How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Surveilling Me Via Our Smart Home Devices, And Other Advice Column Questions

· Updated:

There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we're committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here's a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Surveilling Me Via Our Smart Home Devices?

In this age of "smart homes," where everything can be synched up by an app with notifications, are we wrong to feel a loss of privacy?

I work from home, so I am mainly at home during the day.

My husband gets alerts every time the front door is opened. If a package is delivered, he receives an image of the package. He can track the electricity usage from our solar production. He can turn off the lights and open the skylight from his phone.

Today he texted me that I shouldn't be running the dryer during certain peak hours. He then shut it off remotely!

I have nothing to hide, but am increasingly annoyed that my own actions are being tracked.

He's micromanaging me from afar!

How should I handle this?

[Tribune Content Agency]

Amy Dickinson advises the letter writer to get out of the house during the day if their husband won't respect their privacy. "I wish people were more aware of the potential negative impact these devices and systems can have on our personal lives and relationships," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Is It Funny To Intentionally Fall Down And Drop Everything At Work?

I was having a chat with my friend the other day, and they told me that they were having fun at work by pretending to fall down in front of coworkers and dropping all their papers as a prank. They seemed to think it was all in good fun because they never let their coworkers in on the fact that it was a prank (although they did actually hurt their wrist doing this). I was surprised and responded that I thought it was mean-spirited, because it's making coworkers stop work to care for them as a "joke."

They're now angry that I'm judging them for their sense of humor and they aren't talking to me. If I were this person's coworker, I don't know what I'd do, but I do think it would be weird and uncomfortable once the multiple well-timed fake falls became suspicious. What's your take on this and how would you communicate with someone as a colleague or friend to help them see how this isn't an okay thing to do? At this point I'm planning on dropping it with this person, but I have no idea how to most effectively bring this up if I were the colleagues being "pranked."

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green agrees that this "prank" is annoying, not funny. "If I managed someone doing this, I'd have serious concerns about their judgment and would probably take a closer look at their work across the board because it would be so likely that this wasn't the only judgment problem happening," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Can My Father-In-Law Confine Me To My Room For 24 Hours Because I Took A Call During Dinner?

So my wife and I are vacationing with her family. At dinner tonight, I had to take a phone call and I excused myself from the table. When I returned, my food was no longer at the table. I was told by my in-laws that I was to head to my room without dinner as I was being Insubordinate in interrupting dinner. I'm supposed to stay there for 24 hours. My wife tells me I should accept this to keep the peace. I don't want to. Am I being unreasonable? Should I accept this punishment?

So They almost punished my sister in law for trying to sneak me food and have turned off the WiFi (I'm obviously skirting that with cellular data.) what should I do to end this?…

i don't want to give away my exact age but my wife and I are in our 30s


The commenters on the r/relationship_advice subreddit agree that the father-in-law's behavior is not okay. "Go home. After your wife gets home, go to couples counseling. Describe this incident. Her acceptance of her parents' insane behavior is a huge red flag," reads one of the top comments. Read the rest of the answers.

How Can I Get My Boyfriend To Stop Giving Our Puppy The Silent Treatment For Following Me Around?

My boyfriend, "Marcus," and I recently adopted an adorable rescue puppy, "Daisy." She was supposed to be mostly my boyfriend's dog because I work a demanding full-time job, and I have a cat that lives with us. Marcus has always been a dog person, but I enjoy them, too.

The problem is, Daisy has taken a liking to me. When I'm home, she follows me everywhere. I suspect, due to her behavior, that she may have been mistreated by men previously, but nonetheless, Marcus is extremely hurt. He won't take her outside if I'm home, and he doesn't try to play with her or train her. Every time she rejects him in any way, he takes it personally.

We signed Daisy up for a puppy training class. He participated for about five minutes before giving up and handing me the leash during the first lesson. How do I get my boyfriend to stop taking our puppy's behavior so personally? I should note, we went through this when my cat didn't like him at first, but they are on good terms now.


Abigail Van Buren points out that the boyfriend's behavior is likely strengthening the puppy's attachment to the letter writer. "If this is the way your boyfriend reacts to perceived rejection, I'd think twice about starting a family with him if I were you," she adds. Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get My Husband To Stop Adding Barbecue Sauce, Beans, Nuts, Olives, And Berries To The Meals I Cook?

