Adapted from a recent online discussion.
How to frame the message is as important as message itself
Continued from Monday: "Undisclosed location," infidelity, weight gain, and feeling attractive vs. attracted.
Undisclosed location: I do give my wife compliments. She is quite beautiful.
I actually get few in return, hence my not-feeling-appreciated comment (Monday).
It ain't like I don't TRY. I just got sick of trying there for a minute. Lost my bearings.
Carolyn: That's your cue to try something different — starting with the truth about how discouraged you feel.
Tell her!: To undisclosed location: Being told I was too big was actually exactly what I needed hear in order to make changes I knew I needed. Most importantly, I knew I was still loved. I had begun to doubt we were in a relationship at all.
Carolyn: I know of someone who was similarly grateful for the truth. It's such a touchy thing, though, that I have to emphasize that context is everything. E.g., don't get on a woman about her weight when she's sleep-deprived from caring for your baby.
If someone is treated in general as if s/he's merely an ornament, and isn't listened to, respected, taken seriously, etc., then calling that person fat only underscores that contempt.
Anonymous: He had sex with another woman and you are suggesting that he invite his wife to go on a hike? Are we just going to cross our fingers that no STDs are involved? My head is spinning.
Carolyn: It's not that simple, never is. A startling number of people who have found out about a spouse's infidelity have expressed dismay that they were even told. If it happened many times, or with many women, or if it was high-risk sex, then the wife would need to be told, absolutely.
But one stupid slip as a wake-up that there's a problem in the marriage? That's a much closer call, and often the compassionate thing to do — as in, not just what saves the cheater's butt — is to start investing purposefully in the marriage (and get tested).
Weight talk: Re: Undisclosed: All this weight talk has terrified me. I get having to stay attractive to a partner, but there's some reasonable leeway, right?
Carolyn: Of course. A good relationship will weather 5 pounds, or 25, or any other form of physical change, for that matter — and the great ones will withstand a lot more than that. "Great" means the connection between the two people is primarily on the inside.
But there will be a point when even deeply loving people get physically turned off, in which case speaking up is important to the relationship, as long as change is realistic. And you've got to give people some avenue to express that their attraction is suffering. Just telling them "Become less superficial" isn't useful advice.
Important concepts: (1) Tend to your bod; (2) tend to mate's bod. But I do wish we had better inspiration than a worst-case scenario.