Dear Prudence,

My husband is kind, supportive, funny, generous, smart, and loving. However, I feel like I must divorce him. Six years ago, when we were in our early 20s and had just fallen in love, after a night of partying and drinking, he woke me up in the middle of the night and started to have sex with me. I was dozing and still drunk and, yes, I took my panties off myself. But when I realized that it was not OK for him to make advances on me in my state, I pushed him away and ran out.

He later felt so bad he wanted to turn himself in for rape. I was very confused and thought at times that I was overreacting and at others that I was raped. We painfully worked through this, but the incident made my husband very reluctant about having sex. This led to an agreement that he shouldn’t be afraid of coming close to me in similar situations as long as he asked my consent. This made us feel better and I felt secure again. However, we just found ourselves in a very similar situation.

After coming back from a friend’s wine tasting we went to bed and he started to kiss me. I liked it and went along, only to wake up in the morning and remember only half of it. Now I am in the same painful spot I was before and I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement. Should I just drop it or am I right about feeling abused?


Dear Confused,

I understand the need for colleges to have unambiguous codes of sexual conduct for their young, horny, possibly plastered students. These often require getting explicit permission for every escalating advance. However, if two adults are in love and have frequently made love then each can assume implicit consent to throw such legalistic caution—as well as panties—to the wind. Certainly spouses are entitled to say, “Not tonight” or “Not there,” and have such a request respected. But even a married couple who have had sex hundreds of times can enjoy that alcohol might ignite a delightful, spontaneous encounter.

Your approach, however, seems to be to treat your sex life as if it is subject to regulatory review by the Department of Health and Human Services. Your prim, punctilious, punitive style has me admiring your put-upon husband’s ability to even get it up, given the possibility he’ll be accused of rape — or turn himself in for it! — if one of you fails a breathalyzer test. Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse. Stop acting like a parody of a gender-studies course catalog and start acting like a loving wife.

If you can’t, then give the poor sap a divorce.


Dear Prudence,

I will be attending a family vacation in August with my parents, brothers and sisters-in-law. The last time everyone was together, I was upset by the way my mother treated my sister-in-law Amy. Amy is one of my best friends. She is supportive, loving and kind. She is also overweight and loud, which mother can’t stand. Mother makes faces when Amy talks and very obviously refuses to sit next to Amy during meals. She also bad-mouths Amy when she leaves the room. I don’t want to have to watch this again. What is the loving way to handle this situation?

— Joy of Family

Dear Joy,

Amy must pack a big supply of sunblock and Xanax in anticipation of her fun annual vacation. Or maybe she just says, “I’ll have a double.” It’s time for you to talk to your mother about this. Say not everyone in every family is crazy about each other, and you know she doesn’t care for Amy. That, however, should be her little secret. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly obvious how much she loathes her daughter-in-law. Explain that Amy is one of your closest friends, you feel lucky your brother is married to her, and you don’t want to see or hear any more disparagement from her. Tell your mother she may not be aware she’s making faces when Amy talks, but she needs to cut it out.

Add that you won’t listen to her disparage Amy when she’s not in the room. Then act. If your mother starts eye-rolling when Amy gets going, pull her aside later and say it’s making you uncomfortable. If she starts denigrating Amy, leave the room. You should also enlist your brother to make these points to your mother. If he’s not standing up for his wife, shame on him. He’s the one who supplied this trial of a mother-in-law, so he should bear some burden for trying to reform her.

— Prudie

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