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I have a recurring fantasy about having a threesome with my husband and his brother. I'm not interested in other men, and I'm not interested in my in-law without my spouse's involvement. So how do I bring this up? Or will the aftermath of even asking be too weird to live with? --Obsessed With My Brother-in-Law

In order for you to realize this fantasy, your husband will have to be into the idea of sharing his wife not just with another man but with his brother, which would mean having sex in front of his brother and watching his brother have sex. And even if he is into it, that's no guarantee your brother-in-law will be interested. Since it's difficult for me to imagine anything that would impede an erection more thoroughly than the sight of my siblings, it seems highly unlikely to me that this is going to work out. Perhaps your husband and his brother are different.

On the off chance that they are, there's a way for you to sound out your husband about this fantasy without having to take responsibility for it, thereby avoiding an aftermath too weird to live with. I've taken the liberty of writing out some dialogue for you:

Wife: "I had the freakiest dream last night."

Hubby: (Half listening.) "Really?"

Wife: "Well...it was a wet dream."

Hubby: (Paying rapt attention.) "Really? Tell me about it."

Wife: "Well, in it I was having a three-way with you and your brother!"

Hubby: "My brother?"

Wife: "Isn't that crazy? Nothing like that had ever crossed my mind before but, boy, was I enjoying myself in that dream!"

It's very important that you appear neither delighted nor disgusted by your "dream." If you feign disgust, your husband will respond in kind even if he's aroused by the idea. Again, while it's highly unlikely he will be aroused by the idea, you don't want him to say "Yuck!" because he sees "Yuck!" playing on your face. Similarly, you don't want to act delighted

in case your husband finds your dream disgusting, as that would lead to the weird aftermath you fear so much. Simply tell your husband about it with as much wide-eyed, I-can't-believe-it, isn't-it-crazy neutrality as you can muster.

Depending on his feelings about tag teaming the wife with his brother, your husband will respond in one of two ways:

First possible response (99 percent likelihood):

Hubby: "That's disgusting!"

Wife: "I know, isn't it gross? Must've been something I ate. Jesus, I feel so dirty I'm going to go take a shower."

Second possible response (1 percent likelihood):

Hubby: "That's funny. Just the other day my brother and I were talking about how much fun we used to have banging girls together. Shall we give him a call?"

Wife: "Yes, please."

Good luck.

My wife's best friend (call her Jennifer) is 24. She got married three years ago to a guy that my wife and I both hated on sight. He was rude and pushy, and had very few redeeming qualities. Jennifer divorced this guy a year later. Now, Jennifer is a year into a relationship with a new guy who reminds my wife and me very much of her first husband. He makes rude and obnoxious comments, is lazy, and is very ungrateful and demanding. In the interim between the ex-husband and the new boyfriend, Jennifer told my wife she would have appreciated it if someone had told her what a loser her ex-husband was before she married him. What's the best way to broach the subject and prevent her from getting involved with another loser she'll just divorce in another year? --Stop the Madness

Tell Jennifer what you think already--it's been a year, what are you waiting for? The engagement party?

But bear in mind, of course, that Jennifer was lying when she told your wife she would have appreciated it if someone had told her what an asshole her ex-husband was before the wedding. People always say that after a relationship ends, but they don't mean it. If your wife had told Jennifer her ex-husband was an asshole before the wedding, that bit of honesty would've cost your wife Jennifer's friendship, and simple spite might have kept her with the asshole for another year. ("I'll show her she was wrong about my husband! I'm going to make this marriage work!")

But now that Jennifer has gone on the record with give-it-to-me-straight, well, let her have it. Considering her track record, she might be willing to listen to reason. But I doubt it. No, she'll probably get mad, cut you guys off, and marry Asshole #2. But you'll enjoy three perks for telling her the truth: you'll both be able to sleep at night; you won't be invited to the wedding; and you'll be able to say I told you so when Jennifer comes crawling back to you for emotional support after she decides to divorce Asshole #2.

I, too, am certain you will get tons of letters from amateur psychologists scolding you for your response to Call Me Shallow, the man whose girlfriend put on weight. As a professional psychotherapist, I wanted to back you up on your advice to the unhappy boyfriend. Your distinction between long-term marriage and a short, early relationship is apt. More importantly, we often believe that it is only right to stick by our friends and loved ones when they are depressed--which is true, of course, providing that our loved ones are getting help with their problems. And though commitment and support in relationships are crucial, one of the worst things we can do for those with untreated and unacknowledged depression or mental health issues is to be silent and pretend that nothing is wrong.

CMS's coming clean to his girlfriend, telling her that he is no longer attracted to her and no longer wants to be in a relationship with her, could bring about all kinds of needed realizations. It may be a way for her to disclose how incredibly unhappy she is with him. It may instigate the important, pre-lifetime-commitment conversation that reveals his values have become dramatically different from hers--a typical and essential event in your 20s. In other words, CMS's admission of his own unhappiness may be, for his girlfriend, that critical mass of consequences that forces her to ask herself what's up with her life, and is she really happy in it, and if not, why?

So many of my clients have spent years in misery afraid to get any help for fear of being judged or criticized. It isn't until the wife divorces them, or the boyfriend leaves, or one of a dozen jobs ends in failure that they are finally distressed enough to ignore their fears and get help. I wish them both a lot of luck.

--Kathleen M. Pape, MA, CMHC

Seattle, WA

PS: FYI for your readers, Dan: Most major cities have a clinic or referral service to counselors who see clients on a sliding fee scale, so don't let money be an issue. Call a crisis line for clinic phone numbers, or look in the yellow pages under "Counselors."

Thanks for sharing, doc.

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