Shortly after we moved in together, I noticed that my husband had a problem with chocolate. If there is any in the house, he will eat it all. I will keep a bag of candies in the fridge and eat one a day. He will eat the entire bag in one sitting. I bought him his own bag, thinking this would alleviate the problem, but it did not. If I do not eat whatever chocolate I purchase immediately, it will be gone the next day. Entire bags of Halloween candy that we bought for kids. Gifts that other people buy me that I don’t get to eat a single piece of. I even tried buying chocolate he does not like, and he ate it. He says, “I will buy you more,” but he never does, and it does not help when I go to the cabinet thinking it’s there and it’s gone.
And he knows he should not be doing it, because he does it when I am not here. It’s not like he eats it in front of me. I have always shared with him, told him to have some, but please leave me a few pieces! Nope, he won’t do that. He gets defensive and says I am in the wrong and that I should just not bring it into the house. I can think of no other way but to lock it up. Any advice?
—Husband vs. Chocolate
He certainly is defensive, if he wants to say the problem lies with you for wanting to have chocolate in your home without him swiping it when you’re not looking. You could get a cheap lockbox for your candy stash without going to too much trouble, although you might find it exasperating nevertheless. You could try to hide your chocolate, but there’s always the chance he’ll stumble upon it. But you’re already frustrated, and the problem already exists, so it’s probably better to be frustrated with a steady supply of chocolate than frustrated with an inconsistent supply. So you could keep your goals modest and tell him: “If you don’t want to have chocolate in the house because the temptation is overwhelming, I’ll respect and support that decision. But I like having chocolate on hand for myself, and while it’s not exactly a high-stakes problem, it makes me feel dismissed when you say again and again you’ll replace what you took from me, and you don’t. From now on, when I buy it, I’ll keep it somewhere inaccessible so neither of us has to worry about it.” If he does find your stash, your best move is to insist that he replace what he’s eaten immediately, rather than promise you he’s going to at some distant point in the future.
It’s possible that he feels guilty or self-conscious about his relationship to chocolate and that’s contributed to his avoidance. And you could use this issue as a springboard to litigate whether he has more deep-seated issues with food, scarcity, abundance, and pleasure, and if so whether he ought to start addressing them more directly, but that’s a deeply personal decision, and if your husband isn’t prepared to take on that sort of work, you won’t be able to substitute your willingness for his. You can be firm about making sure he replaces what he scrounged without acting like he’s disgusting or there’s something terribly wrong with him. It’s frustrating but fixable, and that’s the tone you should adopt when discussing your new solution(s) with your husband.
I have a friend of a friend who faked a work injury to get workman’s compensation (he received over $100,000) and was able to convince a judge he was unable to work due to this injury and now receives Social Security. He was working a desk job for less than a year and claimed because of this, he is in too much pain to walk and can no longer work. He doesn’t like to work and previously lived with a woman who paid for everything. Now the government is paying him. The problem is that he is not injured, sick, or disabled. He is in his 30s, fully mobile, and admitted to my friend that he lied just to get the money. When my friend told me about this a few years ago, I assumed someone else would turn him in (he told a few other close friends). But no one has. My friend told me not to tell anyone and he would be really upset with me if he found out I did it. I work in social services and see people every day who actually need help. It really upsets me that this friend is so dishonest. I am not sure if I should let it go or turn him in?
—Friend of a Friend’s Fraud
It’s not clear to me whether you’ve ever met the friend of a friend in question, so I’m not sure how you would go about turning him in with a secondhand story. If you see people on a regular basis who need help, you should do your level best to help them. If you have a friend who tells you, “My other friend told me he lied to a judge to get workman’s compensation—don’t tell anyone,” and it troubles you, you should speak directly to your friend. If you want to know why your friend disclosed this information to you, ask. If you want to tell your friend that you find this information troubling and it makes you think less of them for not acting on it, do. If you think your friend should speak to their friend about this confession, you should urge them to do so. But “I heard through the grapevine that a Social Security recipient is faking it” isn’t much of a tip, and it won’t do anything to address things between you and your friend, either.
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My wife of eight years is an ICU nurse. She is amazing—but ever since the pandemic began, she has been coming home angry and overwhelmed. I work from home and am in grad school full-time. I work 60-hour weeks. It’s hard for me to cook and care for our family, but I do my best. I drop her lunch off every day, so she can eat hot food and have good coffee. I write her notes and tell her how much I appreciate her hard work. I clean the house and care for the dogs and our kids. I rub her back after each shift and either cook or order dinner. But nothing works to quell her bad mood. She yells at me, the kids, and the dogs. She’s snappy for the remainder of the night. If I cry or shut down to avoid her anger, she gets angry that I am walking on eggshells. She says I make her “feel like a fucking bully.” We got a couples counselor. I also have my own. I’m a little “therapied” out right now.
