Dear Carolyn: I was out for dinner with my boyfriend and his family and one of his friends last week. I was the only one chowing down on dessert – it was delicious! – but my boyfriend kept shooting me looks. I jokingly said, “Are you going to keep staring at me while I eat?” and he said nothing. A few minutes later he goes, “Are you going to eat all of that?” and his mom goes, “She can eat as much as she wants.”
I felt humiliated. We’re both fitness geeks and lately, I admit, I’ve been in a fitness slump (so much happening in my personal life), but I am still eating right. It was probably coming from a good place, but am I right to tell him NOT to do that again?
I couldn’t even muster the courage to ask for a box for the leftover dessert, which I would have liked. And maybe I’m being sensitive, but he’s always giving me “tough love” when all I really need is for at least one person in my life to just cut me some damn slack. Of all people, I would expect it to be him.
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Why, because he’s your boyfriend?
That’s a title, not a tendency.
Please ask yourself why you don’t take him at face value and see that “tough love” (criticism, no?) is his forte. He’s on the list of people in your life who don’t cut you some damn slack because that’s not what he does. Don’t let wishful thinking decide whether you want to keep dating this guy.
In fact, I suggest you pull back and assess everyone close to you with facts in mind, because your dinner scene has earmarks of an emotional rut:
(1) You’re apparently (extrapolating a bit here) surrounded by people who are judgy in general and/or tough on you. Except of course your boyfriend’s mom, to whom I’m sending a grateful hug from everyone who has ever been shame-stared for enjoying dessert.
(2) You are tired of being judged by people close to you.
(3) Your reflex, though, isn’t to stand up for yourself against them – it’s to stand down. To wit, your only defense was one you “jokingly said”; you were silenced out of requesting a doggy bag; you made excuses for him and his intentions, then negated your own feelings as “sensitive”; and even now you’re looking for permission to set a boundary.
You know what? You can do that. Unilaterally, no permission needed. You can say, “Stop judging what I eat. It’s not your business.” He can disagree with that all he wants but it’s your life and your body and you get to decide what you will, and won’t, put up with from other people.
If nothing else, please at least take in the full range of possibilities here. Maybe he’s not judging from a “good place,” but instead selfishly fearing you’ll, egads, start looking less hot. Maybe your current personal flux is connected both to your immersion in unsupportive people and to your conditioned reflex to defer to them.
And maybe if you want some damn slack, then you need to prioritize kindness and depth when choosing people to allow into your life. You can do that, too, without anyone saying you can.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.