Thursday, May 12, 2011

Should Being a Jerk Disqualify You from Being President?

"Jackie wasn't pretty enough to be a President's wife."
Newt Gingrich, in conversation, referring to his first wife (as recounted by two former aides)

As expected, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced today that he's a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party nomination for President. This is not a political blog, so I'll refrain from making any comments on Gingrich's policy positions or his career as a legislator, other than to acknowledge that he's had some substantial accomplishments over the years. But because I write about men-women relationships, I do have a couple of things to say about the guy.

Even by Washington standards, his marital history---in particular, his treatment of his first wife, Jackie Battley---leaves something to be desired. I'm not talking about the fact that he married her when he was a nobody, and divorced her (to marry a woman he was having an affair with) once his career started hitting stride. I'm talking about the way he did it, the way he lied about it afterward, and the way he ridiculed her for things beyond her control.

Gingrich had Jackie served with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. When that got in the newspapers, Gingrich blamed it on the process servers, indignantly proclaiming that he would never have been so insensitive to have it done that way. Well, how did the process servers know she was in the hospital, and what room she was in?

And then to add insult to injury, Gingrich would joke about Jackie afterward. Seven years older than him, and by no means a "public" person (she was formerly a high school geometry teacher), Jackie apparently didn't fit Gingrich's notion of what a political wife should look and sound like. She wasn't pretty enough, he told aides, and her shyness embarrassed him at political events. Clearly, she was a liability, and had to be disposed of.

His marriage to wife number two, Marianne Ginther, was also characterized by his infidelities. He divorced Marianne to marry one of his affair partners, Callista Bisek, his congressional aide and twenty-three years his junior. Interestingly enough, while carrying on his affair with Ms. Bisek, Gingrich was in the forefront of the movement to impeach Bill Clinton over matters related to his affair with a much-younger aide.

The question I raise is simply this: Should being a jerk, and a liar, and a hypocrite, disqualify a person from the Presidency? I can't answer that question for you or anyone else, but I know what my answer is.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lying about Your "Secret" Trysts? Your Cell Phone Can Expose You!

"Apple Inc.'s iPhone is collecting and storing location information even when location services are turned off."
From an article in the April 25, 2011 Wall Street Journal

I'm not exactly a cutting-edge technology guy, but I've always been fascinated by the interrelationship between technology and extramarital affairs. E-mails, cell phones, instant messaging and texts all make it easier to carry on an affair, but they also make it easier for affairs to be exposed. Just about everything a person does on his computer or cell phone is stored away somewhere, waiting to be uncoded and---perhaps---used as evidence against him in a divorce case.

Even things we don't usually think of as personal electronic devices can expose us. A while back, I wrote about the use of "EZ Pass" data in divorce cases to establish that a person had been somewhere other than where he claimed to be. EZ Passes are used in states that have toll roads or toll bridges, as a way of allowing drivers to pre-pay the toll rather than wait in line at the toll booth. A scanner reads the EZ Pass as you drive by, and you probably never think about what happens to the information that's collected---notably, the date and time you pass each toll plaza.

Well, what happens is that it's stored at some remote location, possibly for years to come. And it's "discoverable" in court cases: a lawyer can serve a subpoena on the state transportation agency to produce the data related to a particular car. In a number of divorce cases, the data have proved that someone was lying about his whereabouts. He was, let's say, claiming to be working late at his office in Manhattan, but in reality had used his EZ Pass to cross the Triboro Bridge to see his girlfriend in Queens.

More recently, it turns out that both Apple's iPhones and Google's Android phones are continuously transmitting location information back to Apple and Google. Both companies say that users can disable the "location service" on their phone, but an independent test conducted by the Wall Street Journal showed that location data were still being collected and transmitted, even after the service had supposedly been disabled.

