Dear Prudence

My In-Laws Are Holocaust Deniers

I don’t want my kids to have a relationship with them. My husband disagrees.

Ripped photo of grandparents.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by RossHeleni/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Dear Prudence,

My husband’s parents have always been on the fringe end of conservative, but it’s never caused an issue with us, because we don’t live nearby and only see them once every two years or so. But in the past few years, they’ve become even more counterculture—they’re very into QAnon and other conspiracy theories, they’ve become openly racist, and they hate masks and vaccines. Recently, I found out that they’ve embraced Holocaust denial. I don’t know why this was the final straw, but I don’t want my children to have a relationship with these people anymore. My husband doesn’t know what to do, but he feels that cutting them off is too much. What should we do?

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—Holocaust Deniers

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I have a pretty good idea why you found Holocaust denial to be a final straw. As final straws go, it’s a pretty big one! It’s denying the Holocaust. You don’t have to spend time analyzing why you find such a position abhorrent, because it’s an abhorrent claim to make. You certainly could have selected a different final straw sooner, but this is a perfectly sound one.

I doubt your husband is actually confused as to what to do, so much as reluctant to do what’s necessary. He wants to find a way to live with his parents at arm’s length but without having to challenge or repudiate their beliefs, because that would make his life easier. You do not have to agree with him! And you say your in-laws’ racism has “never caused an issue with us” because you rarely see them, but it sounds like what that means is that you’ve found it easy not to object because you could put it out of your mind every two years. This leads me to believe you two tend to gloss over moments that ought not to be glossed over. Both of you need to stop glossing. Stop making their espousal of racism and conspiracy theories and Holocaust-denial easy. Cause a scene. Draw a clear line in the sand. “We find your racism and Holocaust denial disgusting, and we’re ashamed we’ve taken so long to say so” is a perfectly appropriate thing to say to racist Holocaust deniers, no matter how related to your husband said racists are.

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve felt ambiguous about having children for a long time. My husband has always wanted children. He has health concerns that will make parenting more difficult the older he gets and wants to have kids young enough so that our parents can have active roles in their lives. I am not against having kids—I’ve just never been excited about it. I am (perhaps overly) aware of how exhausting, expensive, and life-changing a child can be. My husband thinks that I let the negatives eclipse the positives (which is probably true). A couple years ago, he suggested we start trying. When I said I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready, he gave me time to think (as our only other option was divorce, which neither of us wanted). Since then, we’ve had many conversations, and I started feeling more open to the idea until I was comfortable enough to go off birth control recently.

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I know having a baby is very trying for couples. I worried I might resent my husband for encouraging me down this path, and he would resent me in return. When we’re having sex regularly, we are extremely close, but after a few days without it, my husband starts to get a little distant. It gets worse the longer we go without sex because he just doesn’t feel as close to me. My sex drive is very low naturally, so I read dirty novels to keep my interest up (which works great). Unfortunately, when the reading stops, so does my interest in sex. I worry that the stress of a new baby plus the lack of time and energy to keep my sex drive up could destroy our relationship. But if we don’t have kids, I’d be ending an otherwise happy marriage. My husband insists he knows that many aspects of our life will be different with young kids, but I know that not having sex for weeks at a time is not something he will handle well. I’ve started looking forward to many aspects of being a parent, but I still get doubts sometimes. Is that to be expected? Am I just overthinking this whole thing?

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—Overly Anxious

I’m sure it’s possible to overthink the prospect of becoming a parent, but your concerns are serious, persistent, and well-founded, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve been giving yourself a lot of time to sort through them. I can’t help but notice that the strongest positive language you have at the prospect of becoming a parent is “comfortable” and “open to the idea.” You don’t say much about what having children would mean to you outside of pleasing your husband. If he weren’t interested in having children, would you still be considering the idea? Or would you be relieved? What is the strongest positive feeling you have about the possibility of children on your own—not with your husband’s interests in mind, but yours? What are some of the aspects of being a parent you find yourself looking forward to?

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I don’t want to read too much into your husband’s irritability after a few days without sex and interpret that as a general inability to compromise, but it does raise questions for me about his ability to put his children’s needs before his own. Maybe just as worrying, your husband seems eager to promise that he’s not going to mind something after your children are born that he currently minds very much, but without providing any concrete sense of how he thinks that will change. If he’s been consistently distant and irritable when you go a few days without sex for years, what makes him confident he’ll stop feeling that way when you add children into the mix? Goodwill and optimism don’t strike me as appropriate responses to your very reasonable concerns.

