He Wants Me Fat
Q. My husband and I have been married nine years, and we dated six years before that. During that time, I've loved him and no one else. When our third child was born a year ago I became diabetic while pregnant. As a result, I've dropped 40 pounds. I felt so good about the weight loss I started wearing makeup again and paying more attention to the way I dress. I thought this would thrill my husband, but instead he's convinced that I'm unhappy with our life and that I am looking for someone else. Nothing I say convinces him otherwise. What can I do about this irrational jealousy?
A. You nailed it—his jealousy is irrational. But, on a guess, I'd say this is more about him than about you. Your husband may have some deep feelings of insecurity and fear and feelings that he's inferior to you. Maybe he felt that he could keep you interested as long as you were a larger, heavier, less attractive woman, but he doesn't have faith that he can handle a thinner, more attractive woman. So my advice is to attack this is at the level of his insecurity.
Keep reassuring him of your love and desire for him. Draw attention to wonderful times in the past (even when you were heavy) when you had loving romantic times together. Day-dream, out loud, about fun, romantic times you might have together in the future. Remind him of the things you love about him. Get him to feel like he's the guy who's able to attract and keep this healthy, good-looking you.
Then, when you talk about the changes in yourself, help him to see that they're not about how you appeal to outsiders. Emphasize how much better you feel, how much more energy you have, how your own self-esteem has improved and how all of those improvements make you better able to love him more. Tell him you worry less about losing him.
Time is on your side. Be patient with your husband's irrational fears. In time you'll convince him that he's the one that you've always wanted and always will.
My Wife's Not Doing Enough
Q. My wife of eight months and I both work, but I've been carrying the larger burden of housekeeping tasks. I try not to be a chauvinist pig or domineering husband so I do everything for myself. Before we married, I read that one of men's basic needs is for domestic support, meaning a wife who serves him some of the time. I think that's true for me. So what's the right balance? Can I ask my wife to iron a shirt?
A. Forget about the book saying you need basic domestic support. Most contemporary couples have to work out domestic arrangements for themselves—and it's something you'll have to revisit at various chapters of your life. One arrangement may work fine when both of you are working and have no children, but everything could be different as job situations change or your family grows.
This is a great opportunity for the two of you as newlyweds to get down to some real teamwork and communication. Chart out the number of career hours you're both working. Make a list of all the duties and activities that must be done to sustain your life together. Then work out an equitable division of labor of all these activities. Then be prepared to adjust the on-paper plan to what works in day-to-day reality.
Can you ask your wife to iron a shirt? Well, maybe. See how it fits into your overall plan for which of you will tackle which tasks. It's part of marriage to serve one another, yet it's important for both of you to be considerate of the other's time. In my relationship with Janie, I reached a stage where I was more interested in spending twenty minutes with Janie than for her to be spending that twenty minutes ironing shirts for me, when she'd already taken the time and trouble to clean all the laundry. So for years I sent my shirts out, even though we didn't have a lot of money. But it was a practical lifestyle decision. It's not that Janie wouldn't have done it for me, or that I wouldn't also seek to serve her in our marriage.
This housekeeping discussion you're going to have with your wife is important too, because you sound like you're starting to resent a perceived inequity in the way tasks are handled now. It's fairly common for two people to live together, each resenting the other because there are feelings that the other should be doing more, even if that "more" has never been spelled out. At a church function newlywed game, one husband I know was asked, "How many loads of laundry does your wife do in a week." "Um, three?" was his answer. The right answer was more like six. It's pretty hard to judge what another person is actually doing unless you talk about it. If you truly are carrying a larger burden of tasks, that should become clear as you list the various chores that make up your days and weeks. But be open-minded yourself; you may discover your wife has been handling things that escaped your attention. This is a great opportunity to build your sense of teamwork as you sort out a workable division of labor.
And division of labor is important because it's a chance for both of you to love and serve each other. Once in a while you can do something for your wife that falls under her list of responsibilities—and that will become for her a symbol of your love and your concern for her.
E-trading Is Ruining My Marriage
Q. My husband spends hours and hours of his leisure time at our computer. He's not doing anything inappropriate online. Mostly, he's trading stocks. He's actually been quite successful and has bolstered our income and savings. But he doesn't seem aware of the hours that go by while he's glued to that computer screen. I feel hurt, then angry, then defeated. And then I get disgusted because I've run the gamut of all these emotions and he's never even noticed. When I bring it up, I don't know how to answer his argument that it's benefiting our family financially. How can I get him to pay attention to me and our son?
A. It's true that there is an addictive quality to computing. It captures a person's attention completely. E-trading, especially, holds the classic lures for men: it has a game quality, it's immediate, it's competitive, and it's rewarding. No wonder it's addictive. But while it's a long-established, well-known phenomenon for men to be workaholics, spending a lot of time away on business or at the office, it's a newer phenomenon for those extra work hours to be going on right in the home, under your nose and in plain sight of the kids.
But whether a husband's away from home working late or whether he's right there in the house preoccupied with the computer, the problem is the same one: it's a matter of priority choices. Your husband's choice is that making money is more important than spending time with you and your son. Both priorities are necessary and important—you do need money to live, after all. But the challenge will be for you to convince him that your priority choice would be different and to try to bring your two choices into a healthy balance.
Can you tell him, "Honey, we don't need the money as much as we need you"? Can you convince him that you value his personal presence more than you value the money he's making by trading online? Show him that the money doesn't impress you, but what would impress you is his investment of time in you and your son. Then be prepared to live without the little luxuries that extra cash afforded. Give him lots of thanks and encouragement when he does spend time with you; show him you mean it when you say he means more to you than the money.
Jay Kesler is chancellor of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He was formerly a pastor and also served as president of Youth for Christ.
Jay is not able to respond personally to readers' letters. But if you have a marriage question you'd like him to address in this column, send your question to:
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