Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have never been skinny, but have gone up and down in weight over the past couple years. I am fun, smart, have a good job, and am a size 14/16. I dress well and have a ton of friends who like me.
The problem? My husband of seven years, partner of much more. He always makes weight and exercise comments to me. And whenever I tell him how much it hurts or bothers me, he says I am scarred from my childhood and I am unable to have a talk about my weight or exercise without getting upset.
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He says he only cares about my health, but he makes me feel like crap.
I try to tell him NO wife would like it, but he doesn’t care. I feel like I have been having this fight forever, with no end in sight. Today he told me as long as I don’t lose weight or exercise, I will have to listen to him for the next 30 years.
Am I being too sensitive? Should I leave? Otherwise, we have a ton in common and a great time. But I hate when he gets like this.
DEAR WEIGHT: That kind of badgering is so completely unacceptable — especially in a marriage, but really between any two people joined by an emotional bond.
Have you asked him what purpose he thinks he serves, repeatedly telling you things that any sentient adult already knows? Things that annoy you, hurt your feelings, move you to question how much he actually cares about your needs versus his own, have you now wondering whether you should leave the marriage — but haven’t once made you thinner?
How does he define “health”?
Should he counter with the you’re-scarred-from-childhood howler, stand firm. “I don’t like talking about my weight because there’s nothing more to say, and because I’ve asked you to drop it. Your choice to belabor the subject, despite my explicit request that you drop it, is not my parents’ fault, nor is it my fault.”
If that’s not enough to wake up this “partner” of yours to his arrogance, then Step 2 is to identify an area where you’d enjoy some improvement in him, and asking how he’d like it if you reminded him on a daily basis that he was falling short of your expectations — and then blamed him if he failed to receive these constant corrections in good cheer.
Should he answer this with an “I’d appreciate it because I want to improve myself” (which will most likely be rhetoric, not truth), then you have an opening to request counseling: “We obviously have different ideas of the boundaries between what’s our own business and what’s the other person’s. I’d like to go to marriage counseling with you so we can work this out.”
And finally … if he refuses, then you have two things: (1) a solid indication that this issue goes well beyond your weight and into matters of boundaries, kindness, arrogance and entitlement, and (2) a decision to make. Is this a deal-breaker for you, those impending 30 years with him all up in your grill, thinking he has that right?