30 pounds in three years? Don’t blame the baby

Posted July 07, 2012, at 3:59 p.m.
Emily Yoffe
Emily Yoffe

Dear Prudence,

I’m a healthy woman standing at 5-foot-5. Before I got married, I weighed 115 pounds. I didn’t gain a lot of weight during pregnancy, either, because of severe morning sickness that plagued me for the entire nine months. But since our daughter was born (she is now 3), I’ve had little time for exercise or looking after myself. I now weigh 145 pounds. My doctor says I’m still in the healthy range of BMI and I feel OK.

Granted, I don’t look the same as I did before becoming a mother, but I don’t want to be obsessed with my looks either. The problem is my husband, who constantly tells me I need to lose weight. At first he tried to say he was worried about my health, but later admitted that he’s not as attracted to me as he once was. I am hurt and angry by this, and I am even more determined not to lose weight for the sake of pleasing my man. I feel like he should love all 145 pounds of me no matter what.

We’ve argued a lot over my weight and appearance and now neither of us is attracted to each other. Should I lose my weight or should he change his attitude?

— Weighty

Dear Weighty,

I can’t tell you how many husbands (maybe yours!) write to me about this problem. They first try the “I want you to be healthy” route, to no effect. Then, usually after their wives press them, they “admit,” as yours did, that a large weight gain is a turn-off. It’s true you are not at an alarming weight for your height. But 30 extra pounds in a short amount of time is concerning. I assume you don’t plan to put on 10 pounds a year for the foreseeable future, which would fairly quickly land you in the unhealthy area.

I’m also concerned that your reason is that you say you don’t have time to look after yourself or really care about your appearance anymore. Are you depressed? Are you so wrapped up in your daughter’s life that you have lost a sense of your own autonomy? Ideally, your husband loves you no matter what your size, and vice versa. But I think it’s fair for him to note that he married someone slender who no longer is and doesn’t seem to care. Getting in a power struggle over your weight is a disaster that likely makes you turn away from your husband and to Ben & Jerry for comfort. But you need to figure out for your own sake why you think being a mother is incompatible with keeping yourself in shape.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

My 10-year-old niece owns two American Girl dolls. The dolls are a source of pride for her, because she “bought” them herself. My sister and her husband give her a weekly allowance in exchange for performing household chores. They require her to put a percentage in a savings account for college and donate another percentage to a local charity. My niece may spend the rest of her allowance on whatever she pleases. To my husband and me, who don’t make nearly as much as my sister or my brother-in-law, our niece receives a very large allowance for a young child. The allowance was large enough that she was able to purchase the two American Girl dolls over the course of 18 months. She enjoys bringing one or both of the dolls to family gatherings.

My daughter, the same age as my niece, would love an American Girl doll, but my husband and I can’t afford it. I feel like my niece flaunts her dolls and doesn’t understand that she seems spoiled to others who aren’t as fortunate. Sometimes it’s difficult to spend time around my nieces and nephew because they have many more toys than my kids do, and my kids feel badly afterward. How can I address these issues with my sister without making her defensive and my niece without hurting her?

— Mom Without Means

Dear Mom,

You need to address these issue with yourself, then your children — not your sister. Your sister and her husband have more money than you do. That usually translates into having a bigger house, nicer cars, fancier vacations, more toys for the kids. Live with it. Unless they are constantly flaunting their wealth — which you don’t mention — you, and your children, need to understand that good and bad fortune is not distributed equally. Sure, their cousins may have more stuff than they do, but you need to remind them they have more stuff than their friends [fill in the blank].

Explain that’s life, and if the absence of an American Girl doll is one of their biggest heartaches, then that means all of you are lucky — even if seeing their cousin’s two, two, two American Girl dolls really can be annoying. Your sister’s children may get a generous allowance, but I love the lessons they are teaching their kids about it: They earn it through chores; they are putting some away for their own future; they are giving another percentage to those less fortunate; and if they save their money wisely over a long time (18 months for a little girl!) they can enjoy the result. I think you need to take a page from your sister’s parenting book and instill some worthy lessons in your own kids.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been married to a wonderful man for nine months. While we have been intimate for years, I’ve recently realized I have been ignoring a significant sexual problem. My sweet husband is painfully vanilla in bed.

When we first got together, he could turn me on at the drop of a hat, so the fact that I’m more kinky didn’t matter because things were so great. But for some reason, I still can’t bring myself to deliver this one crucial criticism: He doesn’t seem to understand that I need more subtlety and variety of touch than he does to have a decent orgasm. His idea of manual stimulation is basically rubbing me like he’s trying to buff out a scratch on my fender. But how do I let him down easy when this has been going on for so long?

The last thing I want to do is injure his pride, and he would be so upset if he thought I hadn’t been enjoying myself.

—Rubbing Me the Wrong Way

Dear Rubbing,

Marriage has probably changed your perspective on your sexual problems because now that you’ve tied the knot, you realize you’re looking at a lifetime of manhandling on your erogenous zones. But there’s every reason to think there can be plenty of molten chocolate in your future. You two have a core sexual compatibility and you know what it’s like to be aroused by your husband, so build on that. Keep in mind the message you’re delivering is not, “You are a terrible lover,” but, “I want our marriage to thrill us both.”

As a way of opening up this discussion, do some homework and type “erotic massage” into the Amazon search engine. See which books and videos look good to you. Then order a few of the best, and some massage oils, and say to your husband that as good as your sex life is, you want to expand your sensual repertoire. Set aside some weekend afternoons to practice rubbing each other the right way.

Massage should naturally lead to more intimate things. If, as you make the transition, he reverts to his nipple-eradicating style, tell him you’re really turned on by more gentle caressing. Then take his hand and show him what you like. Saying, “Mmmmmm. That feels so good,” will help ensure he gets the message.

—Prudie

Send questions to Prudence at prudence@slate.com.

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