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Tell Me About It: Boyfriend shamed her for eating dessert

Q: I was out for dinner with my boyfriend and his family and one of his friends last week. I was the only one chowing down on dessert but my boyfriend kept shooting me looks. I jokingly said, "Are you going to keep staring at me while I eat?" and he said nothing. A few minutes later he goes, "Are you going to eat all of that?" and his mom goes, "She can eat as much as she wants."

I felt humiliated. We're both fitness geeks and lately, I admit, I've been in a fitness slump, but I am still eating right. It was probably coming from a good place, but am I right to tell him not to do that again?

Maybe I'm being sensitive, but he's always giving me "tough love" when all I really need is for at least one person in my life to just cut me some damn slack.

Anonymous

A: Please ask yourself why you don't take him at face value and see that "tough love" (criticism, no?) is his forte. He's on the list of people in your life who don't cut you some damn slack because that's not what he does. Don't let wishful thinking decide whether you want to keep dating this guy.

In fact, I suggest you pull back and assess everyone close to you, because your dinner scene has earmarks of an emotional rut:

(1) You're apparently surrounded by people who are tough on you. Except of course your boyfriend's mom, to whom I'm sending a grateful hug.

(2) You are tired of being judged by people close to you.

(3) Your reflex, though, isn't to stand up for yourself against them — it's to stand down. To wit, your only defense was one you "jokingly said"; you made excuses for him and his intentions, then negated your own feelings as "sensitive"; and even now you're looking for permission to set a boundary.

You know what? You can do that. No permission needed. You can say, "Stop judging what I eat. It's not your business." And maybe if you want some damn slack, then you need to prioritize kindness and depth when choosing people to allow into your life. You can do that, too, without anyone saying you can.

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