One recent evening, I told her how sad I was about something rude my thesis adviser said, and she shouted that I “bring it on myself.” Later she texted that she was tired from work and apologized. I slept on the couch. I’m tired of our nights ending like this. I can’t imagine being a nurse right now and want to support her, but it’s almost more than I can bear. The kids just go to their rooms, and I can tell they like their mom a lot less. What can I do?
—Trying to Help
You’ve already been doing quite a lot. The details in your letter suggest to me that it’s not a problem you can address by being more supportive or having more empathy for the plight of overworked and underprotected ICU staff. Yes, she’s entitled to be tired, frustrated, angry, or whatever else comes up for her on her shifts, but you, your children, and your pets do not deserve to be screamed at as a result. The fundamental problem here is not that your wife’s job is too stressful, but that she chooses to verbally abuse you and your children and then blames you for her abusiveness. This is not a natural result of having a difficult job. It does not make her job any easier when she screams at her partner for crying. Rather than trying to remind yourself over and over that your wife’s job is difficult, you should start prioritizing your children’s safety (and your own) over trying to soothe your wife’s rage.
I think you and the kids should be living apart from her, at least for the present. She needs to be able to consistently manage her own rage before you can consider sleeping in the same house again. Texting you “I’m sorry I shouted at you; I was tired from work” when she shouts at you and is tired from work after every shift is not a meaningful sign she’s willing to change. It’s a justification that serves to reframe this abuse as a necessary side effect of the pandemic, which it absolutely isn’t. It’s abuse, it’s wrong, and you do not have to live with it. Please share what’s been going on with someone outside of your home, ask for help, and find another place for you and the kids to stay. They deserve better than to hide in their rooms every night because they’re scared of their mother, and you deserve better than having to apologize for crying when your partner screams at you.
Help! My Parents Won’t Eat at My House Because of My Cats.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Uma Kondabolu on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
I’m a trans woman. I started hormones about a year and a half ago. When my partner and I got together, we both identified as men, but she recently came out as a trans woman, too. She started hormone replacement therapy a few months ago. I’m so happy for her and overjoyed that we can share this experience. But even though I try not to compare us, I can’t help but feel jealous of her transition. After all this time, I’ve experienced what feel like minimal changes and haven’t met any goals. I don’t pass, and I may never pass. But in just a few months, my girlfriend is flying past milestones that are still so out of my reach. I’ve experienced every unpleasant side effect, while it seems like she hasn’t had any. I know everyone has individual responses to HRT, and that none of this is her fault, but I can’t shake my sadness and envy. Any tips on how to support her without seeing “what could have been”?
—Not a Race, but She’s Ahead
I’ve only been on HRT myself since late 2016, so I feel a bit silly saying a year and a half isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, as if I’m some sort of seasoned trans elder with decades of wisdom and experience to rely on. But without dismissing your very real anxieties in the present, many of the effects of HRT operate on a timeline of two to five years, so what you’ve experienced so far is not the sum total of the changes you can expect. That doesn’t necessarily address the fact that your girlfriend’s experiences on HRT are highlighting your own frustrations and insecurities, so I hope that doesn’t come across as Pollyanna-ish. I’ll also put in a plug for getting bloodwork done if you haven’t in the last six months, to make sure your hormone levels are where you want them to be. You can also speak with your doctor about the most unpleasant side effects, if you haven’t already, and ask if there’s anything they can do to help minimize or mitigate them.
You might also want to speak to other trans women friends, if you have any, or look for a local trans support group, if you don’t. This can prove helpful on a practical level as well as an emotional one. Other trans people are likely to understand what it’s like to feel envious (and guilty over your envy!) toward a partner’s transition, but since they’re not actually your partner, you’ll be able to freely discuss some of your more complicated feelings before sharing a thoughtfully edited version of them with her. They may also have useful experience and information about HRT—if nothing else, you’ll likely hear a variety of perspectives and experiences. This will obviously not be professional medical expertise, but it’s also true that many doctors are woefully underinformed about trans health care, and it’s worth asking questions as widely as possible and trying to learn as much as you can.
Tweaking your estradiol dose can be well and good, but it’s not the final word in handling fears about your transition or how to deal with the practical and emotional fallout on the question of passing. Passing has immediate and far-reaching consequences in one’s daily life, and just because you want to be happy for your girlfriend doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up for feeling frustrated about the pace of your own transition. You’re not a bad girlfriend, or an insufficiently radical trans person, for wanting to pass. As long as you can find sustainable, loving ways to share these concerns with her—ensuring she’s not the only person you turn to for support, making it clear that she shouldn’t downplay her excitement in order to preserve your feelings, and so on—you’re in the clear. You don’t have to be ashamed of the fact that sometimes you experience envy, so long as you don’t make her feel responsible for causing it. Your job is not to only ever feel happy for your girlfriend. It’s to treat both her experiences and yours as connected but distinct, as equally important and deserving of attentive care. You already know this is not a zero-sum game, and it’s clear you don’t want to punish your girlfriend for having a good first few months on HRT. That will serve you very well, I think.
