Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have been married for a couple of months and he is steadily gaining weight. I believe this is happening because he works near his parents’ house and often visits during his lunch break. My mother-in-law works all day but prepares lunch for my husband before she leaves. While it may be very nice of her to go through the effort of preparing lunch and saving us a lot of money, her freezer is stocked with every kind of chocolate bar and mousse cake, etc... I can’t say I blame my husband for helping himself to these goodies because he has a sweet tooth but his pants are telling me the truth. I try going brisk walking at night but he always has a different excuse not to join me. And he’s not interested in working out in the morning or joining a gym. As a health-minded wife I prepare healthful meals and snacks which he enjoys. But is there anything I can do to help him? I don't want to deal with diabetes and high blood pressure and all that stuff later on because my husband and his mother are being negligent about his health now.

Concerned Wife

Dear Concerned Wife,

I do think there is something you can do now. Take a deep breath and relax. Your constant focus on weight and health is more likely to drive your husband in the opposite direction so pull back.

It’s very normal for men to gain weight in the first few months of marriage. Often they self-correct. Sometimes they stay a little pudgy. Rarely does it become a serious health risk. Either way, you should stay out of it unless asked. Treat your husband as an adult and not as a wayward child.

It’s also a mistake to blame your mother-in-law. Your husband is out of the house all day. He has access to sweets wherever he is. If he wants it, he will get it.

Additionally, it is frequently true that children who are not allowed sugar at home “go a little nuts” when they are faced with treats in public. I don’t know if this is operating here but, perhaps, instead of resenting the goodies in his mother’s freezer, you should stock your own. If your husband is eating treats to excess outside the home, having them available in his own house may actually diminish the tendency and the craving.

You don’t mention if there is actually diabetes and high blood pressure in the family or if you are just being extra careful. Negligent is a strong word to use. We should all be conscious of our healthy but sugar in moderation is unlikely to tip the scales, literally or figuratively.

You want your husband to feel at home in his own house and with you. You don’t want him to feel pressured to exercise or under scrutiny whenever he takes a bite of food. You may believe you’re doing this for his own good but you are making his home uncomfortable and perhaps even pushing him back into his mother’s arms, thereby raising a host of other issues!

It is impossible to live in the world today and be oblivious to weight – either as a health issue or an appearance one. It is everywhere we look and your husband can’t possibly be oblivious to his situation.

So change your tactics. Treat him like the grown-up he is. Make your home, kitchen (and freezer!) more inviting. This is much more like to produce lasting results – in all areas.

My Wife’s Middle Age Crisis

Dear Emuna,

My wife is fifty-something and she is not the same person she once was – at least not at this point in time. She has gone from calm and rational to hysterical, crying at the drop of a pin and yet completely unavailable emotionally. She seems to resent her family and her responsibilities, including me. I’m not sure how to respond. I want my old wife back. Any advice for me?

Bewildered Husband

Dear Bewildered,

First, relax (this seems to be my favorite piece of advice these days!). Your wife hasn’t been taken over by zombies or even a dybbuk. This is a perfectly normal phase of life – and reaction. All women go through it with similar emotional roller coasters. (Just be grateful she hasn’t packed her bags and moved to a ranch in Montana!)

But I’m a little troubled by the phrasing, “I want my old wife back.” If you say that to her, I can guarantee it won’t be effective. Because, if you truly love her, you just want what’s best for her as opposed to your “old wife” which sounds like the situation that was best for you.

Give her a break. Take some of those responsibilities off her hands. Help with the kids, the chores, the daily grind. Give her space. Give her support. At this point in time, your needs need to take a back seat. You need to let go of your expectations of how things “should” be and just try to accommodate to the new reality.

This is not a permanent state. I promise. But it can be challenging. And how you, as a couple, emerge from this challenge may be determined by your response. Your best chance is when you wife feels your love and support, your concern for her and not your anxiety about who’s making dinner, folding laundry, filling out forms, driving carpool…You don’t want to make that ranch too appealing…

Boundaries for In-Laws

Dear Emuna,

My in-laws are very difficult and manipulative. They suggest activities that are very hard to implement like going to the park in the 100 degree heat or driving 2 hours each way to the zoo with my young children. When I refuse, they attack me and try to encourage my husband to bring the kids and visit without me along (which besides being hurtful and offensive wasn’t the issue). They are constantly putting both of us in an awkward position. What should I do?

Miserable Daughter-In-Law

Dear Miserable DIL,

I don’t think it’s what you should do. This is another classic example of the statement from the book of Genesis – “Therefore a man should leave his parents and cling to his wife” – This is your husband’s job. He must put his foot down and make clear to his parents that 1) his first loyalty is to you, 2) the two of you (and the grandkids) come as a package, 3) if they can’t be courteous and respectful to you then neither of you will come at all and, a lesser but still significant point, 4) the activities suggested must be suitable for you and your young children.

I know it sounds harsh but boundaries and priorities must be established and held strong. Believe it or not, when all parties know and understand the parameters of the relationships, it actually leads to happier, healthier ones.

Setting boundaries with your in-laws is one the first and most common tests a marriage faces. It’s up to your husband to get an A.