I'm not aware of any divorce cases in which cell phone location data have been subpoenaed, but I guarantee you it will happen, just as it has with EZ Passes. And it will reveal a lot more than EZ Passes do. It will reveal precisely where you were, when you were there, and how long you stayed there. If you happen to have taken your cell phone with you to a two-hour tryst at a cut-rate hotel during office hours, you may have some explaining to do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why is it So Hard to be Reasonable?

"Honey, I know you didn't mean to upset me, but you did. Let's clear the air so we can move on to enjoying our relationship again." Sound familiar? Of course not.
From "Friendly Fight: A Smarter Way to Say I'm Angry" (April 19, 2011 Wall Street Journal column)

Elizabeth Bernstein writes the weekly "On Relationships" column for the Wall Street Journal, a column I enjoy reading because it's well-researched, well-written, and almost always about what I consider a "real world" relationship issue.

This week's coumn is a good example. Ms. Bernstein deals with something that most of us have been guilty of at one time or another (and some of us are guilty of all the time): expressing anger inappropriately. As she puts it:

"If someone upsets us, we often shout, stomp off, roll our eyes, or refuse to speak to the person. Or we pretend we aren't upset, until one day we explode over the seemingly littlest thing."

Why is it so hard to express anger in a mature way? One reason, according to psychologists quoted in Ms. Bernstein's column, is biological. When you get angry, your brain is flooded with chemicals and hormones, including adrenaline, which makes you want to either fight or run, and which can remain in your system for hours. There are also "mirror neurons" in our brain that make us subconsciously mimic a person we're interacting with. Thus, if the other person is showing signs of anger, we'll probably show them, too. In that sense, anger is contagious.

Another reason is childhood conditioning: we probably learned a dysfunctional style of expressing anger---or handling someone else's anger---from our parents. If your mother was prone to having emotional meltdowns, while your father was quickly retreating into a shell, there's a good chance that you're now exhibiting one or the other of those behaviors.

So, it's not easy to overcome our self-defeating approaches to expressing or reacting to anger. But it's not impossible. One of the experts quoted by Ms. Bernstein teaches people how to do it in five steps. I think they make sense.

The first step is to calm down. Let your emotions cool. Pick a good time to talk about the situation with the other person, maybe a day or two later.

The second step is to begin the conversation by acknowleging, in a calm tone of voice, that some of it may be hard for you to say or for the other person to hear.

The third step is to say "I" and not "you." "I was hurt yesterday by what happened," is less threatening than "You behaved badly yesterday," and less likely to lead to a retaliatory "What do you mean? You're the one who behaved badly!"

The fourth step is to find out why it happened. Maybe the other person had no idea he or she was offending you in some way.

The fifth step is to deal with the issue completely (but without dredging up any and all other issues from the past that could sidetrack you). Work together to figure out how to avoid repeating the same problem. And once you've achieved an understanding, try to express some appreciation and affection.

As I say, doing all this won't be easy, especially if you've been ranting and raving and slamming doors all your life. But it's certainly worth trying, and trying again until you get it right, because there's nothing more corrosive to a relationship than wounds that haven't healed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tracking Down a Lost Love: a Good Idea or Not?

"We're in love again. To think we've found each other after all these years."
Phyllis Mitton, 86, who has recently been reunited with Mike Stadnyk, her long-lost boyfriend from 1945.

Thanks to Internet search engines and social networking sites, there are a lot of stories these days similar to that of Phyllis Mitton and Mike Stadnyk, who lost touch with each other after the Canadian Army transferred him to some distant base after World War II. They eventually married other people, and many years later were both widowed and wondering, "Whatever happened to...?"

It's a nice story, but there are also plenty of stories that don't turn out nearly as well: stories of people who are married to one person but have an irrestible urge to track down someone else. Ostensibly, the reason is mere curiosity ("I wonder if he ever finished that Ph.D. program he enrolled in"), but once the two former lovers get together the conversation quickly morphs from Ph.D. programs to how wonderful it was back then when they were together, and how unsatisfying their lives are now. It's not hard to predict what happens next.

