Jenée Desmond-Harris is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat.
Q. Exhausted wife losing it: My husband of three years and I are trying for kids, and so far we have been unsuccessful. We decided to get medical help, and the doctor recommended that I lose some weight during the process. I am doing so (I’ve already lost 30 pounds in three months!), but all my husband can talk about is that I need to lose more weight. He talks about it nonstop, and it’s stressing me out a lot, which also isn’t good for trying to get pregnant. I’ve asked him multiple times to lay off, but he doesn’t stop. Also, my job is a contract and is ending next summer, so whenever he’s not telling me to lose more weight, he’s telling me to find another job ASAP. I’m applying to jobs left and right, but haven’t had any interviews yet. He has trouble sleeping and often stays up until 2 a.m. watching movies on his phone, but the noise from his phone affects my sleep quality, and he doesn’t like wearing headphones to bed. This makes me even more exhausted during the day.
I love him and don’t want to get divorced, but I’m stressed out and exhausted, especially since he ignores my requests to stop. Any suggestions?
A: You need to have a serious conversation with yourself about whether you want to have children with someone who shows a lack of respect for you by harassing you about your weight and your job search, despite the fact that you have both of these things handled, and refuses to compromise or make adjustments to allow you to get the sleep you need. This isn’t a person who treats you with compassion or recognizes the hard work you’re doing, and it will only get worse when you have a baby. Move to the couch and get rest, and when you are less exhausted and can think clearly, make a list of the qualities you’d like to see in the father of your child. I’m guessing he doesn’t have most of them. Therapy is worth a try, but letting years go by isn’t going to help your fertility, so if he doesn’t quickly change his behavior, think about moving on and freezing your eggs, and/or finding a partner who treats you better.
How to Get Advice From Prudie:
• Send questions for publication here. (Questions may be edited.)
• Join the live chat Mondays at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the discussion.
Q. Confused stepmother: My husband has been a single parent since my stepson was 4 and we married when he was almost 7. His mom would see him a few hours a week and constantly skipped her visitation. She was basically absent unless my husband called and guilted her into attending a school function or honoring her visitation. All of the things you associate with parenting were left to my husband and I. My (step)son and I have a good relationship, sort of like a favorite aunt and nephew. We enjoy each other’s company and he’s one of my favorite people! My (step)son is very bitter towards his mother and I’m concerned he’s taking the opportunity to hurt and humiliate her. Since he became a teen, he has actively avoided seeing her and she doesn’t even try to see him much anymore. They text. My husband talked to her and she said if he didn’t want to come see her, then he shouldn’t be forced or persuaded.
My husband and I believe that once a child turns 18 and moves out, they are full-fledged adults who make their own choices and deal with the outcomes, and that includes marriage. However, he’s told me he wants me for the mother-son dance, and I’m conflicted. Should I trust that he just wants to “honor” me as the dependable mother figure in his life, or should I politely decline? If I do accept, I want to insist that he tell his mother beforehand rather than springing it on her seconds before the dance. I know this is all hypothetical and he could always change his mind. I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about it because it feels vindictive, but on the other hand I could see why he would hate the idea of honoring her with a mother-son dance. He’s even said it makes him angry when she brags about him on social media when she hasn’t done anything to be a part of his life or help him become the person he is. Any advice?
A: I don’t think you’ll ever be able to know for sure whether his choice to dance with you is motivated by a desire to honor you, or a desire to hurt his mother, or a little of both. So you shouldn’t base your decision on that.
I think you should lean toward doing the dance because it’s his wedding, and he’s asked you to. And it’s nice to try to accommodate people, within reason, on their big day. But it’s also reasonable for you to feel uncomfortable taking part in something that will be an unpleasant, hurtful surprise to his mother and could potentially lead to a scene at the reception. So go with your instinct to tell him that you’ll be honored to dance with him, but because this is probably a role his mother expects to play, he needs to let her know what’s going to happen at least a couple of weeks in advance. That way you can enjoy the moment without worrying about being a participant in catching her off guard and hurting her feelings.
Q. Not a party animal: I love my boyfriend “Jake” of almost two years. He’s smart, kind, compassionate and supports me in every way. However, he is definitely more of an introvert than I am, and doesn’t have a ton of close friends that live nearby. Normally that’s not a problem; he socializes with my friend groups and everyone seems to like him. He also likes to take nights off to play Minecraft when I want to go out, which works well for both of us.
Here’s the problem: He really wants to host events/group hangs/parties at his place. (He’s got a nice backyard, all outdoors/socially distanced, etc.) But whenever he’s tried in the past, the turnout has been lackluster. A few months ago, he tried to throw a party, but canceled it at the last minute after no one RSVP’d. He then hosted a Labor Day barbecue, but only four people (including me) showed up, and the other three all ate and left—they weren’t even there for an hour. Both times, he was pretty bummed after.
