Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.
I have been with the same guy for six years, married for one. He has two sons from a previous marriage, and she is not in the picture. If it is relevant I’m a male too. My husband has asked me if I could accept his moving into his own apartment for a year because he has never been on his own. He says he doesn’t want us to break up, just live apart for a while. The boys would stay with me in our home, and he would take them to spend the night every so often. We would also have a weekly date night just to keep our relationship “on track.” He married his ex right out of high school, and they had children right away, so he really hasn’t ever been on his own. I have not given a response other than asking a few questions. Truthfully the idea makes me mad as hell and I just want to tell him to leave if you want and take your damn brats with you! Then I calm down and realize I can’t live without him and the boys. Or maybe I can. I feel this is unbelievably selfish of him, but I kind of understand. But the boys have already been abandoned by their mother, how would this plan affect them? I am so confused, and hurt. Help!
I would resist the urge to take your (extremely understandable) frustration, hurt, and confusion out on the kids by referring to them, even facetiously, as “your damn brats”; whatever happens between you and your husband, I hope very much that you can see his children are not responsible for his behavior. What troubles me the most is his request that you take over primary custody of his children so he can have a bachelor pad. It’s one thing to suggest living apart from one’s romantic partner; it’s quite another to abdicate daily responsibility toward your own children just because you’ve never lived in a studio. I might have more faith that your husband was trying to suggest a genuine, radical-yet-loving change in your living situation if he weren’t also asking you to become his children’s primary caregiver—it sounds to me that what he is asking is for you to become the father he no longer feels like being, while you get to see him for one date night a week. If he wants a divorce, that’s one thing, but what he’s offering is a homemade custody agreement that puts the burden of daily caregiving almost entirely on you. That’s not “keeping your relationship on track”; that’s abandonment. What he’s proposing is selfish and cruel, and you are right to reject it. Tell him that his plan is unacceptable and that you will not consider it, and hold firm. If you two end up divorcing over this—and you may—you should figure out a custody agreement that benefits the children first, and your husband’s desire to live in a loft second. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Husband Wants to Live Alone for a Year—and Leave His Kids With Me.” (Sept. 13, 2016)
My husband had an affair. After I discovered the affair and my husband ended it, I wanted to let the other woman’s husband know about the affair. I joined an online forum where people experiencing infidelity can offer one another support. Everyone on the site recommends telling the affair partner’s spouse: They say the other spouse has a right to know and that it helps destroy the secrecy that makes affairs appealing. I agreed with that. But my husband said the other woman’s husband is abusive and would almost certainly hurt her if the affair came to light. I feel like he’s defending his affair partner by telling me not to expose the affair. The potential for abuse is the only thing keeping me from contacting the other husband, and sometimes I think the abuse is a cover story to keep me from telling him. I just discovered I have an STD, which my husband gave me. We are supposed to tell all of our sexual partners—for me, it’s only my husband—about the STD. I feel now more than ever that the other man has a right to know. What should I do?
Let’s sort out the public health aspect first. If your husband contracted an STD from his lover, then that’s a pre-existing condition in her marriage, and you don’t need to inform her spouse. I don’t know whether the abuse story is factual or not, but I have to disagree with the conclusion of your support group that the right thing to do is reveal all to your counterparty. It would be one thing if your husband had an affair with a friend, you were now cutting the couple out of your lives, and you wanted the husband to understand why. But you don’t know these people and you don’t owe them anything. Messing around with the other couple will only get you looking at externals. You need to be focused on your marriage, your husband’s efforts to repair your trust, and why things went off track. —Emily Yoffe
From “Help! I Want to Expose My Husband’s Affair, but He Says It Would Just Cause More Pain.” (Aug. 26, 2013)
I am married to a wonderful, kind, caring, intelligent man who is normally a good communicator. Our sex life has never been great or mind-blowing, but I’ve always let this take a back seat to other parts of the relationship that are more fulfilling. I have a stronger libido than my husband, but he and I have worked through that particular issue, compromising on how often we’ll have sex (I would like to get busy at least twice a week, while he is more of a twice a month kind of guy).
As time goes on, however (we’ve been together for a few years, married for just over one), I am growing more and more frustrated. The problem? My husband, who is in otherwise good health, climaxes within about 10 seconds of penetration. I’m not exaggerating. The only time he’s able to last longer is if he’s drunk, and then he has problems climaxing himself, leaving him frustrated and me sore.
This has always been the case in our relationship, and I’ve always pushed it aside thinking it would get better. It hasn’t. I should say that he is very committed to foreplay and works hard to get me to climax, either through masturbation or oral sex. But I really would like to experience more than 10 seconds of penetration before it’s all over. I’m left feeling incredibly frustrated every time we have sex, and I know that he is embarrassed by the situation.