So, should we or shouldn't we do a google search on someone we were once in love with? The answer, according to my friend, Dr. Nancy Kalish, is "It depends."

Dr. Kalish is a sociologist and university professor who is probably the world's leading expert on people who reunite with lost lovers (her website is She knows all the happy-ending stories, and she also knows the ones that have ended badly. She says there are three main lost-lover categories. Depending on which category you're in, you should either plunge in enthusiastically, or you should proceed with caution, or or you should totally forget about it.

The Mitton-Stadnyk story is a classic example of a situation where there is no good reason not to try to resume the relationship. Because their separation back in 1945 was due to something beyond their control, they didn't really "break up" in the usual sense. They may have been sad at the time that things didn't work out, but they didn't feel animosity toward each other. Beyond that, they were both widowed prior to the recent contact, so there was no chance that a long-term marriage could be jeopardized. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to get back in touch.

A "proceed with caution" situation usually involve former lovers who are currently unmarried, but who broke up in an unhappy or even nasty way. According to Dr. Kalish, unless the wounds have completely healed on both sides, it could be a mistake to try to start over again. A person in this situation should ask himself or herself: "How hurt would I be if we were to break up again?" If the answer is "very hurt," then don't risk it.

The common denominator of "forget about it" situations is marriage, particularly a marriage that's on shaky grounds. When one person or the other is married, or both of them are, there's a high liklihood, according to Dr. Kalish, that one or both marriages will be jeopardized if the ex-lovers try to reunite. Even if the impulse to contact the other person is an innocent one, the old feelings will almost always come back, especially if there's an in-person meeting. In theory, the meeting could result in a purely Platonic friendship, but in the big majority of cases it would lead to an affair, or at least an increase in the level of marital frustration and dissatisfaction that already exists.

For better or worse, the Internet has allowed all of us to play private detective. Anyone with basic computer skills can gather more information on someone in five minutes than any of the famous private detectives of the 1940's movies could in five weeks. The question is: what do we do with that information? Usually, the best answer is to think long and hard about the person---and about yourself---before doing anything. To paraphrase the old saying about getting married without thinking it through:  e-mail in haste, repent at leisure.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Limitations of Niche Dating Sites

"Apple users match up well, because they tend to have creative professions, a similar sense of style, and an appetite for technology."
From a New York Times article about some some new "niche" dating sites, including one solely for owners of Apple computers.

By definition, niche dating sites are not everything-for-everybody, one-stop-shopping kinds of sites. They're for people who want to narrow the universe of potential partners to people who are like themselves in some way they consider important. Thus, if religion is a big part of your life, you can find sites limited to people of your particular faith. If you're a book lover, there are sites where you can search for people with reading tastes that are similar to yours. If you're unlucky enough to have a sexually-transmitted disease, there are dozens of STD sites that allow you to avoid all those worries about what to say and when and how to say it.

There are literally tens of thousands of niche dating sites, some of them so specialized that you wonder how they can attract enough members to stay in business (e.g. a site for men with mustaches and the women who are turned on by them). Some niche sites are free, but most of them charge anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00 a month.

I can see the appeal of some of these sites. If you're Mormon, say, or Greek Orthodox, and you're 100% certain you only want to date within your faith, why join a site like where only a tiny percentage of the members meet your requirements? If you don't feel you could date a meat-eater, why not join a vegetarian-only site? If opera is the biggest thing in your life, why waste your time with someone who not only hates it but ridicules it?

All of that makes sense. But it's important to realize that common interests and shared attitudes can only take you so far. For a relationship to succeed, there has to be chemistry between the two people. Having something in common may help break the ice by giving you something to talk about, but at some point a relationship requires more than just a mutual interest in, say, Apple computers or the novels of Jane Austen.

There's also a danger in attributing too much to a particular shared interest. We want to think that if a new person in our life is like us in some way, he or she will be like us in other ways, as well. But oftentimes that's not the case. We might both be dog-lovers, but that doesn't mean we have similar opinions about social or political issues. Or we might have similar opinions about social or political issues, but have incompatible communication styles.

