Dear Prudence

Carry That Weight

My wife’s extra pounds are making her less attractive to me.

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Dear Prudie,
More often than not, I find that I am not attracted to my wife, which I attribute primarily to her weight. She weighs at least 50 pounds more than she should. We have three kids (a teenager and two in elementary school), all involved in at least two or three activities at any time of the year. My wife consistently puts her own (and our own) needs last. After a long and stressful day, the only thing that gives her satisfaction is junk food and soda. She has gained most of the weight in the past five years and I simply don’t look at her the way I used to. She says she’s too busy to exercise and has no interest in even trying to diet or switch to diet soda. I’ve tried many angles including concerns over health, joking, teasing, and suggesting we all eat better. Nothing lasts more than a day. Sex happens about twice a month. We’re supposed to go away soon, just the two of us, but I’m not all that excited.

—Losing Interest

Dear Losing,
If only more men could be like The Sopranos’ Johnny Sack. True, he’s a psychopathic murderer, but he’s wonderfully in love with his supersize wife. I’m all for marital honesty, but telling your wife, “Your body repulses me” will be counterproductive. And surely she is unhappier about her weight than you are. You can’t shame her into losing weight, and I assume you don’t want to break up your marriage over it. Yes, she has gotten into bad health habits, but your wife sounds frazzled, burnt out, and possibly depressed. If she is depressed, she needs treatment for that. But she also needs some relief from a life in which she has no time for herself—or the two of you. Sit down with her and discuss the kids’ schedules. Can they each drop one activity? Can you do the driving for the Saturday soccer games? See if there’s a class she’s always wanted to take (don’t mention the gym) and encourage her to sign up. Make time for the two of you—let the teenager watch the little ones, then take a walk after dinner. Have more sex! And go on that vacation, hold her hand in public, and tell her you’re happy to be alone with her.


Dear Prudence,
Working for a small company with only three employees, I have come to love the power and freedom of my job, as well as the friendship my husband and I have developed with the owner and his wife. My problem relates to another employee, a guy who was hired a few months ago. He is slightly older than I am, married, and a father of young children. New Guy seems to have developed a crush on me, and I can find no behavior of my own that has ever encouraged this. He makes me feel uncomfortable by cracking jokes that are not always appropriate or warranted, going out of his way to relate to me on personal levels, and following me around the office for no apparent reason. Sometimes, when he is standing out in front of the building smoking, I catch him staring at me through my window or posing to seem more—I don’t know—sophisticated, perhaps. He knows I am happily married. This situation has made me so uncomfortable that I have feigned sickness to avoid him, if only for a day. My boss respects my stance on most issues, but I would put him in a very difficult situation if I told him how I feel. How do I handle my problem with this co-worker without quitting or getting him fired?


Dear Trapped,
This is the flip side of the office crush. While the besotted one is imagining a rendezvous at a local hotel, the recipient is wondering, “How do I get this jerk out of my life?” Right now his behavior is obnoxious, not predatory. But it is creepy, and if this guy is making you feel so sick that you have to stay home pretending to be sick, then this situation is untenable for you. If you haven’t dealt directly with him, you need to. Tell him in a low-key but firm way that he needs to cut out the jokes, the personal inquiries, and the hanging around you. If that doesn’t cool him off—or if it cools him into hostility—then talk with the boss. New Guy has only been there a few months, and you are a longtime valued employee. Your boss should make clear to New Guy the professional tone that’s expected in your office. But if the boss doesn’t take this seriously enough to intervene, then you have to consider how much you still love this job.


Dear Prudence,
After three months of courtship, my husband and I eloped last summer. He is supportive, sexy, considerate, generous, smart, and after nearly a year, even my critical, self-righteous family likes him because they now see how wonderful he is. The problem is that they don’t know we are married. It took them quite a while to accept him and our relationship, partly because it was introduced as being wedding-bound from the beginning, which was hard for them to understand. I’m in my early 20s, so Mom and Pop still play a vital, authoritative role; I fear they will hate me if I tell them after seven months of marriage that the man they think is my boyfriend is really my husband. But I don’t want to keep lying. How should I tell them the truth?

—Lying by Omission

Dear Lying,
Did you elope just to avoid their judgment that you’re too young to get married? Since you’re old enough to get married, and more to the point, are married, you have to move beyond being cowed by the “authoritative role” your parents play. Invite them over to your house for dinner and just tell them. They will be angry and hurt: You’ve deceived them! You’re too young! You’ve ruined their chances to put on your wedding! They are entitled to an apology for your lack of honesty (“I’m sorry we didn’t tell you sooner”). But the best way to explain that this was the right decision is to not be defensive or embarrassed about it (“You can see how happy we are together”). And whatever you do, don’t let them talk you into keeping it a secret so that they can put on a “real” (fake) wedding.


Dear Prudence,
I am a 35-year-old widow. My dear husband passed away three years ago. When I meet someone for the first time, invariably the conversation will steer to my marital status. If I tell them I’m a widow, they say “I’m sorry.” I understand why they apologize. I used to do it myself. My problem is, I don’t know how to respond. I really don’t want to explain the details. I usually say, politely, “Thank you,” and change the conversation. That makes me look like I’m hiding something. I can lie and say I’m single. But the fact that I have been previously married usually comes out eventually. Plus, I still wear my wedding ring (on the right hand). What is the appropriate response to “I’m sorry about your husband”?

—The Widow

Dear Widow,
In this context, “I’m sorry” is not an apology; it’s the most common locution to express sadness at your loss. By replying “Thank you,” and changing the subject, you are handling the exchange perfectly: acknowledging the remark and gracefully indicating you don’t want to talk about your husband’s death. But if you say you are single, you are not lying. People are single if they are never married, divorced, or widowed. If you choose to avoid the discussion by describing yourself as single, do so in good conscience.