Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran on Oct. 3, 2014.
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 asked 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, muttering some excuse. He did not catch the hint. Worse, he continues to inquire whether I am exercising when my husband and he talk on the phone. It kills me.
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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. Sure, I would love to be out running more, but I walk every day and am in a mothers’ exercise group.
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 after my health, 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.
Interest that persistent isn’t just intrusive, it’s creepy – that is, if he’s interested for his own reasons. If he’s acting as some sort of agent or defender of your husband’s interests, then it’s even creepier.
This is in addition to being a basic boundary violation. 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, open to others by invitation only, irrelevant to anyone besides your spouse and child.
Either way, the biggest problem here isn’t this creepy, intrusive friend (throw in judgy, too, for grins); it’s that your husband is leaving you open to his invasion. Amend that: He essentially “insists” you put up with it, when 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.
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 first and foremost guardians of the self-image of a little girl.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.