The bottom line is that dating sites---whether niche or mainstream---can only, at most, identify candidates who might be suitable for us. No more, no less. That's why it's crucial that you meet someone you're interested in as soon as possible, and not get over-invested in him or her until then. When you're face-to-face, you can tell more about someone in five minutes than you can in five months' worth of e-mail exchanges. You can see what he actually looks like, how he dresses, how he talks, how (or if) he listens, whether he has any social skills, or, conversely, any annoying habits.

Chemistry may be hard to define, but one thing we know about it is that it can't be willed into existence. It's either there or it isn't, and all the common interests in the world can't create it or sustain it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

"I will never love anyone but you. Period."
(From a love letter written by the 17 year-old Elizabeth Taylor to her then-boyfriend, William Pawley).

Given all the men who subsequently played romantic roles in Elizabeth Taylor's life, it's easy to chuckle at the irony of her promise to William Pawley, whom she dumped less than six months later to marry hotel heir Conrad ("Nicky") Hilton (a man she would divorce nine months after that). But I'm sure she meant every word she said, just as I'm sure that all seventeen year-old girls mean it when they pledge undying love to their boyfriends.

But Taylor, unlike many girls, remained something of a seventeen year-old the rest of her life. A while back, I read "Hellraisers: The Lives and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris, and Oliver Reed," a book in which Taylor figures prominently---and not only for the marathon drinking sessions she and Burton engaged in. (She was the only woman who, as Burton put it, "could drink me under the table," and the only person of either sex who physically terrified him). Even though she divorced Burton twice, she could never speak of him afterward without crying, and she often said she would have married him a third time if he had lived longer.

Taylor was also, believe it or not, a traditionalist---or at least an idealist---on the subject of marriage. She may have had seven divorces, but, as she once said in an interview, "If I had just shacked up with guys instead of marrying them, no one would have kept count." If she loved a man, she had to marry him. And if a husband didn't keep up his end of the bargain she wanted out, rather than limp along in a marriage that she considered unworthy of the name.

It was sad when Taylor died, but anyone who knew anything about her knew that she had done enough living for ten lifetimes. And she had endured enough pain for ten lifetimes, as well. She's in a better place now, but I like to think that we're all in a better place now because of her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Note to My Readers

As some of you may know, I began writing this blog over three and a half years ago. For the first two years, I wrote a weekly essay on a relationship issue that was either prompted by something in the news (a politician's career ruined by an affair, a celebrity divorce, etc.), or by a quote from a famous writer (hence the "Quote & Comment" title of the blog).

In August of 2009, I changed the format of the blog to a "Dear Jim"-style advice column. I had been getting relationship questions from readers and answering them privately, but I felt that some of the questions were interesting enough, and important enough, to share with the rest of my readers. Since then, I've posted over eighty "Dear Jim" Q&A's, which have in turn prompted even more reader questions.

Just recently, I've been fortunate to find a larger readership for "Dear Jim." It will be appearing twice a month on (the most widely-read website targeted to the Baby Boomer generation), and once a week in two Arizona newspapers: the Green Valley News and the Sahuarita Sun. Rather than posting the same Q&A columns that will appear on Boomer-Living or in the newspapers, I'll be switching back next week to my original blog format, offering what I hope is a unique and entertaining perspective on men-women relationships. You can, of course, still write to me ( with your relationship questions. As always, I thank you for your friendship and support.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recovering-Alcoholic Husband is Unhappy with Social-Drinker Wife

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: Long story short: my husband finally stopped drinking after fifteen horrible years for both of us, and is very active in AA (he goes three times a week). The problem is, I'm a moderate drinker and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but my husband says he can't be around anyone who's drinking, for fear that he'll relapse. So basically he's forbidden me to have any wine in the house or to order any if we go out. I don't want to go back to the "bad days" of our marriage, but it seems unfair that I have to give up something that I like just because he has a problem with it. The irony is that I've become sort of a closet drinker; I've stopped off a couple of times at a bar on the way home from work just to enjoy a glass of wine without being hassled. What should I do? ("J")

DEAR "J": First of all, let me say that it's great that your husband cared enough to get the help he needed. Untreated alcoholism can be as fatal to a marriage as affairs and verbal abuse; maybe even more so.

