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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My son’s wife has finally decided (after three years of trying to have a baby) that she just doesn’t want to be a parent.

She refuses to adopt (she can’t conceive) and my son is torn, because he does want a family. She now thinks their marriage is in jeopardy. Both are 32 and have been married for six years.

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My concern is we can’t seem to get her to have a conversation about why she doesn’t want to be a parent. Any advice you can share for two young adults with this dilemma?

A. My first recommendation is for you. This is a highly painful, personal (and for many people, private) topic. Your son is confiding in you, which is great, but your reaction to him should be circumspect.

“We” — meaning you, alongside your son (and possibly other family members) — should not be initiating conversations with your daughter-in-law about why she “doesn’t want to be a parent.” You should not pressure her to make a choice (or even discuss this if she doesn’t want to).

This crisis should be mediated by someone who does not have a personal stake. Signing your letter “Lost Grandpa” tells me you are viewing this through the prism of what it means to you (being a grandparent). A family therapist with expertise in this extremely challenging issue will help your son and his wife.

You should continue to actively emotionally support your son and be a champion for their marriage. But you should not mediate this issue unless both the husband and the wife come to you and ask for your input.

Q. I am an active, physically fit 42-year-old man. I married a lady 10 years ago who at the time was in shape and active too.

Over time my 40-year-old wife has lost interest in things we used to do together. She has gained 50 pounds over the past couple of years. She’s the same great lady I fell in love with, but I am no longer sexually attracted to her.

Don’t waste your breath with the “shallow” lecture — I understand that. But the fact remains that her weight is a sexual problem for me.

Would counseling help me? I love her and would never leave the marriage over this, but I want a rewarding sex life also. Help!

A. Because you have self-identified as “shallow,” I will proclaim you to be otherwise. Shallow is: “You’re fat. I don’t love you because you’re fat. I’m leaving you to be a backup dancer for Beyonce.” That’s not you.

You are also overly generous (perhaps) to assume that counseling for you will somehow cure your physical aversion to your wife.

Your wife has lost interest in activities that she used to enjoy. She put on a lot of weight in a relatively short amount of time. My armchair analysis is that she may have a medical problem and you should encourage her to see a physician to have a thorough checkup. She may have undiagnosed thyroid problems, depression, or a myriad of other issues.

Beyond that, marriage counseling will help you both to communicate about this, and to do so in a way that is kind and compassionate, and with respectful regard to your sexual desires — and your relationship. If couples counseling isn’t helping, you could see a therapist with expertise in dealing with men at midlife.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
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