Lifestyle

Ask Amy

Wife wonders about siblings’ bathroom habits

Q. I am a married woman. My husband and his younger sister are of a Mediterranean nationality. Family relationships are “closer” there, I think, than those in North America or Europe.

I was shocked to see my husband and his sister in our bathroom together. She was putting on makeup, he was brushing his teeth. We were in a hurry to leave the house, but there was a half-bath downstairs that one of them could have used.

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I have been in the bathroom with my older brother, but it was to install new toilets — something practical — not to do something “intimate,” that, in my opinion, is only for a husband and wife to share.

I felt very “strange” about this situation. Then it happened a second time. I have decided that if it happens again, I will join them in the bathroom and put on my makeup or brush my teeth with them to see if they understand that I’m disturbed by this situation. Too Close!

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A. If brushing one’s teeth or putting on makeup is considered an uncomfortably intimate act that only married partners should share, then we need to completely revamp sexual education in this country.

I don’t think this is an ethnic thing or a national characteristic.

I think this is a “you” problem.

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Taking your letter at face value, these siblings were basically sharing a mirror.

Many siblings who grew up in close households and perhaps shared a bathroom with other family members throughout their childhoods wouldn’t think twice about sharing their bathroom ablutions.

Because this bothers you so much, you should probably express your concern directly, instead of passively trying to get your message across. You should also anticipate some bewilderment on their part.

Q. My husband and I are getting divorced as a result of his longtime physical and emotional love affair with someone else, coupled with other random physical/sexual encounters throughout our marriage.

Without bad-mouthing my husband, I would like to speak “my truth” about our divorce to our friends, especially the wives with whom I am very close.

We have three kids (ages 13, 15, 17), and I didn’t always prioritize my husband and our relationship over the children.

By the same token, I have never cheated on him and I never would.

Is it OK to speak frankly, but in a factual and nonjudgmental way ?

Or do I owe my husband some sort of privacy or “respect” and therefore must speak vague platitudes such as “We grew apart” or “We wanted different things”?

What May I Say?

A. You don’t owe your husband any kind of protection over the consequences of his behavior, but you do owe your children a measure of privacy about this.

You will obviously want to discuss this with a very close friend, but you should be circumspect and understand that even if you ask that the details be kept private, things have a way of leaking out. Remember, we seldom regret the things we don’t say, but often regret the things we do say.

You can respond to questions by saying, “My husband and I had different ideas of how to be married.” People can read into that whatever they want.

Answer your children’s questions honestly, but do not confide in them or expect them to take sides. Assure them that you — and they — will be OK, and that they are loved by both parents. They will discern the truth soon enough, and will have to grapple with their own reactions to it.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.
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