I have tried to discuss the issue with him (always outside the bedroom, not right after we’ve had sex) and have asked if there’s anything I can do to help him last longer. He says, “Probably not,” then shuts the conversation down. I am at my wit’s end. I want a fulfilling sex life, but he isn’t willing to discuss the matter or explore solutions.
Could there be an underlying medical issue? How can I approach this so that I’m not facing a pretty barren sexual landscape for the next several decades? For the record, I do not enjoy masturbation myself and have difficulty climaxing without a partner, so self-pleasure isn’t really a solution to my frustrations.
Masturbation might be the answer to your problems, just not in the way that you think.
You could have your husband get himself off a half-hour or so before you two have penetrative sex. Or he could penetrate you with a dildo or a vibrator until you have an orgasm if he comes well before you. He could wear a cock ring; they’re like $20 and you can order one online and have it by tomorrow. There are plenty of ways to work with partners who come on really different schedules.
The real problem, though, is that he’s not willing to “discuss the matter or explore solutions” with you—there are plenty of workarounds for what you two are experiencing physically, but not much for a total communications freeze-out. You two were apparently able to talk about the frequency of your sex life and arrive at a workable compromise together, so your husband is clearly capable of talking about sex up to a certain point.
Tell him what you told me: “Normally you’re a really good communicator and really attentive to my needs, so it’s a little confusing that whenever we try to talk about penetration, you shut down. I don’t want to feel like we can’t talk about what we need from each other sexually, and I’m trying to tell you that it’s important for me to climax through penetration at least some of the time. I want to talk about ways we can make that happen, even if you come before I do.”
“Coming before I do” is a generally preferable phrase. There’s nothing wrong, on its face, with coming quickly, and I don’t think you should make value judgments about how slowly or quickly he comes from penetration. The problem isn’t that he comes as soon as he penetrates you; the problem is that he wants to pretend there’s nothing to be done about it and no compromise to be reached. There are plenty. —DL
From “Help! When We Have Sex, My Husband Climaxes in 10 Seconds.” (Dec. 12, 2016)
I’m in my early 30s, and I’ve found the man I want to marry and start a family with. He feels the same way. We still live apart for one reason: my cat. My boyfriend is extremely allergic to cats and needs a fur-free home. I’ve had my 8-year-old cat his whole life. I love him, and this breaks my heart, but I am considering finding him a new home. The problem is my guilt, as well as the reaction of my animal-loving friends. They’re all completely incredulous that I would give up my pet. They say, “But he’s like your child!” and “You made a commitment to this animal.” To complicate the situation, I spend most of my time at my boyfriend’s place, so my poor kitty has been developing some behavioral problems because he’s frequently alone. I feel horrible. What should I do?
If you hold off on marriage and children until your cat crosses the rainbow bridge, you could find yourself having to settle for kittens because you might be past your child-bearing years. It’s impossible for someone who’s allergic to cats to live with one, and it’s ludicrous to think you will give up becoming a wife and mother because you made a commitment to your cat. It’s good that your friends are outraged by your plan. So start implementing it by asking which one of them will be the person to give your cat a good home. If none of them volunteers, then stop listening to them and start immediately finding your cat a loving owner. Do not turn him in to a shelter—there’s no guarantee an 8-year-old cat will be placed, and you are obligated to be the one to get him in a good situation. But you could contact some rescue groups and see if they will let you use their resources on his behalf, as long as they agree you can keep him until a new owner turns up. While you are searching, spend a lot more time at home with him. Your cat is suffering because you are not around, and a cat with behavior problems is a cat that’s going to be hard to get adopted. Your kitty is doing you a great favor by allowing you to find out what your boyfriend’s intentions really are. You say he wants to marry you. So before you get rid of a pet in order to move in with your boyfriend, make the engagement official. There’s no sense saying farewell to a loyal companion who purrs in favor of one who finds that he’s not actually ready to commit. —EY
From: “Help! My Boyfriend Is Allergic to My Cat.” (Dec. 15, 2011)
More from Dear Prudence
Nearly a decade ago, I met my best friend, L. He’s male, I’m female, and we have been the closest of friends ever since, speaking daily, and being involved in each other’s families. At first, we both thought something more might come of this friendship, but instead we remained friends and he came out as gay five years ago. Four years ago, I married a wonderful man with an unfortunate jealous streak who has been wary of L from Day 1 because he knows we flirted with a relationship in the past. Recently L moved across the country and has now asked me to join him. He wants to settle down and have a family and long-term relationship while carrying on an open sexual relationship. L is the man of my dreams, and I already struggle in my marriage in a variety of ways, including with infertility, which L has supported me through all along. The problem is—I’m actually considering it. Help?