in Ethicist

The Ethicist: 15 November 2017

My Wife Is Done With Sex. Can I Turn Elsewhere?

Question:

I … have been happily married for decades. I have always been a very sexual person and consider myself healthy and normal… my wife’s health worsened, and she declared herself no longer interested in sex of any kind. I continue to cherish her, but find the lack of sexual intimacy exceedingly difficult. I asked her permission to seek a friendly but not competitive sexual relationship elsewhere…. on a dating site… My profile received a great deal of rejection…. I was a “dirty old man”; and I was — even with permission — “cheating” …

Correct answer:

This is almost certainly why the word discretion exists in the English language.

Question:

An extended family member posted very private information about me on a social media platform under the guise of honoring me. I do not value this person, whose past actions reveal the character flaws that would lead someone to do such a thing. I do, however, value the person’s family.
I am a very private person who only uses social media to observe what is happening in the lives of close friends and family. I never post anything about my private life. The shock of this invasion caused me to close my account immediately, but many people did see the post and commented on it…. this has caused me great anguish and embarrassment…. I want to make clear that this person crossed a line.

Correct answer:

You’d like to eat the cake of social media stalking, and then proceed to have the cake of humility and privacy, but that’s not the way it works. Choose one: engage in social media (at a level that suits you) or do not. Both options are correct, but whichever you choose, bear in mind that people do talk about one another, and there’s probably nothing you can do to prevent that. If you keep social media accounts active, it will encourage your family members to talk about you.

Question:

A friend forwarded me an email she received about a college classmate of ours who recently died. It turns out that this classmate ended her life because of some psychological issues relating to an unusual condition that materialized in the last two years.
The woman who wrote the email that was circulating was my classmate’s sister; she shared some conversation screenshots with time stamps that demonstrated her sister’s growing mental distress. She made it clear that she was sharing this material because she wanted to raise awareness of this condition.
I had never heard of the condition, so it was illuminating, but I feel unsettled and guilty for knowing these details, as my classmate took so much care to keep them secret while she was alive…. is it O.K. that it is circulating after her death?

Correct answer:

When someone kills himself or herself, there’s often so much uncertainty and confusion among that person’s peers and extended group of family members and friends, which is why so often we hear things like, “If only he or she had reached out to ask for help…” If a family member chooses to provide answers as a way of helping others who could find themselves in similar situations, that’s a good thing and should not be criticized.