I enjoy cooking. I have lots of cookbooks, and I watch cooking shows and attend cooking seminars. My family and friends enjoy my meals and dishes, helping themselves to seconds and leaving clean plates…

And then there's my husband. He will supplement my carefully and artfully prepared meals with almost anything he likes that's not included. For example, I served shrimp and grits (a little Parmesan cheese and scallions on top) with a side of lemony roasted asparagus. He poured barbecue sauce on top and also added pinto beans, olives, Brazil nuts and blueberries.

When I have questioned him, he says that other chefs create unusual combinations — as if he is a culinary trailblazer.

In actuality, it's hurtful that he doesn't like my meals and has to hide the taste or enhance the menu. It's also, visually, a "gag" moment for others to watch him mix this mush together on his plate…

What can I do? I'm not sure I want to divorce him.


Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin encourage the letter writer to allow her husband to add condiments or garnishes, but not other ingredients, to his meals. "You may further remind him that he always has the option of making the meal himself, start to finish," they write. Read the rest of their answer.

Should I Allow My 6-Year-Old To Put A Temporary 'Storks' Tattoo On Her Face For Picture Day?

My 6-year-old recently wanted to put a temporary tattoo on her face for picture day at her school. We have generally been of the opinion that our kids can dress or adorn themselves as they please, as long as they aren't doing anything permanent or that would get them kicked out of class. However, I didn't particularly want to have her wear a distracting tattoo on her face for her school picture.

Assuming the school would allow it, would you let your kid wear the tattoo? Does it matter what age they are? Mind you, this was not a small one with, say, a butterfly or stars; it was a palm-sized bright pink square with a picture of a mom and a baby from the movie Storks, with the word "Storks" on it.


Jamilah Lemieux says that she would not allow her child to wear a temporary tattoo on her face for picture day. "Children are now subject to being photographed on any day ending in y, but I still maintain a level of authority over any professional photos that will be shared with other family members, published in a yearbook, distributed to classmates, etc.," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.


Digg · Updated:

There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we're committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here's a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

Am I Wrong To Feel Creeped Out After My Boyfriend's Mom Stole My Bras?

My boyfriend and I moved in with his mom and younger sibs after she lost her job and couldn't pay rent. None of the interior doors has a lock, as it is an old house. I have never gotten weird vibes from my boyfriend's mom, just the general introvert vs. extrovert clashes.

I require special bras so my back doesn't give out in pain three hours into a shift. My bras are custom-ordered, and the cheapest ones start at $200… Over the past months, several of my bras have gone missing. I would hand-wash them, go to work, and they would be gone when I came back. I honestly thought I was losing my mind or my boyfriend's teenage brother was stealing them. Only it turned out to be his mom. I noticed her bra strap as belonging to one of my favorites and confronted her — she took them because hers "broke" and she couldn't be bothered to go shopping. She didn't think it was a "big deal." We are "both girls." I hit the roof and cornered my boyfriend to get my bras back…

I guess I was too loud because my boyfriend's mother returned everything — unwashed — and has made uncomfortable remarks about my sensitivity. My boyfriend doesn't quite get it, and I feel like hitting my head against the wall… I really want to put a lock on our door now, and my boyfriend says I am being irrational. I feel like I have to put a clear sign about my boundaries because his mom went into our bathroom and stole my bras! I know it isn't sexual, but I am freaked out. Am I wrong? 


Danny M. Lavery confirms that the boyfriend's mother's behavior is very creepy and that the letter writer isn't being "irrational" about it. "Even if these weren't expensive, custom-made pieces designed specifically to help you with your back pain, it would still be totally inappropriate for your boyfriend's mother to take them without asking," he writes. Read the rest of his answer.

Am I A Jerk For Permanently Deleting My Girlfriend's Instagram Account Without Her Knowledge?

My girlfriend [24F] and I [27M] have been dating for 5 years now. I don't have any social media — no facebook, instagram, twitter, snap etc. I am a private guy and like keeping my personal life to myself.

