Dear Carolyn:

I've been married three years. We have the typical struggles most couples experience and are both strongly committed to making the marriage work. My wife is extremely attractive, but now 40 pounds heavier than when we married. She also picks at her skin and has turned several spots into permanent scabs. I am very concerned, as her actions are not healthy, and secondly, I find myself less physically attracted to her. People always say it's what's on the inside that counts, but I believe the inside and outside are a reflection of one another. Am I shallow for being upset my wife isn't taking care of herself (physically and mentally) now that we are married?

Fred

It isn't shallow to be upset that your wife isn't taking care of herself physically now that you're married. It's shallow to be upset that your wife isn't taking care of herself physically when her physical ills are a clear and frightening side effect of her need for mental help.

And, for the record: It ceases being a case of "She got me to marry her and now she feels she can get as fat as she wants" the moment she starts picking her skin till it bleeds.

Fred, Fred, Fred.

Please, help her. Your wife has compulsions that demand treatment -- and may well have a serious underlying cause, such as anxiety or depression.

At minimum, she is under great stress. At minimum, she is not turning to you for support, but rather turning on herself. At minimum, you have way more than "the typical struggles." They may have started there, but they left that station a long time ago destined for points more severe.

For whatever reason, your wife feels she can't address her problems with you openly. Or with herself, even. When you downplay these problems, first as typical couple stuff, and then -- in ascending order of egregiousness -- as a pesky sexual hurdle for you, you help to create an environment where she probably doesn't feel safe even admitting she's unhappy, much less questioning the happiness of the marriage. Much, much less asking for help.

Offer it. Say you're worried about her. Say you'll call her regular doc for referrals or hold her hand as she does. Offer today.

Dear Carolyn:

Is it ever okay to kiss another man while you have a boyfriend? My boyfriend, while great, hasn't jumped on the engagement train. This other fella has shown interest (it's mutual), and I'd like to see if there's anything there. But not at the expense of my boyfriend, whom I would love to marry if he'd only ask. What say?

Detroit

I say, rephrase the question: If the shirt you want is too expensive, do you wait for it to go on sale and risk its not being available in your size anymore, or do you give up and try on a more affordable shirt that you also like, only not as much? Then I say, if your marriage question can be translated into retail without even the slightest change in meaning, you need to be single.

You're missing the whole marriage point. It's not a shirt, it's a life. A shared day-to-day-to-day life. Before you wear it home, assume it's a long life at that.

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