Q: My husband doesn’t take good care of his health, so he’s always getting sick. And he is such a baby when he is sick. I used to be sympathetic, but now I’m just annoyed. Yes, you will get a cold if you’re not good about washing your hands while commuting during flu season. Don’t even get me started on his eating. How do I handle this?
There’s a middle ground here between “Get your own darn soup – it’s your fault you’re sick!” and “Oh, honey, please continue licking those subway walls – I’ll take care of you no matter what!”
Arriving at the sick-spouse sweet spot involves getting your points across (and urging him to take better care of himself) without increasing his agony when he’s already sick. Because here’s a reality check: Even people who take impeccable care of themselves and treat hand sanitizer like their co-dependent lover will sometimes get sick, and part of a spouse’s job is to be nurturing during those times. The next time he’s recovered, tell him that you worry he’s got a couple of habits that are going to keep making him miserable. Being specific and respectful should encourage him to make some small changes.
Q: I work with a bunch of guys who are very crude in my presence. They don’t seem to notice or even care that I’m there. I’m not a prude, but some of the things that they talk about are inappropriate. How do I complain to them without being branded as “that girl”?
I’m not sure of the nature of your workplace, or the nature of this crudeness. (There’s a pretty big difference between unashamed burping and degrading women.) Does this border on sexual harassment territory? And is there a supervisor who’s part of the problem – or potentially part of the solution?
If it’s not an actionable offense and it’s something you want to keep between you and them, then make some subtle but persistent interventions in the moment. When they get out of hand, here is a nice place to start: Clear your throat, make direct eye contact with an empathetic smile, and say, “Guys, guys – it’s going a bit overboard here. Can we tone it down?” If need be, talk to them individually. And be firm, without making a federal case of it. (Unless, of course, you do need to make a federal case of it.)