Dear Prudence

My Husband’s Fasting Diet Has Turned Him Into a Hangry Monster

He won’t eat all day, then melts down like a toddler if dinner isn’t ready when he gets home.

A Black woman stands in the kitchen with her arms crossed and eyes downcast. A white man is in the foreground.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Danny Lavery is off this week. Care and Feeding columnist Nicole Cliffe is filling in for a couple of special columns. Slate is now asking those who read the most to support our journalism more directly by subscribing to Slate Plus. Learn more.

Dear Prudence,

My husband is awesome—smart, funny, and until recently exactly the person I’d most want to be stuck social distancing with for the long haul. Last year, before our wedding, he lost a significant amount of weight through a combination of intermittent fasting and exercise. He never consulted a doctor about this diet, but it seemed to work for him. Lately, however, we are all under a bit more stress. He works in a reopening industry, and the days are long trying to keep everything together. I notice that he doesn’t eat in the morning or all day and comes home from work in a sulky, sad mood, ravenously hungry and sluggish. Once we finally figure out dinner, which I try to put together in a mad rush to prevent a meltdown, his mood eases a bit. I can tell he’s just extremely hungry on top of everything else and would probably do better if he were open to eating something in the morning before he goes and then having a small snack. I am also working full time, and while I am lucky enough to work from home, it’s starting to wear on me that I feel pressure to have dinner just about ready when he walks in the door or else the whole evening is sunk on brain fog and bad moods. I’ve tried to talk to him about the fact that this diet isn’t suited for our situation right now, but he thinks this is working fine and doesn’t want to regain all the weight he lost. I’ve tried asking him to consult a doctor or dietician, and he balks, saying with the pandemic we don’t have the time, money, or room in our budget for a big medical overhaul of his diet right now. I am floundering. It’s isolating being home alone all day, and I no longer look forward to him getting back as keenly because I know his mood will be bad until he’s fed. How do I start with this? I don’t want to shame him over his eating habits, and he’s an adult who presumably doesn’t want to be nagged to eat an apple like a melting-down toddler.

—Fed Up With Fasting

You definitely don’t and shouldn’t have to act like a mama bird and drop protein bars into his mouth on the hour. But let’s see if we can find some middle ground. Would he eat breakfast if you made it? Or eat a paper bag lunch if you handed it to him on the way out the door?

I’m not suggesting this is your job. I genuinely want to figure out if he is just stressed and not eating as a result, or if he has an eating disorder that has resurfaced as a way to control the uncontrollable world we currently live in. If he was willing to eat prepared meals (just one!) during the day, I would see this as more stress-driven. If he’s not, my answer would still be the same: He needs to be in counseling. I know he’s already shot down doctors and dieticians (and frankly, “room in the budget” is not a great excuse for not eating a bowl of Cheerios in the morning).

What may be missing here is a genuine awareness of how his actions are affecting you, his wife. I want you to be firm, loving, and understanding and refuse to have the topic changed or your concerns dismissed. This is a family problem, and I would start with saying you need him to take this seriously enough to try couples counseling. They may refer him to individual counseling, they may continue working with you together, but in either case, you’ll be able to speak without being interrupted. He may say it’s not in the budget, but neither is getting a divorce because your husband comes home hangry and pissed off every day.

Dear Prudence,

I was in a loving relationship with the person of my dreams for many years, but early last year, they moved to a different part of the country, due to work and the desire to be closer to their family. Although initially upset, I understood their reasoning. Initially we tried long distance, but after a couple of months, they stated it was too hard, which really broke my heart. For context, they are the type of person who chooses to shut out people over confrontation or extreme hardship. Over the next few months, we didn’t talk that much but did still keep in contact and were able to see each other a few times, due to our traveling for work obligations. Then they were diagnosed with an illness that didn’t give them much time. I immediately went to them and took care of them for the remaining few months. We shared wonderful moments and reestablished our love for each other. They passed away while squeezing my hand. While dealing with their affairs, I received a message from someone who I didn’t recognize and responded back to ask who they were. They stated that they had dated briefly but that my partner had broken things off right when they became really sick (around the same time I came back full time into his life). This person did mention having heard about me, but I can’t help feeling so betrayed, as I didn’t know that my partner had dated anyone else. Looking back at the dates, I can see that we were together a few times while they were dating this new person. I feel so confused, and now my devastating grief has turned into feeling that maybe they didn’t really love me. I know it wasn’t technically cheating, but I still feel sad and don’t know how to reconcile my feelings. Please help.

—Postmortem Betrayal

Loss is loss is loss. You can feel whatever feelings you have at the given moment, and in 20 minutes, you may have completely different feelings. You are mourning your breakup, you are mourning their illness, you are mourning their death, and you are mourning the infidelity (however messy and uncertain that “infidelity” may be).

I don’t think you have to reconcile your feelings to move through them. I do think counseling would help, as would a grief/anger journal. I also recommend an excellent memoir by a woman who discovered her husband’s infidelity after his sudden death. Her situation was more complex than yours, but you’re dealing with many similar emotions.

Please reach out to your support structure, whatever that looks like: friends, family, online grief groups. Talking will help, especially talking about your mixed feelings. People will understand. All my best in getting through this. It will take some time.