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Your doubts may very well be expected as part of the process of contemplating parenthood, but they’re not an indicator that you’re just like every other parent in the world and need to simply put them to the side and jump ahead. Discuss your concerns with a trusted friend (or two or three) or a therapist. Write some of them down. Envision a worst-case scenario where you don’t ever have children and a worst-case scenario where you do. You can do the same for best-case scenarios too and try to gauge whether one set appeals more than the other. The choice is ultimately yours alone, but your concerns are real and have not yet been adequately addressed.

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Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be lightly edited for publication.) Join the live chat every Monday at noon (and submit your comments) here, or call the Dear Prudence podcast voicemail at 401-371-3327 to hear your question answered on a future episode of the show.

Dear Prudence,

A longtime friend recently told me that he and his wife lied about being essential workers back in December in order to skip the vaccine line. My friend is young, healthy, wealthy, and able to work remotely. Needless to say, my fiancé and I are horrified. I don’t want to write off our friendship entirely, but I have lost respect for him, and it is hard to see what will change that. Should we tell him not to come to our wedding, for which he was already invited?

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—Vaccine Scofflaw

Uninviting your friend from your wedding would probably result in the end of your relationship. He would almost certainly interpret that as you writing off your friendship entirely, so if you’re not prepared to do that yet, I think the next move is to tell him you think what he did was wrong. It doesn’t sound like you’ve done that yet, but it really needs saying, especially if you want to salvage your relationship. You don’t have to denounce him or say that there’s nothing he can ever do to make up for having lied. He was wrong to do so, but if you have an honest conversation about it, you might even be able to persuade him to try to make amends by volunteering at a vaccination center that needs administrative workers, donating time and money to a local mutual aid group, or something else promoting the common good. If repair is possible, seek it out. If it isn’t, at least you’ll know you tried that first.

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Help! My Mom Constantly Harasses Me About My Weight.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Julia Tershen on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

I should be optimistic about the pandemic slowly coming to an end, but now the topic fills me with dread. I still long for the camaraderie and creativity of the office, but I have terrible anxiety about how to appropriately answer the inevitable break room personal question: “So, are you seeing anyone?” The men I can handle with a flippant, “And give some rando the other half of my stuff?!” which is always good for a laugh between guys who remember Eddie Murphy. But in mixed company or from women? We’re one big family at work, and I’m a senior executive. Whether they’re interested in just making small talk with the boss or genuinely concerned for my well-being (or their own careers), I take no offense by their curiosity.

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The thing is that my divorce was final a year before COVID. Before, I could easily brush off the question with a variation of “I’m focusing on my boys for now,” which was true. But that excuse won’t fly more than two years out. I’m definitely not interested in a pep talk or further questions. I know I’m unattractive—I got that tragic wake-up call on my “honeymoon.” I thought my ex was asexual for most of our 16 years of marriage, but her affair at the end (presumably not the first) buried that self-deception. And while being celibate sucks, it’s incomparably easier alone than while sharing a bed. I’m definitely not up for doing that, nor the rare-yet-awful pity sex again, so I have absolutely no interest in “seeing anyone.” How do I politely brush off the question without sounding like an asshole?

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—Dreading the Question

I’m so sorry for the pain and self-doubt that’s been weighing you down since the end of your marriage, and I truly wish you as much peace and stability as possible, whether you ever decide to date again or not. But it’s important, especially as a senior executive, not to bring that kind of emotional intensity to light break-room conversation, even if your company is “like a family.” It shouldn’t be like a family! It should be like an office! That doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly with your employees or that you have to confine your discussions only to work-related topics. But you should never say anything like “I believe all women are repulsed by me because of my agonizing marriage” to the people who work for you. That’s wildly inappropriate and intrusive. (Frankly, even saying something like, “Why would I give some rando half my stuff” to the men in your office is inappropriate and sexist, and I don’t think you should come up with a flippant line at all.)

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If someone asks, just calmly say, “No, I’m not,” and then ask them what they’ve been up to lately. You’re their boss. You don’t need for an excuse to “fly”; you can just decline to talk about your dating life with them and insist they respect your privacy. If you need to talk about your sex life, your marriage, your resentments, your doubts, or anything on such a personal scale, I hope you give yourself permission to do so—with your own friends and family and a therapist, not the people who work for you.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“As long as you’re not jeopardizing your kids’ grocery budget, I’m OK with maladaptive retail therapy once in a while.”