Having said that, though, I think your husband is demanding an awful lot of you. As you say, he want you to change because he has a problem. It's not as if you're one of his old drinking buddies urging him to have a beer or two with them. You're a moderate and seemingly-responsible drinker who wants him to stay sober but also wants to continue enjoying something that gives you pleasure. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm not an expert on alcoholism, but it seems to me that your husband is going overboard in trying to avoid situations where people are drinking in his presence. Does he feel he couldn't go to a baseball game if a guy in the row in front of him is drinking beer? Does he feel he couldn't go to a restaurant with a liquor license, for fear that he might see people enjoying a martini? Does he feel he couldn't go to a family wedding because there might be a champagne toast? If so, he's going to have to live in a very small, isolated world, and you're going to have to live there with him---and probably not too happily.

I think you should get involved with Al-Alon, the support group for spouses, children, and other family members of alcoholics. You're bound to meet people there who have dealt with issues similar to yours, and get some practical tips in how to encourage your husband to be less fearful and more reasonable. You and your husband may also want to have a consultation together with a professional alcoholism counselor; he or she may have the kind of credibility that your husband will respond to.

The good thing, "J", is that your husband seems determined never to relapse. My guess is that at some point---with professional help and with your input and support---he'll be more confident of his ability to stay sober without subjecting you to arbitrary and unfair rules. Good luck, and please let me know how it turns out.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Her Boyfriend and his Ex are Still Business Partners

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I've been dating a 42 year old guy who's been divorced for three years. He and his ex-wife are both accountants. They formed a business partnership when they were married, but kept it going even after their divorce. She's engaged to be married this summer, and I believe him when he says they have no romantic feelings for each other anymore. But I get tired of hearing him mention her name all the time, and I feel uncomfortable with the idea that he's spending nine or ten hours a day with someone he used to be in love with. Am I being over-sensitive, or is he being insensitive? ("Ellen" from New Jersey)

DEAR ELLEN: Although it's understandable that you feel the way you do, I think you're being over-sensitive. Your boyfriend's relationship with his ex-wife is unusual, but it's not unheard of. There are more people than you might imagine who run businesses with their ex-spouses. Obviously, it takes a lot of maturity and mutual respect for people to put aside their differences for the sake of the business, but some people have those qualities. I think you're far better off having a boyfriend who respects his ex than one who is constantly disparaging her.

Having had business partners myself in the past, I know how rare it is to find one who is hard-working, honest, reliable, and personally compatible. When you have a partner like that, you want to do everything you can to keep him (or her). My guess is that your boyfriend and his ex each bring valuable and complementary talents to the businesss. Whatever differences they may have had as husband and wife don't seem to affect their working relationship.

I'm not saying it's easy for you to keep hearing the ex's name mentioned, but it's normal for someone to talk about the people he works with, especially if he works in a very small office. Unless your boyfriend is commenting on how beautiful his ex-wife is, or something else that would give you legitimate cause for concern, you shouldn't let it bother you. Try to pretend that the partner is someone named "Joe", and you'll probably feel less threatened about the situation.

Good luck, Ellen, and please let me know if this helps.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Privacy in Her Own Home?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: Two years ago, I married a widower with a 22 year old son ("Adam") who was living at home with his father but graduating from college and about to move to another state for a job. Everything was fine until Adam was laid off three months ago and moved back to the area. He moved into an inexpensive apartment with an old friend of his, but he shows up here almost every day, without notice, to do his laundry, or watch TV, or see what's in the refrigerator. Half the time, his father isn't even home when he comes---he's just looking for a place to hang out. He still has a key to the house, and a couple of times I was in the shower and never even heard him come in (thank God I was dressed, but it still startled me to see him in the kitchen when I thought I was home alone. And, as a retired teacher, I'm home much of the day).

