I have been feeling for a while now that your columns are often narrow-minded and a little shallow–generally indicative of a cursory glance at the problem, without the understanding of the complexities of the various situations that you give advice on. I have refrained from commenting on this trend, as all of this was just a feeling. When I had thought about why I didn’t like your column, or rather why I felt it was bad, I didn’t really have a specific reference that popped to mind, nor did I lack the self-respect needed to delve into this further than simply reading your column during my lunch hour because it happens to be located on the same page of the comics. I do find the placement rather ironic.
Anyway, that all changed today when I believe you gave some spectacularly bad advice. Not only did you give bad advice, but I think you lacked the basic understanding that you have a responsibility to your readers, especially to the men and women, boys and girls, who write to you desperately trying to get advice. What you write can have a direct effect on people. They could choose to do something because you suggest it. If you are not willing to take this responsibility with any sense of humility and gravity, then I think you should refrain from writing at all. Flippancy can be very dangerous.
This was the situation: a woman wrote in saying that she and her husband had gotten married, both entering into the marriage on the understanding that there would be no sex, due to the fact that the woman was uncomfortable with that type of intimacy. Ever since they had gotten married however, the husband had turned sullen and passive aggressive, often making unwanted sexual advances towards his wife. This caused the wife distress and not knowing what do to she turned to you–Abby.
What did you tell her? Get a divorce.
You prefaced it with some platitude about how couple should see eye to eye on certain things (coitus) and if they don’t maybe they shouldn’t be together. While I agree with you, I think you missed the point.
The husband had known that this was the condition of their relationship. He had courted, dated, and married the woman. They had talked about it. Instead of jumping to divorce why don’t you suggest counseling. What has changed that the husband now wants sex? Besides being a normal man with reproductive instincts? Why does the woman feel that she must never have sex? Why does it make her uncomfortable? Has she ever been molested? Or is this just an odd quirk that she has grown up with? Did the man change his mind? OR does he feel like his wife doesn’t love him and is compulsively trying to affirm that she does?
There are a thousand questions that this situation presents, many of which need answering before advice can be given. A situation like this cannot be summed up in a four-inch column and the advice given cannot be said in two paragraphs.
If you don’t know the answer, refer her to someone who does. You have done this in the past–like when someone writes in regarding domestic violence. You generally refer them to support and activist groups that can offer the correct kind of support. Instead your answer to this dilemma seemed rather tongue-in-cheek. It felt a little condescending–as if you knew best and would have advised against this marriage in the first place. But didn’t she say there had been an explicit understanding? Didn’t you listen?
Anyway, I just wanted to express my frustration regarding your lack of professionalism and tact. An advice column, to the best of my knowledge, is not really supposed to be a soap box. I could be wrong. It has happened before.
That is why I do not give advice too flippantly.
P.s. Is the fact that your column is on the same page as the comics more than just coincidence? Did I miss something?