Dear Prudence Uncensored
“That’s not a great thing for someone very concerned about wasting precious resources to do, honestly.”
Danny Lavery and Slate news editor Susan Matthews discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.
After 20 months of trying and failing to get pregnant and months of poking, prodding, invasive tests, and mood-altering medications, my husband and I have been advised by a specialist that we will likely need IVF. We have been asked if we’re considering adoption what feels like 10,000 times, and we’re not pursuing it right now, for a number of emotional and logistical reasons, but we may in the future. But I want to know that I did everything I could to get pregnant before I decide to try something else. I’ve wanted this my whole life and have made choices about my career and where I would live with that goal in mind. We’re going to try IVF for a few cycles before we move toward adoption.
Back in December, my mother asked for an update, and I told her about some of our struggles. She shrugged and said, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to adopt.” To be fair, my mom has always been a “fixer” rather than emotionally attuned. But I didn’t tell her about this appointment specifically because I didn’t want her to be casually dismissive about something that feels so fraught. I know at some point, especially because my sister is one of my confidantes, it will come out that we’ve been trying IVF, and my mom will be upset that she wasn’t in the loop. How would you suggest that I inform my mother that we’ve decided on IVF and we’re not open to hearing opinions about it?
—Biting the Bullet, Spilling the Beans
Let’s make room for leaving your mother out of the loop as long as possible, even if it makes her upset, as a viable option. Not as retribution for her bluntness, or in the hopes of getting her to change her ways, but because you’re already stretched pretty thin and it’s simply not necessary. She may wish to know about your fertility treatments, but that sort of information is yours to disclose on a timeline that makes sense to you. It’s true that as long as you maintain any sort of relationship with her, and especially if you’re confiding in your sister, that you’ll either have an update for her or she’ll find out from someone else, but you already seem prepared to discuss it with her eventually, under the right conditions. When those conditions occur, be it six weeks or six months from now, or once you have a viable pregnancy, or whenever is most convenient and comfortable for you, I suggest you inform your mother that you’ve decided on IVF and that you aren’t interested in feedback. You don’t have to say more to her than you said to me. If at some point you want to have a conversation with your mother about her bluntness, and you’d like to tell her how much her blasé attitude toward fraught topics hurts your feelings, you certainly can. But if the idea of doing so right now sounds exhausting and fruitless, just don’t do it.
If you tell your mother later than she thinks you should have (or if she hears about it from somebody else), she may very well get upset. You can respond to her feelings with patience and compassion without treating them as gospel. If she’s upset, if she wants more information than she received, if she feels shut out of your fertility treatments, that’s real—but it doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong simply because she’s upset. It just means she didn’t get something she wanted.
Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Get it from Slate.
My best friend from college’s parents are QAnon conspiracy theorists. My friend was raised in a conservative Korean Christian family, but now they seem to be conflating QAnon conspiracies with their religion. We graduated a few years ago, but she lives at home and is helping her family out financially because of COVID. My friend is queer, but she’s not out to her family. They think she’s “just” a straight ally, but they think even being an ally means you’re going straight to hell. I’ve offered to let her stay with me, but her work is returning to in-person status soon, and I live in a neighboring state. How can I be there for her when she’s living with people who are living in a delusion?
You can listen to her when she needs to vent. You can occasionally ask if she wants your advice, offer it when she says yes, and back off when she says no. You can provide her with an occasional respite from conspiracy theories and religious doom-and-gloom. You can encourage her to protect herself, to not come out unless she thinks it’s safe to do so, to set something aside for her own financial future if it’s possible while also helping her family. If she’s interested in finding another place to stay, even if it’s only for a few days to catch a break, you can canvass among your social network to see if anyone in her city has a spare guest room or is looking for a roommate. But you don’t need to shoulder the full weight of her relationship with her parents. You couldn’t even if you wanted to, because that’s your friend’s job. Don’t take on more than she asks you to, but do what you can, when you can. It won’t be everything, but it was never going to be, and that will have to be enough for now.
I was recently diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and have been told that I probably only have a few years to live. My husband and I have talked through many of the end-of-life issues, including hospice care and cremation versus burial. I find that my biggest fear is related to my memorial service. I have two siblings who are not close to me, my family, or my parents, but they are known for attending family funerals and giving “no holds barred” eulogies filled with criticism of the departed’s life and choices. Since I obviously won’t be there, sometimes I think it really shouldn’t bother me. But I find the thought of my teenage children listening to their vitriol very upsetting. Should I handle this by leaving written instructions with my husband outlining who can speak, or am I putting too much pressure on him during what will be a difficult time for my family? He is very loving and supportive, and will do whatever I ask him to do (within reason)!