I've talked to my husband about it, but he doesn't think it's any big deal. In fact, I think he likes having Adam back, because he's the baby in the family and the two older ones are married and living a long way off. Is there anything I can do? ("No Privacy")

DEAR "NO PRIVACY": What you have here are two guys---a young one and an older one---who, in different ways, are clueless about how their behavior or attitude is affecting you. You shouldn't have to put up with this.

I know you've talked to your husband already, but maybe you didn't make it 100% clear to him just how much this is bothering you. You can start in a positive way. Tell him that it's understandable that Adam would still think of your home as his home. And say that it's great that he and Adam have a good relationship, and that you, yourself, would like to have a good relationship with Adam, but that it's difficult when he's constantly dropping by without calling.

Stress to your husband that you're not asking him to discipline Adam, but merely to educate him on some basic facts. And one of those facts is that the "house rules" changed (or should have changed) when your husband married you. When you speak with your husband, you should be prepared to suggest specific ways to safeguard your privacy without making Adam feel like an outcast, such as requiring Adam to call first and not to come over unless he's actually spoken to you (a voice or text message isn't enough) and made sure that the timing is good.

I'm optimistic that, once your husband understands your concerns, your problem should be at least minimized, and maybe solved. Good luck, and let me know what happens.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Her Boyfriend Refuses to Get a Divorce

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I'm a 66 year-old widow and I've been involved with a man my age for the past three years. About six months ago I moved in with him, despite my concern that he's still legally married. He's been separated from his wife for over ten years. He tells me he hasn't seen her in all that time, and that the only way he even knows she's still alive is that his daughter sometimes gives him an update on what she's doing. He knows I'd like to get married, but he keeps telling me that he doesn't want to upset the applecart, so to speak. He says that if either he or his wife filed for divorce he'd have to pay her alimony, because his income was always a lot bigger than hers. Is that true? Their daughter was already on her own when they separated, and his wife has never asked him for support. I love the man, but I don't want to be taken advantage of. ("Geri")

DEAR GERI: Let me first point out that every state has different statutes concerning alimony and other financial aspects of divorce, so the only way you could find out with certainty if your boyfriend is correct is to consult an experienced divorce lawyer in whatever state would have "jurisdiction" if either your boyfriend or his wife filed for divorce.

Having said that, however, I strongly doubt that a divorce court anywhere would be likely to award his wife alimony. Nowadays, alimony is not automatically awarded in a divorce. Generally, it's limited to situations in which one spouse (usually the wife) has such limited job skills that she couldn't be expected to support herself without it. Your boyfriend's wife has somehow been able to get by for ten years without his financial help. It would be extremely difficult for her to claim at this point that she's entitled to alimony. I suppose that anything can happen in court, but I think your boyfriend is worrying about nothing.

Of course, your boyfriend may not really be worried about alimony, but rather using it as an excuse to avoid getting married again. Based on what you tell me, I can't say for sure if your boyfriend is being straightforward with you on this issue, but one way to find out is to urge him to consult with a divorce lawyer---ideally, with you present at the meeting---to get all the relevant information. If he refuses to meet with a lawyer, or refuses to let you accompany him, he's telling you, in effect, that the alimony excuse is a bogus one. Even apart from the fact that you'd like to get married, it wouldn't be a good sign if the man you're living with isn't telling you the truth about so basic an issue, or isn't bringing you into his major life decisions.

