My husband loves to fix things around the house, but he takes forever to complete projects--and sometimes he tries to do stuff only a pro should tackle, like rewire the basement. Help!
—Submitted by Vina K., Ventnor, NJ
He said: Tinkering lets your husband focus on a mission and conquer it without the stress and pressure that come with work projects. Though it may improve his mood more than the house, let him take time to figure out what widget goes where. Otherwise he'll feel like you don't trust him. Now, if it's stuff that can cause fires or floods, that's trickier. I say give him a chance. Then, before he starts, give him something else: a deadline. If he can't fix it by the date you both agree upon, then it's fair game for you to roto his rooter.
She said: Your man's DIY jones is more than just a hobby. When he's up on the roof with a nail gun in one hand and a monkey wrench in the other, he's taking a ride on the great space coaster of manliness. And every time he successfully patches a pipe or levels a doorframe, his ego shoots over the moon. As hard as it may be to watch the catastrophes come and go without comment, do your best to withhold criticism. He needs to be the "fixer" the way you need 20 pairs of jeans--and there's no sensible explanation for either.
I met a guy through an online dating site and we've been dating exclusively for 7 months, but his profile is still posted as an active record on the site. I'm mystified. How do I handle this?
—Submitted by Na C., Pawtucket, RI
He said: Is this any different than if he were at a bar and chatting up the bouncy server? You have to feel out whether his cyber flirting is harmless. My gut? What's best about the Web--infinite possibilities--is also the worst. We look for better prices, smarter blogs, higher-res spring break photos. Your beau is sending a clear message to a wide web of women--and to you--that he's searching for something.
She said: Whoa! If this guy makes you happy, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Like leaving the milk out on the kitchen counter, maybe he just forgot to take down his profile. Or maybe he likes getting the occasional ego-boosting e-mail that he gloats over for a minute and then deletes. Is that so bad? There's no point in getting pissed before you know what's going on. Why not ask him lightheartedly if he could still be looking for love online when he has someone as fabulous as you in the flesh? You have to start to trust this guy. If you can't, maybe you're the one who needs an active profile.
My fiancÃƒÂ© talks about his ex-wife a lot--what she thought of his habits, how she planned the wedding, etc. How do I deal?
—Submitted by Ra T., Waterloo, IA
He said: Most guys would be more comfortable discussing duvet covers than talking to a current lover about a former one. But I don't think he's intentionally trying to razz you. He's probably insecure about the failure of his last marriage, so he's trying to prove he knows something about relationships. Shut it down. You know his romantic rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ©, but you don't need to hear more about it--especially if he wants to get (and keep) the job.
She said: I was once on vacation in Italy with someone who wouldn't shut up about how it reminded her of France. Eventually I screamed, "Let's talk about f-ing Italy!" Remind your fiancÃƒÂ© that you agreed to marry him--not his ex--which means her opinions and behaviors are of no interest to you. He may not be able to stop the knee-jerk memories, but he can stop giving them airtime. And the sooner he quits talking about her, the sooner he'll stop thinking about her. Continuing to listen will only drag out the process.
My boyfriend and I have a really great sex life, but he's super-quiet in bed. How can I get him to talk more/make some noise?
—Submitted by Ana T., Franconia, NH
She said: That's easy. If he isn't willing to talk, just make him beg. Start by smiling lasciviously and instructing him to take his clothes off and lie completely still. Then massage his feet, working your way slowly up his calves and inching toward his inner thighs. Now stop. Next, kiss from the palms of his hands to the crooks of his elbows to the nape of his neck. Stop. Kiss his nips, lick a slow, lingering trail down his chest to his navel. Stop again. Now that he's no doubt excited, inform him that if he wants you to do anything else, he's going to have to ask for it.
He said: So let me get this straight. We're nothing more than dogs now? Dangle a biscuit in front of our eyes and well sit, speak, heel, lie down, roll over, and perform any number of assorted tricks on demand? You think that simply because you hold a mega-size chunk of sexual power over us with your seductiveness and beauty that a man is just going to cave into acting like someone he's not? You think that kisses, licks, and teases will do it? You think you can make a guy change just like that? Sheesh. Well, you thought right. Exactly right.
I'm good friends with a few of my exes, which makes my fiancÃƒÂ© uncomfortable. Do I have to give them up now that we're serious?
—Submitted By trice J., Chicago, IL
She said: You're not obliged to kick former flames to the curb. But do they add something special to your life, or are they just the human equivalents of scrapbooks? If all you do is wax nostalgic over drinks, these relationships may have run their course--so let them go. Otherwise, restrict one-on-one encounters to lunch. That'll erase any doubts from your guy's mind and keep you an honest woman.
He said: Are you cool with him doing that with his ex? While the logical side of your guy's brain knows nothing will happen, the vulnerable side (yes, he has one) cringes at the thought of you reminiscing over spicy tuna rolls. Lunch means conversation, and conversation means laughing, and laughing means you're four hand-touches and one fond memory away from the futon he still has from college. If you keep these dates as infrequent as talent on American Idol, he'll find a way to live with it.
My husband is always questioning my judgment--whether it's about hiring an electrician or what to feed our son. It's eating at my self-esteem. What should I do?