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Danny Lavery and Slate staff writer Shannon Palus discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence,

I love my fiancée very much, and she means the world to me. I’ve been out as nonbinary for some years, and privately I am reasonably sure I want to transition. I constantly dream about just waking up as a woman, and I think about it every night before bed. Sometimes I cry when I’m alone about the fact that people see me as a man. The only person who has any idea how bad things are is my fiancée. We’ve talked about it before, and in the past I’ve said I didn’t want to transition. I have some open and supportive people in my life and some who are a lot less accepting, and I’m scared about losing any of them. But now that I’m staring down 30, my attitude is changing quite a bit. My dysphoria is getting pretty bad. I’m still unsure about some things, but I want to spend the next half of my life being myself.

During a conversation about transitioning about a year ago, my fiancée said she would support me and stay with me but effectively begged me to not get surgery. She is rather fond of my genitals and just made it seem like if I transitioned she would feel our relationship would lose something. Now I’m scared of bringing transition up again. I love her immensely, and the idea of losing her scares me, but if I make this choice, I need to commit to it. How should I broach this subject, and what should I do if it goes south?

—Nervous About Transitioning

I don’t want to be too hard on your fiancée, but there’s something very demoralizing about her response to your previous conversation about transitioning, and I understand your hesitation to bring it up again. Medical transition is a relatively slow process, and it doesn’t sound like you had even yet told her whether you were interested in bottom surgery or when you might consider pursuing it. Regardless, it makes sense that you’re no longer able to prioritize her anxieties as you consider the next 30 years of your life.

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The fact that right now she’s the only person who knows just how seriously you’re contemplating transition puts an awful lot of pressure on both you and her, and you’ll likely continue to feel constrained, guilty, and hesitant without additional support. You should have someone in your corner who is excited about the new possibilities that transition can open up, not just someone who’s worried and anxious. If you don’t feel prepared to start discussing this with any of your friends yet, look for a trans-affirming therapist you can schedule a consultation with, or join a support group for trans and nonbinary people so you can get a sense of how other people in similar positions have approached these situations. If things do go south, you’ll be much better equipped to act compassionately, lovingly, and in your own best interests when your fiancée isn’t your only sounding board.

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Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate

Dear Prudence,

My state has made the COVID-19 vaccine available to clinically obese people before the rest of the population (probably sometime next month). My ex-husband and I are generally able to co-parent well, but we are not friendly with each other. We have both been very cautious when it comes to COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic, and we are both planning to receive the vaccine. He is not at all detail-oriented and is also a very defensive person. He is also clinically obese. I think he probably will either be unaware of his early eligibility for the vaccine or will be too self-conscious to schedule an appointment on the basis of his weight. His immunity will benefit our child and also, by extension, me. If he does not get the vaccine earlier due to his comorbidity, it will likely be several months before he can get it with the general population. Is there a gentle way to bring this up to him?

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—Cautious Co-Parent

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If you two aren’t friendly and you know him to be defensive, I don’t think there’s a gentle way to broach the subject. Acknowledging fatness straightforwardly and without embarrassment is generally a good thing—it’s not a dirty word and doesn’t need to be whispered about like a terrible secret—but telling someone you know to be self-conscious about his fatness (and who doesn’t especially like you) that you’ve been thinking about his BMI lately isn’t likely to go over well. Since you two have been similarly motivated about COVID precautions, you could ask if he’s checked to see when he’ll qualify for the vaccine, without mentioning weight. Then let him take it from there.

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Classic Prudie

I found out a few weeks ago that I’m expecting a child. My husband has two children from a previous marriage. About two years ago I got pregnant and my husband went into a violent depression. He didn’t speak to me for weeks except to tell me how I had ruined his life. Then, when I miscarried he celebrated. I started bleeding in the grocery store, and he fell to his knees and “praised God” for this wonderful blessing. After months of therapy, we decided to try to make the marriage work, under the agreement that we would never have a child together. However, I now find myself pregnant again. And, I want this baby as much as I wanted the last one. The trouble is, I decided back then that I would never want a child with my husband. There is a very good chance that my husband will divorce me and leave a man-shaped hole in the front door as he grabs his two kids and runs as far away as he can. I am not ready for the end of the marriage I have put so many years and so much work into. But, I’m even more not ready to hear my husband try to talk me into an abortion—which is not an option. And, I think it would be traumatic for my stepchildren to watch me carry a baby to term and then put it up for adoption. They are well old enough to know what’s happening. Plus, I could never part with my child. I have to tell him. But how?

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