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Dear Annie: Pet disparity puts strain on marriage

Dear Annie: I grew up never allowed to have pets. I’ve been married almost 30 years to a man who allowed me to have a small inside dog, and he doesn’t mind her so much but hates the two we have outside. Both are rescues, one from his oldest son that had him tied to a tree, the other from a rescue group. Both weigh less than 7 pounds. He hates them and looks for any excuse to get mad about them. One is a thief but doesn’t chew up her finds. The other digs tiny holes that a pecan can fit in, but not very many, two or three at any given time.

The issue is that, if our granddaughter brings a pet for us to take care of, it can do no wrong because we love our granddaughter, no matter how stinky or destructive the animal. This hurts my heart and makes me feel like he puts up with them because he loves her. What about me? – Protective of Pets

Dear Protective: It sounds like there’s a significant imbalance in how your husband views your pets compared to those of your granddaughter, which understandably feels personal since your animals mean so much to you. It’s important to address not just the specifics of this pet situation but also your feelings of being underloved in your relationship.

Sit down with your husband to tell him how much it means to you to care for your animals and how it hurts to feel like this interest of yours is not reciprocated. Encourage him to engage more with the pets with the hope that it might make him feel more connected to them, just as he feels connected to your granddaughter’s pets, and see what boundaries there are to set to make him feel more comfortable having the dogs in your shared space. May this raw, candid conversation be a step toward understanding each other better and strengthening your marriage.

Dear Annie: My husband of 35 years has taken to letting himself go. We are both in our 60s and have, in the past, enjoyed hiking, walking around our neighborhood and getting some exercise. He is a recovered alcoholic and has a powerful taste for sweets, eating them often and usually clandestinely. He has gained a fair amount of weight and has had some recent problems with his knees and one hip.

I have suggested exercise and a sensible diet, but he does not seem to find it an important suggestion. We have good insurance, although he does not see a doctor or dentist. He hobbles when he walks now. I exercise regularly and am a vegetarian. My weight has been the same for our entire life together.

Should I let him be? I am tired of telling him how I feel regarding this issue and know I will soon be a widow. I am at a loss. – Impending Widow

Dear Impending Widow: Your concerns are both valid and pressing, especially given your husband’s previous battles with alcoholism and now his declining physical condition. Since direct suggestions haven’t been effective, consider consulting a third party. Perhaps getting your husband to agree to a health checkup under the guise of routine care will lead to natural conversations about his diet and exercise with a professional. As summer approaches, try to engage him in activities you both like that can also serve as light exercise, like those gentle walks you two used to enjoy together or recreational swimming.

Make sure to express your concerns not just from a health standpoint but from a relational one. Let him know how much you value your time together and your future, emphasizing that his health directly affects the quality and longevity of your shared life. At the end of the day, it’s simple: You love him and don’t want to lose him. This might make the situation more relatable and urgent, inspiring him to make changes.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected].