DEAR PRUDENCE

Help! My husband has been monitoring me through my laptop

Posted July 14, 2012, at 3:17 p.m.
Last modified July 15, 2012, at 3:48 p.m.
Emily Yoffe
Emily Yoffe

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have been married a little over two years, a second marriage for both of us. Soon after getting married, my husband, who works in information technology, revealed to me that for the prior year he had placed a tracker on my laptop to monitor every site I went to, every search I made.

I thought something was wrong when he would ask me about things I didn’t discuss with him but had searched for online. I’ve woken up to find him holding my phone, scrolling through my messages. I’ve told him that this bothers me, that I’m not doing anything wrong, but some respect for personal boundaries is in order. Then he accuses me of hiding things. He recently bought me a new laptop, but I’m worried history could repeat itself.

It leaves me with stomach cramps knowing that even this email itself could trigger a fight because he may be tracking me. He does well financially and we do have nice things, but he doesn’t like us to spend time with other people. I try to weigh the good against the bad, and I’m not unhappy apart from this issue. Can you please tell me if I’m the crazy one here?

— Demeaned and Frustrated

Dear Demeaned,

I hope you sent this letter from an Internet cafe, otherwise he’s going to be very unhappy about your note to me, because I agree with you that he knew what you wrote the moment you sent it — he might even have been watching as you composed the words. You appear to be under tighter surveillance by your husband than members of al-Qaida are by the National Security Agency.

From your description, your marriage has less chance of making it to a fifth anniversary than al-Qaida’s No. 3 does of living to become al-Qaida’s No. 2.

You say you are weighing the good against the bad. The good is that he has an income. The bad is that you’re married to a controlling lunatic who has views similar to the Taliban about wifely independence. Nice things do not make up for being under house arrest.

At this rate, your next gift may be a jewel-encrusted ankle-monitoring device. I can imagine one day, after he sees something he doesn’t like, you waking up to find him standing over the bed with something less benign than a cellphone in his hand. Until two years ago you managed to make your way financially through life without your husband’s paycheck. You can do it again.

Start your return to independence by hiring a lawyer and getting out. And as you make your break, dump your existing phone and laptop and get new ones, unless you want to alert your husband about your plan of escape.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I often go outside my comfort zone for my wife and her sister. Whether it’s joining their volleyball league or attending a ballet performance, I show interest in the things they enjoy — even if the activities aren’t my idea of a good time.

The problem arises when we plan an outing to amusement parks because roller coaster rides terrify me. But my wife loves to ride roller coasters, so I face my fears. However, when we go she and her sister insist on staying the entire day. After I’ve had enough nonstop roller coaster rides I smile and say I’ll catch up with them later.

But on the ride home they lay into me and say I put a damper on their fun by not riding roller coasters with them the entire time. Am I in the wrong for bowing out early? We’re supposed to go to an amusement park soon and I want to ask if we can just spend hours at the park instead of the entire day — but is this unreasonable?

— Party Pooper

Dear Pooper,

Some people are thrill seekers. For them, feeling pressed in their seats or thrown in the air from the positive and negative G-forces induces ecstasy. In others it just causes upchucking. G-forces cause stress and strain on an object, just the way having a spouse who orders you to do things you loathe does on a person.

If a roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for your marriage, your marriage is in trouble. Marriage is not supposed to be a decades-long season of “Fear Factor.” You are brow-beaten by your wife and her sister to do things they like, but you haven’t mentioned if your wife is willing to do any loop-the-loops to please you.

You need to escape from constantly being with this tag team, and establish that for the sake of your marriage there are limits to how much her sister can come along for the ride. It’s not unreasonable for you to bow out entirely from a day at the park with this bullying twosome. Just give them one of your smiles and explain your idea of a thrill is a day alone with a good book.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I have just discovered, through Ancestry.com, that my father’s mother and her family were black. This was proven through census records, etc. I and my children are ecstatic about this newfound information.

However, my sisters are in shock and do not wish to discuss it. I’m 61 years old and am hurt that no one told me or my sisters about our bloodline. All of my aunts, uncles and our father are all dead. I am completely positive that no one on my mother’s side of the family knew anything about this, because we are from the deep South and unfortunately there are quite a few bigoted members.

How can I get my three sisters to accept their family roots or at least come to terms with it. Myself? I embrace it.

— Newly Found Heritage

Dear Heritage,

What you and your children should do is embrace this fascinating discovery and find out more if you’re so inclined. You may be able to contact a side of the family no one knew about. But you do not have to drag along your sisters. They’re not interested. Yes, it may be out of racism, it may be that this news is upending their understanding of their roots and they don’t wish to dig further. But their reaction, disappointing as it is, shouldn’t affect your pleasure in pursuing your ancestry.

— Prudie

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.

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