Dear Prudence

Help! My Husband Found the Online Group Where I Complain About Him.

It was my place to vent my frustrations.

A man holds his head while looking at his laptop, with an illustrated sad face behind him.
Photo illustration by Slate. Images via Liderina/iStock/Getty Images Plus and nanmulti/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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.

Dear Prudence,

A few months ago I joined an online group of like-minded people where we often discuss personal relationship problems. I have found that griping about my husband to anonymous people online is a lot better than venting my frustrations at him. Lately my husband has also been really good at changing some of the behaviors that have always driven me up the wall, and now I know why. While using his laptop, I happened to notice him logged in as one of the members of my group! He created a fake persona and has seen every gripe I ever typed about him! I haven’t confronted him on this, and to be honest it has been a convenient way to indirectly communicate my frustrations to him. So should I tell him I know who he is, quit the group, or just let this be?

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I’m sure my husband would love me to follow your lead and post my complaints online instead of expressing them directly to him. Then he’d follow your husband’s example of not discussing any of this with me. Where he’d differ is the part where he logs on and reads my nagging, then dedicates himself to meeting my standards of the perfect husband. Your situation sounds like a variation of that dreadful Pina Colada song. But I’d find your version more believable if it turned out your husband was remaking himself to please you in order to divert you from exploring the fact that most of his time online is spent looking for kinky sex partners. It’s also possible that you haven’t paid enough attention to the male poster on this site who complains that his hypercontrolling witch of a wife doesn’t even appreciate when he makes the changes she wants. I suggest that, to get back to face-to-face communication, you tell your online audience that your husband has undergone a remarkable transformation and you’re so moved by this that you’re going to let him know how much his efforts have meant to you. Then do so, in person, including letting your husband know you know he’s a member of your rant group. —Emily Yoffe

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From: “Help! My Husband Reads My Online Complaints About Him.” (Dec. 31, 2012)

Dear Prudence,

I never got much sex ed. and certainly not from my parents. My sister once joked that our mother threw a box of tampons at her, said she could ask questions, and then practically ran away. So I recently asked my wife if she was planning on having some sort of talk with our daughter, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable having that talk with her. (When our son is old enough, I plan to take care of those talks.) She told me to stop asking weird questions and made it clear she didn’t want to talk about it. I was a little surprised, but I guess she’s gotten more conservative as we get older. Still, I was hurt that she assumed that I was being some sort of pervert when trying to come to some sort of consensus on how to educate our kids. So I’m not sure if I should just trust that our daughter will find out what she needs to know from school, and maybe from my wife (maybe she just didn’t want to tell me about what she’s telling her, which I’d understand), or if I should try to bring it up in a different way. Any ideas?

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My main idea is for you to ask your wife why she thinks talking to your children about bodies and sex is “weird.” There’s nothing perverse about planning to explain to your daughter how her body works and what sex is; it’s one of the many duties of parenthood, and your wife’s squeamishness won’t excuse her from it. Refuse to allow her discomfort with the topic to put you off. Her irrational response (“Why do you want to talk about this when I don’t? What’s wrong with you?”) is an attempt to get you to leave her alone so she doesn’t have to think about the basics of sex ed., which is a childish stalling tactic. Calmly insist. If she again suggests you’re doing something wrong in bringing it up, remind her that having the sex talk is a standard-issue milestone for everyone, and there’s nothing inappropriate about discussing how you two want to handle it together. If your wife communicates to your daughter what she’s communicated with you (that talking about sex and bodies is perverse, that having questions is weird), she’s going to do her a real disservice. —Danny M. Lavery

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From: “Help! My Wife Won’t Give Our Daughter the Sex Talk—Should I?” (May 31, 2016)

Dear Prudence,

My just turned 18-year-old son, who is a senior in high school and lives at home, recently came home and told me he has his first girlfriend and that he is in love. He said she is older than he is. He looks a bit older than 18. Turns out his new love is 48 years old. That is a year older than me. I met her, and she is actually very nice and in love with my son. If I had grown up in this town, we would have been in school together and likely best friends. She is not his teacher or in any position that would be suspect. They simply met in a cafe and fell in love. Is this OK?

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She may not be his teacher, but she’ll be his teacher, all right. This does not feel very OK, and if the sexes were reversed it still wouldn’t. A 30-year age difference for a first romance is definitely designed to make one’s parents unhappy. As “nice” as this woman may be, she sounds utterly oblivious to the inappropriateness of her behavior. Your son should be focused on his homework and going to college—if that’s on his agenda—so as with any romance you need to make sure he’s not devoting all his time to his new girl, ah, lady friend. However, he’s 18, and the bigger deal you make of this, the deeper his love is likely to be. You can express your understandable concern that he’s dating someone older than you, then back off and make sure he’s studying for his biology test. —E.Y.

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From: “Help! My 18-Year-Old Son Is Dating a Woman My Age.” (March 5, 2012)

Dear Prudence,

I’m a young trans woman who has recently come out to some of my extended family. This winter, I came out to some of the family members I’m close to first, including a grandma and an aunt in the city I go to college in. They were not completely opposed but were surprised and had some doubts about it.

Since then, I’ve been working on socially transitioning. Recently, while spending some time at her house, my grandma misgendered me repeatedly by using masculine endearments and passive-aggressive nicknames. I tried to correct her, saying that I didn’t mean to be rude and was just trying to help her remember. I kept correcting her that day and got no response. Otherwise, she was perfectly nice. Then when I drove my grandma and aunt to the airport, they both misgendered me without correcting themselves.

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I haven’t had a talk with them since then. How do you think I should go about it? For what it is worth, I think my grandma may have been purposely misgendering me for only part of the time. I feel like they could come around in several years, but I’m really hurt now. And if I bring it up, both will profess their innocence, like they do when they treat my mom horribly. They’ve treated my mom better these last few years, but still—should I give up on these toxic people? They’ve supported more distantly related or unrelated trans people—just not me.

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I think a better way of looking at this is not to view yourself as giving up on your relatives but offering them an opportunity to clear a (fairly low!) bar in order to maintain a relationship with you. You don’t have to consign them to the dustbin of your past, but you can make it very clear that you expect a good-faith effort to remember your name and pronouns. Some people will try to convince you this is an exhausting and difficult request—“But I’m so used to [your old name]! It’s so hard to keep pronouns straight!” That simply isn’t true. You’re a woman; you go by she and her. That’s hardly taxing.

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It’s understandable, particularly at first, if they were genuinely doing their best to support you and made an occasional slip, but this was neither occasional nor unintentional; you politely corrected them, and they neither acknowledged their mistakes nor tried to amend them. The fact that your relatives have a history of mistreating your mother, while pretending not to notice their own behavior, makes me less than optimistic that they’re doing their level best. I think it’s very reasonable for you to let them know that one of the conditions of your spending time together is that they refer to you by your actual name and don’t intentionally misgender you. If they do it again, offer a gentle correction; if they repeat the error, you can gently say, “I’ve asked you not to refer to me by that name/as that gender. I’m going to go now.” You don’t have to close the door on them entirely, particularly since you think that on some level they possess something of a desire to do right by you, but you also don’t have to put up with years of accidentally-on-purpose misgendering until they finally deem you worthy of being referred to as a woman. —D.L.

From: “Help! I’m Transgender, but My Family Won’t Use My Chosen Name.” (June 7, 2016)

More Advice From Dear Prudence

I have a new roommate, two weeks new to be exact, and he had told me on three separate occasions that I cannot wear this particular perfume around him because he gets turned on and has trouble composing himself.

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