DEAR AMY: I’m a married man in my 40s. I love my wife (we have no children by mutual agreement), and I know she loves me. I want to keep my marriage intact. My problem is that my wife does nothing to make herself attractive to me. In fact, she chooses “looks” that have the exact opposite effect, from her clothes to her hair, to her eye glasses. She is pretty, but seems to want to deliberately conceal this. She stopped exercising the instant we got engaged and does nothing to keep herself in shape. (She admitted the only reason she started working out was to get a boyfriend.) As a result, I’m not attracted to her anymore. I hate saying that, but it’s true. I’ve tried communicating. I’ve complimented her massively when she dresses becomingly. I’ve asked her time and again to come to the gym with me. I’ve never been mean about it. Still, she does nothing. All of this is compounded by the fact that she tells me every day how attractive she finds me. I do go to the gym regularly. I do it for myself, but I also do this to please her. I work in sales and have been flirting with a divorced woman. We have admitted our mutual attraction. She’s 15 years older than my wife but looks 15 years younger. In a nutshell, she says she’d be happy to be an occasional “friend with benefits.” I want this arrangement. Once a month would keep me happy; she said that would be her “ideal schedule,” too. We haven’t done anything physical yet. So where do I go from here? Do I ask my wife for a “free pass”? (She’d be crushed.) Do I try to talk with my wife yet again about why our sex life has gone so drastically downhill? Any advice would be much appreciated, even if you need to remind me about my marriage vows. I appreciate your forthrightness, even if you are going to tell me off.
Fit and Flirting
DEAR FIT: You know what your marriage vows are. In short, this is what your vows are about — promising fidelity in your marriage, even when the spark is gone and you are surrounded by temptation.
You can assume that if you and your wife broke up, she might get a makeover and head to the gym, because she seems to understand the connection between outward appearance and sexual attraction — at least for you.
This is an issue to discuss in marriage counseling. You should tell your wife that your marriage is on the line and ask if she would be willing to try harder to be more sexually attractive to you (she might not be).
But if you are going to ask her to change, then what changes are you willing to make? Unless your wife agrees to this “friends with benefits” arrangement, one non-negotiable would be for you to cease contact with this other person, and to stop blaming your wife for your own choice to stray.
DEAR AMY: My wife and I chose to adopt children (seven in all). I have a pet peeve — the usage of the word, “adopted.” I wish people would stop using it as an adjective to describe a person. It is the past tense of the verb “to adopt.” Once the signatures and seal are on the adoption decree(s), the child(ren) are now our children, not our adopted children. They share the same legal and moral rights and privileges as our “biological” children (we have five), or more since some are still minors. I would give my life in defense of any of them. The media is notorious for this label. Please, help educate your readers: he/she was adopted, not he/she is adopted.
DEAR PROUD: Thank you so much for this help in referencing people who were adopted. Adoption does not define a child’s experience, or place in the family, and it should not be the primary descriptor when referring to people.
People like me — in a family raising children of different races — often hear people attempt to characterize our children as “real,” “step” and “adopted.” This is particularly maddening. All of our children are real.
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Frustrated!” really rang my bell. After years of trying to get my husband to “help” me with housework, I finally went on strike. He figured it out on his own, and now we help each other.
No Longer Frustrated
DEAR NO LONGER: Great result.