DEAR AMY: I have been in a relationship with a man for 14 years. When I first met him he was trying to quit biting his nails and I was very proud of him for attempting to overcome this habit.
Unfortunately, he was never able to quit. Now that I have been living with him for many years, I find this habit extremely bothersome. He is 64, and at his age, especially, this is an extremely unattractive feature.
It is to the point now that just sitting next to him, even in public venues, is aggravating because of his fingers constantly being in his mouth, and the crunching sound is at times unbearable.
My sexual attraction to him, mostly because of this habit, has totally gone. His nails are almost nonexistent. All have been bitten off well past the quick. Any mention of this habit and perhaps getting help sends him into an anxiety attack.
Any suggestions on how to address this without offending? -- Worried
DEAR WORRIED: If the mere suggestion of help or change brings on an anxiety attack, then you know that the anxiety -- more even than the offensive habit -- is the issue. Behavioral therapy (possibly along with medication) could change his life.
There are probably dozens of techniques or remedies for quitting nail biting, but if the underlying issue isn’t dealt with, then any success will be short-lived.
Partners who struggle with someone else’s unhealthy habit (overeating, smoking or drinking) can only reflect their own concern and tell their own truth.
Your truth is, “I love you. You’ve struggled with this for as long as I’ve known you but I’m so worried because it seems to be getting worse. I think you can tackle this with professional help, so would you agree to try?”
You can expect your guy to react defensively, but if you are calm, consistent and understanding, your relationship could improve, even if this habit continues.
DEAR AMY: My daughter’s fiance is a frequent guest at our home. He won’t eat vegetables (except corn and potatoes), no spaghetti with tomato sauce (Alfredo only, but pizza is okay), no meat on the bone (boneless meat is okay), no salad, no fish except for shrimp (which must be fried).
My husband and I are mostly vegetarian and are very adventurous eaters; most of our everyday meals do not include anything he will eat. So far, when he visits we make something special for him. He is 24 and in graduate school (but still living with his mother).
We like him, but are running out of patience with his eating habits. How far do we need to go to feed him? Must we serve meat at every meal when he visits, since that is just about all he eats? -- Frustrated Hostess
DEAR HOSTESS: According to you, this young man doesn’t only eat meat. He seems to eat a version of what we in my family call “the white diet,” and much of it is nonmeat.
It is actually pretty easy to feed someone on the white diet because if you have bread, pasta, butter, cheese, corn, potatoes and apples on hand, and most people do, then you’ve pretty much covered it.
If he is invited to dinner at your house, then you should serve some foods you know he enjoys. If he pops in and you already are serving something else, then you could invite him to fix himself a cheese sandwich or sit with you at dinner and eat, or not eat, what you are serving.
DEAR AMY: I had to respond to the letter from “Bah Humbug,” who asserted that preparing the meals, decorations, etc., for the holidays seems to mainly fall to women.
Maybe this is true. I know that I certainly do the great bulk of preparation for the holidays and my husband sits back and enjoys it. But I definitely don’t do anything I don’t want to do.
And my husband does all sorts of mundane chores around the house. His chores are less showy, but I couldn’t do it without him. -- Grateful
DEAR GRATEFUL: The key is to remember that it is supposed to be enjoyable.
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