My husband and I have been married for 12 years and have a 7-year-old daughter. We no longer share a bedroom or have sex, but we continue living together peacefully to raise our child. My mother-in-law discovered our separate bedrooms while I was out of town: She was helping to care for our daughter and asking lots of questions, so my daughter told her. Since then, she asked a close friend about our situation — which bothered me. But she’s never said anything to me. Now, she and my father-in-law are planning a visit and she’s asking many questions about their sleeping arrangements. She even offered to sleep on an air mattress. I told her she was welcome to take our daughter’s room, as always, and our daughter would move to the guest room (just as she did before my husband started sleeping there). Am I obliged to discuss this with her?
You have no duty to discuss your sleeping arrangements or sex life with anyone. I understand it was upsetting to learn that your mother-in-law had grilled your daughter and friend about you. (The mystery here is why she didn’t simply ask her son about her suspicions.) Still, she took care of your daughter. That was nice of her. And her questions about her coming visit may reflect sensitivity to your situation: Is it OK for your husband to move back in with you if your daughter takes the room that he now uses?
I would discuss this with your husband and propose telling your mother-in-law that you sleep in separate bedrooms — and not a word more. It clears the air about something she sort of knows already, and it’s not uncommon: About 20 percent of married couples sleep in separate rooms. She may be worried. So, reassure her that everything is under control.
Now, you know her better than I do. If you think that raising the subject with her will lead to prying questions, just tell her you sleep better in separate rooms — which may be true for a host of reasons. Be direct, but set limits about your privacy.
Views, the Rare Resource Not Diminished by Sharing
I booked a flight from Denver to Aspen way in advance so I could choose a seat with a good view. The flight path is over the Rocky Mountains. I knew it would be thrilling and looked forward to the ride. About halfway through the flight, a passenger asked if I would swap seats with his young daughter so she could have a better view. She’d been jabbering that her seat wasn’t as good. I refused politely. The family and other passengers gave me dirty looks. Did I do the right thing?
Commercial air travel, as with other forms of shared transportation, is a brave experiment in community — often, under lousy circumstances: crowded, cramped and depersonalized. I get that you booked your seat well in advance. You had every right to keep it. In a different context, though, I bet you wouldn’t have minded letting a little girl enjoy your view for 10 minutes. It may not even have taken that long for her to get bored with it.
Workplace Annoyance, or Medical Condition?
I work in a shared office with six people. One of my co-workers belches these incredibly loud, frat-boy burps all day long. Once, she did it seven times in an hour! It’s been going on for months, and I’m not sure how to address it. But it completely grosses me out, and it’s so rude. What can I do?
Disgust is not a constructive starting point for fixing most problems — though I might feel the same if I were in your office chair. Try to reframe this issue: It sounds as if your colleague has reflux or another medical condition that I am equally unqualified to diagnose.
Speak to your manager about the situation. If there is no manager, speak gently to your co-worker. She may not know she has a problem or may think there’s nothing she can do about it, but there probably is if someone persuades her kindly to seek medical attention. So, the question here is: Are you that compassionate person?
A Hard-Earned Title Worth Demanding
I am a retired judge. Like many judicial retirees, I work as a private arbitrator, occasionally on panels of three. I am working on a panel now with a retired judge from another state. On conference calls, he refers to himself as Judge Smith and to me as Miss Jones — even after he’s heard the lawyers call me Judge Jones. Should I let this go, or take it up with him and the agency that books our cases?
To me, it seems just as premature to let this go as it does to report the man to the agency that hires you both. You are peers and have nothing to fear from him. Speak up! Tell him you want to be called Judge Jones — the same honorific you use for him. If he doesn’t, then report him. There is probably some degree of sexism baked into his current behavior, but you won’t know how much until you point out his error directly.