My girlfriend on the other hand, is obsessed with instagram. She has over 800 photos posted on instagram and is constantly scrolling through instagram every waking moment she's not working or sleeping. She would rather spend time attention-seeking from her 5000+ followers than spend some quality time with me.

I confronted her a few times about this in the last few years, and she always tells me she'll cut down on her instagram usage but she never did.

Last week she was using my laptop because her laptop was at the store and noticed she forgot to logout from her email. I did the forgot password thing and reset her password to log in. I googled "how to delete instagram" and followed the link and deleted the account.

She woke up the next morning and started screaming and crying about how I permanently "deleted" her instagram instead of "deactivating" it and that I betrayed her trust etc.

Now she won't talk to me because she says she can't recover instagram and her profile of 10 years is lost forever. I think she's being incredibly childish and throwing a tantrum over some random app.

Am I the asshole?

[Reddit via Twitter]

The commenters on the r/AmItheAsshole subreddit overwhelmingly agree that the letter writer is the asshole. "Is this even a question?" one writes. "You were a dick and had no right to delete something of hers, regardless of how you feel about it." Read the rest of their answers.

Should I Continue Dating A Man Who Dreams Of Settling Down With Two Women?

I've been seeing this guy, "David," on and off for almost a year and a half and we have this long-distance relationship going on. This is my very first relationship, but he's been with a few women in the past. While we can't see each other as often as we'd like, I intend to fix that this fall semester, since I'll be transferring to a college that is closer to where he lives…

I think I love him. But sometimes when we talk, he reminds me that I'm not going to be the only woman in his life. He tells me that he plans to come home one day to children — and two women.

He says he would like to start seeing someone else while still dating me. Although it kind of breaks my heart, I'd still want to be in that relationship with him. I said I'd be there for him no matter what happens because I love him so much. And I said that I'm fine with another woman. But really, I don't think I am.

There are many great things about David: He does his "boyfriend duties." He's there for me when I'm sad, when I need to rant, when I just need to feel loved. We text each other a lot when we're both not too busy. I know he has work, and he works on recording music after work, which can make life pretty busy. So some days we don't talk to each other, which I totally understand.

I don't want to let go of him because he's become such a big part of my life already.

I want him to be happy and achieve his dream of living with two women, so I wouldn't mind if another woman is involved. And if it ever got to be too much for me, I could just leave him (and take any children we have with me and be a single mom), right?

I don't know what I really feel. I want to be with him, but I don't want to fight for his attention. Am I selfish in a way for wanting my man to myself, to not have to share him with another woman? What should I do?


Annie Lane tells the letter writer in no uncertain terms that this relationship is doomed. "Break it off, and the sooner the better," she writes. "You'll feel lonely for a little while, but not nearly as lonely as you would beside someone who can never love you the way that you need." Read the rest of her answer.

Was It Okay For My Company To Send Employees N95 Masks And Then Ask For A 'Heartfelt Thank-You'?

My brain has kept gravitating to this email I received late last week from the head of HR at my company. About two weeks ago, our company sent out complimentary N95 masks to our homes, which was very nice of them.

Our HR head emailed to notify us of fun virtual competitions to help heighten morale for a few minutes during this craziness. The first two contests seemed light-hearted and included being the first to send a picture with your mask on or taking a creative pic with your mask. But the last one rubbed me the wrong way. She said the final prize will to someone who submits a photo using the mask while incorporating a "heartfelt thank-you" to the executive team, since they mailed them to our home at no cost and didn't sell them.

I am not overly fond of the idea of selling masks because I don't think you should capitalize on a crisis. I disagree that my company deserves a pat on the back for not selling them to us. They do deserve praise for thinking about our health, but sending an email asking for thanks that these masks weren't sold to us just seems ... tacky? It seems like they want the recognition and are forcing it upon us which makes me very uncomfortable.

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green rules that the letter writer's company is being very tone-deaf. "If you're in the U.S., there's another problem here, which is that there's a serious shortage of N95 masks for health care workers, who need them far more than people who are working from home (as opposed to the more common fabric masks)," she adds. Read the rest of her answer

How Can I Stop Thinking About My Mother-In-Law During Sex With My Wife?