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Dear Prudence,

When my partner and I moved in together about a year ago, I had to rehome my cat. She lives with my grandma, who spoils her rotten, and she is truly happy, but I miss her every day. My partner is allergic, so she couldn’t sleep with us, which was hard on her, and she couldn’t adjust to the roommate’s cats, which was hard on everyone. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but I did it for her. I’ve always had pets, and my cat was crucial to my mental health. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and on my worst days, having her was the only thing that kept me going. Since losing my job due to COVID-19 and sheltering in place, my depression and anxiety have increased. After a lot of research and thought, I told my partner I really wanted to get a dog. I spent a lot of time finding a dog that fit his aesthetic desires and was already socialized to cats. I asked two out of our three roommates, and they agreed. My partner asked the third roommate, and the roommate said no. My partner showed me the text exchange, and he had said to our roommate that I kept “bothering” him about getting a dog. When the roommate said he didn’t want another animal in the house, my partner said, “Yeah, I feel you. She just keeps bringing it up.” I was obviously very hurt and cried. He said he didn’t mean it to sound dismissive and he understood my desire in getting a dog for mental health, and after crying all day I told him that I wouldn’t hold it against him. It’s been over a month now, and I still do. I could provide a wonderful, loving home to an animal, and since I was raised with them, animals are important to me. He doesn’t share those values, but I thought he would understand the therapeutic aspect that I sought from an animal companion. How can I move forward and honor my promise that I wouldn’t hold it against him?

—Dog Dreams

I can see how hurtful it would be to see that text exchange, which seems extremely dismissive of your genuine desire to have a dog for therapeutic reasons. I’m very sorry about that.

I think you need to set aside that conversation and look at the bottom line. Every adult in the house has to sign on to have a dog. This is why rescues will often insist on talking to everyone in the home, even if they are not adopting the dog themselves. In addition, have you asked your landlord about pets? I’m sure that you could manage to get the dog certified as an emotional support animal, which is a far smaller bar than a service animal but would allow you to use the Fair Housing Act to bypass anything in your lease that denies pets. This is not what I am suggesting you do, so consider that more general advice for people who have a genuine need for an emotional support animal and whose roommates are on board with it.

Your roommate does not want the dog, so you can’t get a dog. This means that if you need to have a dog, you are going to have to find a new place to live, at a time when you are unemployed and homebound. I don’t think that’s workable for you. I would sit down with your boyfriend and ask him point-blank if he wants you to get a dog, and really, really listen to his answer. He may not take your therapeutic needs seriously, he may hate the smell, he may worry you are both too financially unstable to take on responsibility for a new life in your home. The bottom line: Is he OK with the dog or not?

If he is, then you need to decide that when things get better and you can move out, you will get a dog. If he is not, you can’t get a dog and stay together. Various adorable social media posts aside, getting an animal your partner doesn’t want is disrespectful and can be disastrous.

Let’s look at our final scenarios here, for clarity:

Can I get a dog in my current living situation? No. Your roommate says no.
Can I get a dog when I eventually move out, if my boyfriend says yes? Yes.
Can I get a dog when I eventually move out, if my boyfriend says no? Yes, but you’ll have to pick the dog or the boyfriend.

I hope this provided some clarity.

Help! Should I Admit That I Tricked My Husband Into Having Another Kid?

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Dear Prudence,

My wife and I (two women) are friends with another lesbian couple. They’ve been together for 10 years and got “married” last summer. I put married in quotes because, though they had a beautiful ceremony, we recently found out that one of them never divorced her “ex-husband,” so they don’t have the official marriage documents. The one who wasn’t previously married has shared how hard it is for her/how angry it makes her that her wife hasn’t divorced the man she is no longer with. The one who is still married says it’s because she would have to take her husband off the house mortgage and that she and our other friend couldn’t qualify for a mortgage together, so she thinks they’ll lose their house. I’m not a lawyer. My cursory review of the legal requirements for divorce don’t seem to indicate there is a requirement for refinancing a house if the divorcing couple don’t want to. Also (and this might be burying the lede), the ex-husband is remarried to a new woman and has been for several years, and that woman does not know that her husband is not divorced from his first wife. Apparently he’s kept his finances separate from her, and all three of them (first wife, man, current “wife”) file taxes as “married filed separately,” so the current wife has no clue about the bigamy. We have had multiple conversations with our friends about how this could cause some legal problems down the road—bigamy and tax problems at the least. Meanwhile, the friend who isn’t married to someone else seems to handle the situation OK for a period of time, but then something comes up to trigger the anger, sadness, and frustration of her situation. How can we support her? Is there anything we should be advising her to protect herself from?

—Bystander to Bigamy?

The very first thing that needs to happen is for the friend you are closest to (I believe the one who has not been previously married) to get a lawyer. She may have to speak to a family lawyer, a real estate lawyer, a tax lawyer, or some combination of the three, but this situation is far too complex and fraught for me to waste your time and hers opining on it.

I am incredibly sorry, and while you are urging/perhaps helping your friend to seek legal counsel, all you can do is be there for her, let her vent, encourage her to get into therapy, and try to stop spirals by redirecting when things get repetitive and upsetting for all involved. I wish you all the best.

More Advice From Care and Feeding

My partner’s 4-year-old really loves my pet rabbit … and I’m worried he might, literally, love him to death. We have tried explaining that he needs to be gentle with the rabbit: Stroking is OK, but grabbing is not. Neither is chasing the rabbit around the house. And picking him up by the ears, which we found him doing again yesterday, is completely forbidden. I have tried explaining all this calmly. I have told him the rabbit will get scared and hurt. I have showed him how to stroke gently, and congratulated him for doing it properly. I have even tried making a song out of it. But he finds the rabbit so incredibly exciting that all the rules are soon forgotten. How can you teach a small, boisterous child to be gentle with pets?