Good luck, Geri, and please let me know what happens.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

She Had an Affair with Her Personal Trainer

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: My situation is similar to the woman whose husband is overweight and a couch potato [see previous blog entry, dated 1/17/11]. In my case, though, I became attracted to one of the personal trainers at my gym, and wound up having an affair with him. It was wonderful for a few weeks, but then I learned through the grapevine that he was also seeing at least two other women from the gym. I don't want to be part of someone's harem so I broke it off, but I'm still fantasizing about other guys at the gym who have great bodies. Do you think it would motivate my husband to lose weight and get in shape if he knew that I'm turned on by guys who take pride in their appearance? ("Anonymous")

DEAR ANONYMOUS: I suppose some people can be motivated by fear and jealousy to change their behavior, but I wouldn't bet on it in your husband's case. In fact, knowing that you're attracted to other men may produce the opposite effect: he could become so depressed that he winds up eating or drinking even more.

I would also caution you not to blurt out a confession that you've been unfaithful. Unless your husband is certain to find out some other way, a confession is only going to hurt him and threaten your marriage, especially if you're not 100% determined that it will never happen again. Given how turned on you are by the men at your gym, I think it could easily happen again.

Your best bet is to try to motivate your husband in as positive a way as you can. At some point in your marriage he probably looked better---maybe a lot better---than he does now. You could show him pictures of himself when he was slimmer, and tell him how great he looked. If he used to work out or play sports, you could talk about how much energy he had, and how sexy he was in bed. And, as I told the other woman, you could try to help ease his way back into exercising by inviting him to go on walks with you.

I sympathize with your situation, "Anonymous," but if you truly want to save your marriage you've got to stop fantasizing about the guys at the gym. Affairs, like drugs, are usually nothing more than a quick escape from reality. Once the initial high wears off, you feel worse than before, which just makes you crave it again. It's a vicious cycle, and if it goes on long enough it will end badly.

Good luck, and please let me know what happens.

Monday, January 17, 2011

She's Into Nutrition and Fitness, He's Not

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please submit any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I was seriously overweight for many years, but I've managed to lose over ninety pounds in the past two years. I could still lose a few more, but basically I like the way I look and love the way I feel. I walk at least three miles whenever the weather is good, and do weights at the gym several times a week. My problem is that my husband is a classic couch potato and likes it that way. He's 310 pounds and hasn't exercised regularly since he played football thirty years ago. He hates the nutritious meals I try to prepare for us, and often stops off at McDonald's on the way home from work to have burgers and fries. I'm sorry, but I just can't stand the smell of fried foods any more, and I don't want to be responsible if my husband has a heart attack. Any suggestions? ("Annie")

DEAR ANNIE: I'm not saying your husband is right and you're wrong, but if you genuinely want him to live a healthier lifestyle you've first got to look at things from his perspective.

He probably feels that you've changed the rules in the middle of the game. For most of your married life, it sounds as if you were both couch potatoes and both enjoyed eating fatty foods. But then you woke up and realized that you didn't want to live that way any more, and you actually did something about it. You deserve all the credit in the world for losing the weight and keeping it off, but your husband probably feels he's lost a wife---or at least a sympathetic wife.

If you want your husband to adopt your eating and exercise habits, you'll need to do it gradually. If you take him out of his comfort zone too quickly, he'll just rebel and dig in deeper, which is what he's doing when he goes to McDonald's. So, despite your aversion to them, you should still cook some fried foods for him, but in smaller portions and without as much gravy or other toppings. I'm not a nutritionist, but I know there are plenty of cookbooks, and magazines such as Cooking Light, that are full of tips on how to make meals that are filling and satisfying, but not loaded with calories.

As for exercise, you'll also want him to go slowly. If your husband tries to make up for lost time by doing some of his old football workouts, he really will have a heart attack. Urge him to come with you on one of your walks, but start with just a mile or so. And when he does start losing weight or walking longer distances, be sure to praise him. Tell him how much better he looks. Show more interest in him sexually. Reinforce your message in a way that's positive, not preachy.

Good luck, Annie, and please let me know what happens.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Women Tell Lies Online, Too!

