Slate’s Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. dear Prudence, regularly dispenses bad relationship advice. Recently she had a question from a woman who didn’t know what to do after catching her husband reading her online rants about 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?
Now, he had not challenged her for ranting about him, and he wasn’t trying to use her rants against her in divorce proceedings. He was just trying to fix the things she had been complaining about, and she had even noticed the positive changes. But now she discovered he was a member of this group where she ranted, and now she really didn’t know what to do. So far, at least, she has not even confronted him for listening to her.
It is really unclear what her problem was. From the tone of the letter it sounds like she somehow felt cheated, as if she caught him looking for other women online, or snooping on her emails. I guess she felt like her public online forum was a place to vent privately, and felt betrayed that her husband was invading her private space. More likely, she just wanted to complain, and
Many of the commenters pointed out that this woman is married to a saint. Instead of taking umbrage at her online ranting about him, he quietly goes about fixing what she was complaining about. Emily Yoffe has hard time seeing the positive:
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.
So she invents some bad behavior as an excuse to ignore his good behavior.
She then suggests that this women lets her forum friends know that her husband has undergone a remarkable transformation, and then she should move to face-to-face communication with her husband. She has found a way to successfully communicate with her husband, so she gets advice to blow that up and have “real” communication instead. I have often thought the meme of “its all about communication” was somehow an escape from real responsibility. This advice takes it to a new level, suggesting face-to-face communication as a way to solve the problem that they have managed to successfully communicate.
Both the woman’s question and the answer she received seem to see ranting and complaining as relationships basics. This woman seems to have never wanted her husband to change. She just wanted to complain about him publicly, Emily Yoffe is surprisingly attuned to the problem, and advises her on how to re-assert her right to complain and reintroduce conflict to her marriage. It would have been a lot nicer to see a response reminding her that her problems with her husband should never be the focus of her relationship or regular material for discussion. At this point she does not need to move to face-to-face communications. She needs to realize that she has worked out some major problems and now it is time for her to contribute positively to the relationship.