split between my mother and her siblings. My mother is in her early 60s, and even though she’s in good health, she does have lupus, so it is entirely possible that she will pass before my stepfather.
If this happens without my mother having a will, my stepfather will most definitely attempt to steal all of her assets. Even if my mother does divorce him, he still may attempt to do so through my younger half-brother (his son). To be clear, these are assets my grandfather’s family worked very hard to build up and protect and have passed down through several generations.
Both my grandfather (before his death) and my grandmother have been very clear about the importance of them staying in the family and the intent that my mother’s portion of the assets are to be split equally between my siblings and I upon her death. I know my mother has no intention of these assets going to my stepfather, but when I attempt to speak with her about having a will made, she shrugs it off and changes the subject. I’m assuming she is worried about and attempting to avoid the inevitable blow up that will happen if my stepfather finds out she had a will made without his knowledge or if he finds out what he’s not getting. It’s even gotten to the point where my grandmother is debating changing her own will in an attempt to prevent my stepfather from accessing the assets after her death. Do you have any advice on how to convince my mother that she needs to have a will made up?
—This Frigging Guy
Your mother is in her early 60s and capable of making her own choices (or, it seems, nonchoices), however much they may drive you bonkers. You have explained why she needs a will, and you have encouraged her to get a divorce. I don’t think you can do more than that.
I suggest you focus on your grandmother’s more pragmatic decision to change her own will, and to do so with the aid of an estate lawyer. The last thing you want is to lose your mother and then engage in years of legal squabbling, and a good lawyer can help your grandmother make an iron-clad will that will ensure her wishes for the dispersal of her own money are paramount.
My cousin invited me to a comedy show but realized the cost was too expensive for his budget. I make twice as much as him and would have no problem buying both our tickets. Would it be offensive in some way to pay for both our tickets? I don’t want to imply in any way that I pity my cousin.
—Not a Charity Case
Pay for the tickets. Tell him you got two tickets and you’ll see him on Tuesday and you can’t wait.
One of my wife’s friends has hated me since the day she met me. While early on, her hatred was tolerable, lately it’s become annoying and more than a little creepy. I work in research and development, the same industry as her. I often have lunch with colleagues, both male and female, while we discuss work. She has spotted me a few times having lunch with a female colleague and without even talking to me, she’s reported to my wife that she thinks I’m having an affair (even though it’s been a different woman each time—apparently I really get around). My wife was suspicious at first but is not so worried now. (I’ve never cheated on her and have given her no reason to believe I have or would.) This woman ran into me last week and told me, “I’m going to destroy you” and walked away. I told my wife, and she said I must not have heard her correctly. How do I convince my wife that she needs to confront this nutcase? If she doesn’t change her behavior toward me after that, I think it’s only fair that my wife stop seeing her as a friend. What do you think I should do?
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