DEAR CAROLYN: Three months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Exactly four days later, while I was still sitting on pillows, my husband’s friend came to visit. After congratulating us on our new daughter, he proceeded to ask whether I am back exercising yet. I could barely walk at this point.
I tried to change the subject but he brought it back, and started lecturing me on how important it is, both mentally and physically, to get out and exercise.
Because he is a close friend of my husband, I bit my lip, and hobbled to another room. He did not catch the hint. Worse, he continues to inquire whether I am exercising when my husband and he talk on the phone.
I have been blessed with good genes so I am pretty slim and have run several marathons. I am now just a few pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, and I am happy with my health and fitness. I walk every day and am in a mothers’ exercise group.
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But still, this is none of this guy’s business. And while my husband insists he is just trying to be helpful and show concern, why doesn’t he ask about my husband’s exercise routine? I am wondering how I can gracefully tell this man to stop his unsolicited advice and inquiries.
DEAR S.: Interest that persistent isn’t just intrusive, it’s creepy. If he’s acting as some sort of agent or defender of your husband’s interests, then it’s even creepier.
Even if you were within his circle of concern – his sister, say – and carrying significant pregnancy weight and a bag of Funyuns, your postpartum fitness would still be a private matter, irrelevant to anyone besides your spouse and child.
Either way, the biggest problem here isn’t this creepy, intrusive friend, it’s that your husband is leaving you open to his invasion. He “insists” on making excuses for his friend that expose how misplaced his loyalties are.
It’s the biggest of three problems: (1) Creepy friend; (2) Complicit husband; (3) Doormat you.
Please tackle (2) by reversing (3) to shut down (1) in such a manner as to leave no doubt that this subject is off the table, closed, not to be broached by people with any interest in having you amiably in their lives.
I suggest: “That’s not even remotely your business.” Unflinching.
If he trots out the health excuse: “My health is not even remotely your business.”
If your husband defends him: “You’re backing the wrong horse.”
Then: “I won’t discuss this.” Change subject/leave room. Not in a huff, but instead in calm refusal to stand for this invasion.
Then, in the privacy of your marriage, stand firm with your husband on this important issue. It’s not only a threat to your intimacy, but also your first big challenge as parents, especially as the foremost guardians of the self-image of a little girl.