Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I am a person who has a myriad of physical issues starting with migraine, vertigo, thyroiditis, mild OCD, ASD, and the occasional aches and pains that come along with age. I am not fit as I would like to be, but I cycle five days a week and do plenty of other chores around the house, all the while managing our toddler and my own work. None of this seems to be enough for my husband, however, who I have been married to for over five years. He is a gym freak and is borderline hypochondriac, although he refuses to acknowledge it. He is obviously muscular and fit and takes on at least 40 percent of the parenting duties.
My issue is this: He is constantly telling me I need to make time to get “fitter” (i.e., reduce weight). I have argued with him; tried explaining to him how slow my metabolism is and has been throughout my life, especially with my thyroid medication; I have begged him to stop hounding me; I have yelled at him. I have tried everything under the sun, including going to couples therapy (for some unresolved grief issues). Nothing has helped. I feel like I am being judged ridiculously with no merit and given absolutely no appreciation whatsoever for the effort I constantly put in. Yes, pregnancy has changed my body and my weight, but I only went up 15 pounds. He makes it seem like I am a beached whale. He looks at me disapprovingly when I am undressing and asks, is this fat or excess skin from the pregnancy?
I am defeated and hopelessly lost within myself. I have my own issues that I am tackling every minute of every day, and I don’t know how to handle this too. If I say I am getting a headache, his face completely changes and he immediately starts whining like a kid: When will you ever not have pain in your body? Every day it’s something or the other with you. I have tried to tell him I am human and every human has pain, but that’s not enough. He, on the other hand, will go to the doctor if he has a zit on his face lest it be a cancerous tumor. Help me explain to him one more time or at least help me deal with this so I can live with him without letting this get the better of me. Divorce or separation is not an option because I still do love him. He is an excellent father and dare I say a very responsible and loving person in general, except for this one issue. We almost never argue about anything else, and he is very attentive to all my other needs. Weight loss is like kryptonite to him.
—Fat as Hell
Dear Fat as Hell,
You say “Divorce or separation is not an option because I still do love him” and, well, the fact that you’ve already decided you don’t deserve better is probably part of why he refuses to treat you better. That and the fact that he’s a vicious, insensitive, hateful, fatphobic monster. Replace the time you spent in couples therapy with individual therapy. Specifically, look for someone who advertises that they’re familiar with the concept of health at every size. You can tell yourself it’s to help you figure out how to be happier in this relationship if that’s what it takes to get started, but I hope you ultimately develop enough perspective and respect for yourself that you no longer find it appealing to be married to someone who intentionally hurts you.
I am a recent college graduate who just moved back in with my parents after finishing my degree, and I’m struggling with the transition back to living at home again. In particular, I was used to being able to have sex whenever I wanted in my old apartment at school. Now, though, I never get the house to myself! My parents always seem to be home, and they never go on vacations or even day trips like a lot of my friends’ parents seem to. I really don’t want to share specifics of my sex life with my parents, but it would be nice to have the place to myself on occasion, even just once a month or so. Any advice on how to deal with this?
Dear Sexually Frustrated,
Living in your childhood home can be a fantastic arrangement that makes financial sense, but there are reasons that many people decide to spend the extra money and put themselves in questionable roommate situations so they don’t have to live with their parents. This is one of them! You are just not going to have the same privacy and freedom here that you would if you were in your own place, paying your own rent. And it’s really not fair to ask your parents to leave the home they pay for so you can have date night. Sadly, your options are probably the ones you’ve already thought of: Date or hookup with people who have their own space, and/or pay for a hotel now and then. But not so often that you can’t save up first and last month’s rent and eventually move out. Maybe try camping?
I have a problem I am heartbroken about in so many ways. I’m a gay man and have been close friends with “Ally,” a queer woman, for many years. I’ve been single or unhappily dating much of that time while she has been in a very happy long-term relationship with her now wife almost as long as I’ve known her. I’ve always been jealous of their relationship, honestly.
In January, I met “Nick.” We started dating and it was wonderful—the best relationship of my life. He’s the first boyfriend I ever introduced to my parents, who loved him, as did many of my other friends. Ally, however, did not love him, though she tried to hide that at first. When I mentioned to her that I’d noticed she was off with him (not rude but not her usual hyper-friendly self), she admitted that she didn’t like him and said he’d made lowkey homophobic comments about her wife “not looking like a lesbian” and “man-hating feminist dykes.” I decided she was overreacting/had misunderstood as Nick identifies as a feminist and is pretty stereotypically gay-acting himself and unlikely to have meant any harm by a comment about her wife’s stereotypical or otherwise appearance. We didn’t exactly fight but it wasn’t a nice conversation.
We did fight when I told her in September that I was moving in with Nick. She went very quiet on the phone and then awkwardly said she was happy for me, but weren’t we moving a bit fast? I got irritated and said I wasn’t looking for input from someone who took over two years to move from “best friends” to actually asking her wife on a date, and said that just because her relationship moved glacially slowly (they were engaged for years, too) didn’t mean everyone else had to. She got angry and we ended the call on a bad note. I later apologized and she accepted.
Now … Nick has broken up with me. It was brutal, and I saw a new side to him on moving in: cold, snide, and dismissive of my problems while totally absorbed in his own. He broke up with me last weekend and told me he’d never really added me to his lease like he claimed and that I had a week to get out. I am in a complete state, obviously, and currently staying in a hotel because I can’t bear to be around him even while still officially “allowed.” I badly need a place to stay while I find my feet, and in any other circumstances, Ally would be the person I’d ask. She lives locally and we have looked out for each other like this in the past—I gave her a place to stay when her family kicked her out years ago, and she came and looked after me for a month when I was seriously ill and living in another city. But I am obviously ashamed to ask for her help after how I’ve behaved with her—I drew back because of Nick’s dislike of her as much as her dislike of him, and obviously I upset her with that call. There’s no doubt in my mind that she would give me a place to stay if I did ask, to be clear—she would immediately offer and, worst of all, doubtless be very graceful and kind about it. I just don’t know if I should ask or if that’s too outrageous of me at this point. I can see reading this that I’ve been an idiot. I feel like I’ve ruined my closest friendship over a horrible guy and I don’t know what to do. Any advice would be so appreciated.
—I’ve Been an Idiot
Dear I’ve Been an Idiot,
It sounds like while you did apologize to Ally for your comments, you didn’t do much to repair the friendship or communicate that it was important to you to have her in your life while you were with Nick. It’s because of that that I think it would be messed up to reach out and ask her for a favor now. She has no way of knowing if you truly want to reconnect with her or just need something right now—and to be honest, I don’t know either. So stay in the hotel, move back in with Nick and deal with the awkwardness, or ask another friend if you can crash. When you are back on your feet, not desperate, and don’t need anything from Ally, then you can reach out to her and make a sincere effort to repair your friendship. She’s a good person who cares about you, and it wouldn’t be fair to ask her for support when you know you haven’t been a good friend.
And remember this next time you’re tempted to take the side of someone you’ve dated for a short time over someone who has a long track record of being there for you.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My sister is an environmentalist and lives a very eco-friendly lifestyle. One manifestation of this is that she, her wife, and their son run one bath every day, and all of them use it. When we stay over we are also expected to wash up in that same bath—or not at all. Would it be reasonable to ask to run our own baths when we’re staying over, or do her household rules trump our comfort and hygiene?