Starshine Roshell Photo: Jackie Sallow Photography
My boyfriend — let's call him Pete — and I have been together for three years, and are engaged to be married. Pete was chubby when I met him, and has gained 40 pounds since we've been a couple. I was chubby when we met, too. But in the past 15 months, through diet and rigorous exercise, I've become slim and toned. I simply wanted to be healthy and have more energy — and my attraction to Pete has not waned. But recently, he was taken to the ER with chest pains, diagnosed with high blood pressure, and advised by his doctor to lose weight. Although I love my man at his huggable teddy-bear size, I know the fried chicken, roast beef, and buttered mashed potatoes I've been serving aren't helping. So these days, I'm making salads, tofu, sautéed veggies, and grilled chicken. These new menu options have not been received well. Pete continues to demand the burgers and cheese fries he's used to, and when I don't accommodate him he either orders take-out or goes out to eat! He refuses to exercise with me and says he's happy the way he is. He has also accused me of no longer being attracted to him because of his size, which is not true. I love my boyfriend and am really just worried for him. I want him to know the joy of being fit and energetic. I'd also like him to be alive and well come our honeymoon. What can I do to get him to change his lifestyle — and is it even fair of me to ask this of him?
Would it be fair to ask him to change his musical tastes to suit your wishes? Or ditch his friends? Or give up his career? No way.
But is it fair to ask him to change habits that may kill him? Or to be more honest: habits that will, in all likelihood, kill him? You bet. Would you marry an alcoholic who had no plans to get sober?
Your chubby hubby-to-be isn't wrong to want burgers, butter, and beef — sweet bypass, that crap's tasty. And you're not wrong to want a husband who lives past the fruit anniversary. (It's the fourth, I looked it up. But honestly, who wants fruit as a gift? I'm guessing Pete doesn't.)
Right now, your ticking timebomb of a teddy bear is scared. He's scared that his girlfriend went and got skinny and is eating tofu and he's scared that his cheese fries landed him in the hospital and most of all he's scared that he isn't capable of change.
But you need to explain something to Pete: He's not unattractive because he's fat. He's unattractive because he's being petulant and cowardly and putting fried fowl ahead of your peace of mind — which doesn't bode well for a healthy marriage.
This is no different than a couple saving to buy a home together; it hurts a little at first, but it's a "duh" investment in your shared future. It can't not pay off.
So start small and go slow. Try turkey burgers and oven fries. Take walks and ride bikes together. But if Pete's unwilling to grow this "duh" investment — if he'd rather sacrifice your long-term serenity than his own short-term comforts — then you should consider dropping another couple hundred pounds.
My 18-year-old son is at college and doing reasonably well. He's getting good grades, and seems to be adjusting. But when he was in high school, he got into some pretty serious legal trouble and repeatedly proved himself unreliable. During that time, I figured out his Facebook password, which I now use to monitor his life away from home — checking it about once a month. My having this access makes my wife happier; she worries less knowing I've got an eye on things. I know it's an invasion of his privacy, but he still engages in some unsafe behavior — like using drugs beyond just marijuana — so I feel compelled to check his Facebook in case he needs help. Do I suck? Or is this ok?
It's funny: No one ever begrudges a spy when his surveillance does some good. You never hear, "Thank God you were able to thwart that suicide, and yet shame on you for flipping through her diary."
Still, spying on your adult child is not a victimless crime. Unless you're looking for something specific — or you've already seen enough to meet your almost willfully vague "in case he needs help" criteria and are ready to offer the counsel/threats/bribery/hugs he needs — then you're only torturing yourself, and baselessly placating your wife, by sifting through his social posts.
You don't suck. You're worried about your kid, and he's given you good reason. But don't sell yourself short; you know this boy intimately. You don't need pilfered passwords to get inside his head (and who puts truly telling stuff on Facebook anyway?). Stay connected with him directly. Call him. Text him. Visit and Skype with him. Ask him about his classes and professors, inquire about his job and finances, pry a little into his friendships and roommates. If he "needs help," you'll know it. Bonus perk: You won't have to feel like a sucky sneak.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- Hey, grammar nerds! Stop freaking out about 'alot.'
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
Subscribe to the Week