Now he wants to throw a Halloween party; he’s got an out-of-town friend visiting and wants to show him a good time. But I can see the writing on the walls that it’s going to happen again. I’ve been putting out feelers to my friends, but they’re all noncommittal. For both of his previous parties, I’ve encouraged people to come, but to no avail. I think it’s mostly that Jake lives about 30 minutes away from the majority of us, and they just don’t want to make the trek.
So what should I do? Ask him to reconsider throwing the party? Beg my friends to come? (And I just don’t think that would do much good; a couple of them have pretty severe COVID anxiety, understandably, but even convincing them to come hang out in my backyard a couple blocks away is like pulling teeth.) Or just let this whole situation play out and hope for a different outcome? I love him so much and just don’t want to see him hurt … or, you know, cause it.
A: It’s very strange that he hasn’t learned the same lessons you have from these failed parties. Especially because he was upset afterward! I agree that the solution is not to beg your friends to come. How about saying something like this: “You mentioned having a Halloween party, but after having a poor turnout the last couple of times, I’m thinking a 30-minute drive is probably too far for most people to come, especially if they plan to drink. I know everyone likes hanging out with you and wants to see you, so why don’t we show [visiting friend] a good time by asking our friends to meet up at a bar somewhere closer to where they live. We can even find somewhere with an outdoor area so people who are concerned about COVID will be more comfortable. What do you think?”
Q. Rocky bottom blues: I’ve been with my current boyfriend just over two and a half years and I love him dearly. We enjoy a lot of the same things and he treats me with the utmost respect. He’s my biggest cheerleader in life and I truly don’t know what I’ve done to deserve him.
That being said, I’m currently enjoying a low point in my life. I feel like I’ve hit my absolute rock bottom and this is the lowest I’ve ever been, and I’m longing for something new. I feel like my life needs a shot of rejuvenation and a fresh start.
I have ZERO idea how to go about this. I don’t have the heart to hurt him, and no matter how I word it, he’s gonna take it personally and I’m gonna end up being the bad guy. Another reason why this is giving me anxiety is because I’m TERRIFIED of starting over. Not to mention dating as a whole is kinda miserable anyway, but doing it as a gay man in a small town is even worse. I’d love some suggestions about how you think I should go about this.
A: I wish you’d said more about the nature of this low point in your life. What exactly about it is rock bottom: Your career? Your friendships? Your health? Just your overall mood? Whatever it is, it sounds like your relationship is not the problem. Why don’t you stay with the person who is your biggest cheerleader instead of destroying your relationship to deal with unrelated problems? You don’t have to be your best self to deserve having a boyfriend, and you don’t have to isolate yourself just because you’re going through a tough time. If you still care about him and are attracted to him, stay with him and let him help you figure out a fresh start in the areas of your life that are getting you down. It’s true that a relationship can’t automatically make you happy, but neither can a breakup if you’re using it to avoid your real problems.
Introducing the How to Do It podcast
Your wildest sex advice questions are now being answered in your headphones. Listen to new episodes with Stoya and Rich every Sunday, with exclusive episodes for Slate Plus members on Mondays.
Q. Re: Exhausted wife losing it: Dude, of course you’re losing it. Your husband is being an ass. Losing 30 pounds in three months is superhuman, and you’re managing to apply for jobs too. You’re doing all this and he can’t even be bothered to use headphones or go to another room to watch movies on his phone. He doesn’t seem to care about you. I know you don’t WANT to divorce him, but it’s the best advice I could give you.
A: I agree. He doesn’t care about her or seem to like her, and he’s not afraid to show it.
Q. Re: Exhausted wife losing it: Please do not have children with this man right now and maybe never. If he is inconsiderate enough to continually pester you about your weight (and losing 30 pounds in three months is a huge achievement!), your job status, and will not wear earbuds to bed, do you think he will magically change into a considerate, helpful person when you do have a child? Marriage counseling pronto. You deserve better.
A: She absolutely deserves better. Counseling is almost always worth a try, but I worry that this isn’t something like poor communication or a need for compromise that is likely to be fixed with a few tweaks suggested by a therapist. Raising a child with this guy, unless he made a dramatic change (or got a personality transplant), would be hell.
Jenée Desmond-Harris: We’re out of time and have to end it here. Thanks for the questions and responses (and I’m glad we all agreed on everything this week!). Talk to you next time.
From How to Do It
I’m a 26-year-old woman who’s been with my 30-year-old boyfriend for a little over a year, and although we moved in together a few months ago, we don’t have much sex. I’d love to have sex three times a week or more. He, on the other hand, has had a slowly declining libido and is never in the mood anymore. We used to have sex about twice a week, but nowadays we have sex maybe every two weeks, and even then, it feels like he’s only doing it to fulfill his “duties.”
A second element to this: Making this all worse, I notice him turning his head to check out other women in front of me. He’s not subtle about it. The looking, which on its own I wouldn’t have minded so much, piled on top of his lack of desire for me has made me feel unattractive and inadequate. What do you think is happening here? And what can I do?