—Submitted by Acy T., Memphis, TN
He said: No doubt your instinct is to start volleying criticisms back at him-- you merge like an octogenarian, why haven't you patched the drywall? But someone would probably end up with a 100-mph insult up their snout. I don't think his intent is off; but what he doesn't realize is what you need to tell him--that you're not his child, intern, or hooligan on the kiddie soccer team he coaches. And if he wants to occasionally yap about what he thinks you're doing wrong, he better start serving up a few words about everything you're doing right.
She said: You need to remind your husband that you're his equal. But instead of merely telling him, which could easily spiral into a fight no matter how politely you phrase it, I recommend writing a heartfelt letter explaining how you feel. As you deliver it, calmly inform him that you'll be leaving the house for a few hours. You're not storming out, just having a break. Then do something good for you, like take a long yoga class or visit a friend. Your absence will drive home the point that you don't just deserve to be treated better, you demand it.
My husband seems frustrated that my career is more successful than his, although he denies it. What should I say?
—Submitted by Anna S., Pasadena, CA
He said: If my wife tried to talk to me about this, it wouldn't matter what she said. I'd hear this: "I know you try, dear, but please don't worry about my superstardom and your mediocrity." Even if your husband won't admit it, he probably is bothered because your success magnifies his lack of it--and because testosterone makes him more competitive than a hooked marlin. Your best play: Don't give career advice (too condescending) and don't tell him you understand how he feels (too pitying). Just drop it. Give the impression it's no big deal and eventually he'll get that it isn't.
She said: Don't console him about his lackluster career or compare it with your own. But don't you dare downplay your excitement about new projects or promotions. Pop the champagne, thank him for his support, and ask him to celebrate with you. Be sure to let him know you're proud of him for countless other reasons. Brag to friends about the incredible job he did renovating the kitchen or what an amazing Little League coach he is. Even better: Tell him he's the best lover you could ever hope for. The one thing more closely linked to a man's ego than his paycheck is his penis.
I go to bed earlier than my boyfriend, who turns in at 3 a.m. I think it gets in the way of quiet, intimate time, but he disagrees. Who's right?
—Submitted by Laura P., Parsons, KS
He said: Is that what you're really upset about? Or is it that you suspect he's clicking away at somebodyelsesboobs.com? If it's purely an issue of circadian rhythms, I gotta side with the insomniac. My wife goes to bed a few hours later than me. What am I supposed to do? Say, Moopsy Woopsy, I can't shleepy weepy wiffout you? Of course not. It's not my place to ask her to come to bed earlier, any more than it is hers to tell me to stay up later. If you try to force your boyfriend to hit the sack when you do, he's going to toss and turn--about your relationship.
She said: Fer chrissakes! Can't you see this is all about sex? By "quiet, intimate time," she means she wants to get it on. And while you might ask why she doesn't just jog into the living room in a pink, frilly thong, it's not that simple. Women love to warm up with the kind of cuddling that seldom happens outside of bed. Laura, flat out ask your man to slip between the sheets for a half hour of kissing, bumping, and grinding. He can get back to the Cartoon Network when you're done.
Ever since my two best friends have become pregnant, my husband and I have little in common with them. Should we take a break from these duos to spend time with couples who aren't baby-crazed?
—Submitted by Annie H., Mequon, WI
He said: Actually, you have about as much choice in this as you have in what time their waters break. Your friends' sleepless nights, 24/7 responsibilities, and potentially strained budgets probably mean they're going to take a break from you, whether they mean to or not. Of course, you've got to branch out with people who can share a bottle of wine rather than a bottle of formula, and you should hang with couples who have similar interests, responsibilities, and free time--just to keep your own sanity. But don't forget that staying close to these new moms will go a long way in helping them keep theirs.
She said: Take a break? These women are your best friends! As mind numbing as it may be for you and your guy to endure placenta talk over dinner and spend afternoons browsing high chairs, you've gotta do it--at least once a week, anyway. They need you to safeguard their sanity. As for recruiting new buddies, there's nothing wrong with that. Just be careful not to spread yourself so thin that all of your friendships grow shallow.
"I love my live-in boyfriend's company but feel starved for other kinds of socializing (sometimes without him). How do I ask for space without hurting his feelings?"
—Submitted by Tra J., Albany, NY
He said: Ask him? Tell the man. Between sports bars, golf outings, and a few minutes in the shower, guys know very well the value of spending some time away from women--and that doing it can strengthen a relationship. If he's angry that you want to get drinks, dinner, or pedicures with your girlfriends, be angry right back. But if he's just mildly insecure or jealous, then some affectionate reassurance can go a long way. The danger comes when he feels like you're hanging without him a lot more than with him. In your boyfriend's mind, it's not a far leap from getting some space to keeping your distance.
She said: Sounds like your man might suffer from love-induced social laziness. It happens to a lot of guys when they get into serious relationships. Once upon a time they would've called a buddy if they felt lonely, but now you're there, so why bother? Help him dust off his social skills. Throw a dinner party for a few of his long-lost pals or encourage your girlfriends' significant others to invite him to guys' night. Give him a kick start and he'll quickly remember that living together is a lot more fun when you're both bringing something fresh to the table.