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: You made it sound like the only liars, losers, and scam artists in online dating are men [see previous Q&A dated January 4, 2011]. What about the women who post pictures showing all sorts of cleavage, and then act offended when you mention sex? Or the women who will order the most expensive things on the menu and have no intention of ever seeing you again? Or the women who spend hours putting down their ex, or talk only about themselves? I think you owe an apology to men. ("Disgusted")

DEAR DISGUSTED: The purpose of this column is to answer specific questions submitted by specific readers. The woman who wrote to me was asking about "red flags" that she might encounter in her online dealings with men, and I told her. If a man had asked me the same question, I would have given him a different answer (and then some woman would probably have complained that I was being too easy on men).

Yes, some women do mislead men, or take advantage of their generosity or gullibility, or are totally wrapped up in themselves or consumed with the need to get revenge on an ex. Women are definitely not perfect, but very few people active in online dating---male or female---are innocent when it comes to revealing the entire truth about themselves or their motivations.

Both men and women will lie in their profiles about their age or weight or education. Both men and women are often guilty of self-deception; they cling to an image of themselves that has no basis in reality. And, even if they do have a degree of self-awareness, both women and men are fearful that no one will write to them unless they present themselves in the best possible light, which can lead to all sorts of exaggerations and half-truths.

I've written before about how men need to be careful about over-committing emotionally to women they haven't even met in person, or over-spending on first dates, or reading too much into the fact that a woman's picture shows some cleavage. Men need to be both optimistic but realistic, and---just as women should---they need to pay attention to red flags.

On a first date, a man should never have to spend hours listening to a woman drone on about herself or her ex, because a first date shouldn't last for hours (unless both people are hitting it off tremendously). Nor should a man be fretting about the big bar or restaurant charges the woman is running up. A first date should be in a casual, inexpensive setting such as a coffee shop, where it won't be difficult for either person to cut the date short if things are clearly going badly. And a first date should carry no expectations whatsoever of sex happening that day---no matter how flirtatious the e-mails have been or how much skin the pictures showed.

I hope that you can put your negative experiences into perspective, and not lose hope of meeting the right woman. She's out there somewhere, but you'll never meet her if you view all women with mistrust.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What are the Red Flags in Online Dating?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I've been a widow since 2005, and I'm finally ready to start dating again. I'm nervous, though, because I haven't been on a first date since 1966! I keep hearing about all the "red flags" to watch out for on line dating sites, but I'm not really sure what they are. Can you enlighten me? (Peggy)

DEAR PEGGY: First of all, congratulations on having the courage to take the plunge.

In my opinion, the reddest of the red flags in online dating is a request for money. And I'm including not just a request for money, per se, but also requests from far-away members for you to pay for their airline tickets, hotels, or other travel-related costs in order for them to meet you.

If someone asks you for money or travel expenses, don't even respond; it's a scam of some sort, or at the very least someone who's desperate or looking for a "sugar mama." Most dating sites will allow you to block e-mails from people you don't want to hear from again, and you should do that immediately. You should also report the person to the site's administrator (there's usually a way to do that), so that other innocent people aren't victimized.

Another common red flag is a premature or inappropriate reference to sex. Unless your own profile indicates that you're interested in "casual encounters" or other sexually-oriented relationships, I would avoid men who come on too strong in this area. Although it's probably true that most men you correspond with will be hoping to have sex at some point, a man who's truly interested in a long-term relationship should be mature enough to want to get to know you first.

I would also be wary of profiles that suggest that the man has had bad experiences with women. If someone talks about having been dumped by past wives or girlfriends, or how he's looking for someone who can restore his faith in women, he's probably a man who is mistrustful, bitter, or clueless as to his own role in the failed relationships. Unless you're looking to rescue someone or serve as his unpaid therapist---and I hope you aren't---I'd avoid people like that.

In general, you need to read carefully what people say and how they say it. If something just doesn't sound right, or if someone makes you feel uneasy, don't bother reponding. When it comes to online dating, there's always someone else.

Good luck, Peggy, and please let me know what happens.