Although I have been happily married to my wife for three years, from the beginning I have been sexually attracted to my mother-in-law. She is a fantastic woman in her 50s and looks almost like my wife, but more beautiful. We live in the same area and we see each other two or three times a week. I have sex with my wife almost every day and it is great, but for the past few months, I can't help but think of my mother-in-law during sex. I feel guilty about it. Please help me.

[The Guardian]

Pamela Stephenson Connolly posits that the taboo nature of the letter writer's attraction is fueling its intensity. "Your fantasies are your own, though, and this one is harmless enough as long as you are not planning to act it out," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Can I Write A Letter To A Couple I've Never Met Asking Them To Stop Smoking In Their Home?

Since our stay-at-home order, I've had to change my running patterns. I now run past a residential garage at 7 a.m. Inside, an elderly couple smokes and runs a fan that blows cigarette smoke onto the sidewalk. I try to remember to run on the other side of the street, but I often forget. I think it's outrageous that I'm forced to breathe in secondhand smoke! Should I write the couple a letter asking them to stop?

[The New York Times]

Philip Galanes advises the letter writer not to write the letter. "Absent a law (or homeowner rule) that forbids smoking on the property, the couple is probably free to do so, and the inconvenience to you seems minor," he observes. Read the rest of his answer.

How Can I Reconcile With A Friend Who Told Me To Stop Contacting Her, Blocked Me, And Moved Away, And Other Advice Column Questions

· Updated:

There are too many excellent advice columns to keep up with, so we're committed to bringing you links to the best advice column questions and answers every week. Here's a roundup of the most interesting, thought-provoking and surprising questions that our favorite columnists (and subreddits) addressed in recent days.

How Can I Reconcile With A Friend Who Told Me To Stop Contacting Her, Blocked Me, And Moved Away?

I had this friend that I met eight months ago at a local boxing gym here in Chicago. We got along extremely well and even hung out a couple of times. However, she left her job at the gym two months later and things started falling apart.

I started sending excessive messages on her social media, and she didn't like it. By the following month, she had enough. She told me I have an unhealthy attachment to her and we would go our separate ways. She blocked me from all social media, and she hasn't contacted me since.

Four months later, I am better, but she is still in my head. I really want to write her a nice and sincere letter and reconcile with her and have her be my friend again. I didn't know that I was doing something wrong.

I have tried reaching out to her multiple times recently via email, to no avail. In the meantime, one of her friends told me she has moved to Texas, which makes it even more heartbreaking. How can I show her I can be her friend again without exhibiting those same "toxic" behaviors? 


Abigail Van Buren accurately describes the letter writer's behavior as stalking. "She has sent you clear signals that she's not interested in being friends — or anything more — with you," she writes. "For your own sake, take the hint, leave her alone and, please, learn from this experience so you won't repeat it with someone else." Read the rest of her answer.

How Can I Get Over The Fact That My Ex Lied To Me About Being Infertile To Test Me?

Five years ago I broke up with "Amy" because she couldn't have children. I felt awful about it, but having a family had always been important to me, and she wasn't interested in adoption or surrogacy right from the start. We just couldn't imagine a future where we were happy. Then about a week before shelter-in-place orders started, I ran into Amy at a farmer's market. She was six months pregnant. We talked for a while, I congratulated her, and she asked if I was a dad yet. When she found out I wasn't she said that this baby could have been mine if I'd passed her test. According to Amy she'd never been told she was infertile — she just wanted to see if I loved her enough to give up on being a dad. So she lied for over four months until we broke up. 

I can't get over it. I don't know if it is because I'm stuck inside on my own or what, but it just eats at me. It's not the "what if" of it all. I am just angry and frustrated. The fact that I felt guilty for years because of a lie makes me feel like an idiot. The fact that she came up with this out of nowhere makes me feel like I never knew her. Who does something like that? Maybe if I talk it out with someone it would be better, but it doesn't really seem like a phone conversation…

This was a really weird thing to do, right? How do I stop chewing on something like this?


Danny M. Lavery agrees that this was a really weird thing to do. "You have every right to be shocked and hurt and angry," he writes. "Give yourself a lot of time to feel that way, and please do reach out to as many people as you possibly can." Read the rest of his answer.

Am I Wrong To Be Upset That My Boyfriend Dedicated The Book I Helped Him Edit To OJ Simpson?

My boyfriend of 5 years has many great traits, but the one very weird quirk is that he's convinced OJ didn't do it. He's seen every documentary and mini series and still thinks OJ is innocent. His explanation of who he thinks did it is probably even crazier than other OJ truthers, but he's not a conspiracy theorist other than this so I mostly let it go…

He recently self published a book, unrelated to OJ. It's just science fiction. I read all his drafts and helped him edit. Perhaps narcissistically I thought I would be the person to whom he dedicated the book. It wasn't until I ordered it that I opened and saw it was dedicated to fucking OJ.

Now I know it's his right to do whatever he wants but I wouldn't have been upset if he dedicated it to his mom or something. But he's never met OJ. He said he hoped the book would go big, people would buy it and be thrown off by the dedication (which talks about OJ being innocent) and this would "open the Pandora's box" to the world... [H]is Hope was to write a science fiction book (seemed odd to me because he's not usually a writer) that would "be the next viral novel" with the secret agenda of highlighting OJ. He also was hoping OJ himself would see it.

He's telling me none of this affects me so I'm in the wrong to be so offended. But come on….this just feels like delusion and it makes me angry that I helped him edit a book that turned out to be some OJ related secret plot.

[Reddit via Twitter]

The commenters on the r/AmItheAsshole subreddit vote that neither the letter writer nor their boyfriend is a jerk, but most argue that the boyfriend's preoccupation with OJ Simpson is concerning. "It would be one thing to want to write a scifi novel for the sake of writing a scifi novel and then happen to dedicate it to OJ, but from what you described, he has a master plan to exonerate OJ's image, and this novel is just a piece of the plan," one of them writes. "That's not exactly normal thinking." Read the rest of their answers.

Should I Say Something To My Coworker Who Emailed The Entire Staff To Say COVID-19 Is A Hoax?

I am wondering if I am overreacting or if this is really as bad as I think it is. I have a coworker (she's an admin assistant) who has frequently sent what I feel to be politically charged emails to the entire staff. Yesterday, we all got one saying that COVID-19 is a hoax, and that if we're smart, we'll abandon our state's continuing stay-at-home order and start going about our lives as normal. This seems highly inappropriate to me, and like a liability to my employer. She also wears t-shirts with political slogans to work, shirts which are clearly against our dress code. Should I speak up, or just hope management is dealing with this behind the scenes?

[Ask A Manager]

Alison Green encourages the letter writer either to reply to the coworker directly to tell her not to send those kinds of emails or to ask the coworker's boss to handle it. "I'm surprised that your management hasn't already shut this down — if nothing else, because they presumably don't want others to start flooding your staff email list with their own political messages," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

Should I Move In With My Boyfriend, With Whom I Have A Child, Against My Parents' Wishes?

I'm 24 years old and have been with my partner, "Bob," for six years. We have a child together and both families know that we are in a relationship. Bob and I want to take our relationship to the next level and move in together, but I don't know how to approach my parents because they want marriage first. Please help. 

[Dear Wendy]

Wendy Atterberry points out that the idea of marriage before moving in doesn't make much sense when there's already a child in the picture. "You already took your relationship to the 'next level,'" she writes. "Move the hell in together if that's what you want." Read the rest of her answer.

Hasn't Feminism Deprived Women Of The Benefit Of Traditional Manners And Male Deference?

Women today have been empowered to act and speak out against sexual harassment, bullying, rape, etc. This is a major milestone.

However, over the past few years I have observed the lack of traditional manners toward women by men. I notice husbands and male partners pushing through doors before their wives and dates (instead of holding doors open). I see them seating themselves in restaurants before their dates and wives have been seated.

Along with the gains that women have made, have they also lost the benefit of traditional manners and male deference?

[Tribune Content Agency]

Amy Dickinson opines that most women don't care about traditional manners and male deference. "Kind and loving people (no matter the gender) demonstrate their consideration by being polite, deferential, kind and courteous toward one another," she writes. Read the rest of her answer.

LV Anderson is the news editor at Grist and an advice column aficionado.

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