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Husband's Threat of Divorce Compels Wife to Lose Weight

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 18 years and have two wonderful kids, ages 14 and 12. Ten months ago, my husband said to me, "I told you I would divorce you if you ever got fat." I was shocked! Yes, I have gained some weight over the years, but at 5 feet 5 inches tall and 150 pounds, I was not exactly obese.

I was frightened by what he said, so I took off 25 pounds. He didn't appear to notice, so I asked him, "Now what do you think?" He said, "You have no muscle tone"!

Abby, nothing I do is good enough. I work part-time and take care of our kids and the house. I go out of my way to cook and bake interesting things for them. Any appreciation? His praise is, "Not bad."

Abby, what should I do? -- BIGGEST LOSER IN NEW YORK

DEAR "LOSER": Before I answer your question, I should point out that the way some abusers maintain control is by withholding approval, love, money, etc.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a woman who is 5 feet 5 inches tall should weigh between 114 and 144 pounds to be considered a normal weight. For your husband to threaten you with divorce if you didn't lose weight was brutal. Nothing you do is good enough because keeping you insecure and always trying to gain his approval is how he maintains the upper hand in your marriage. Losing weight is not easy. You should have been praised for your success.

Since you asked what to do, I'll tell you: Take him at his word. Your husband may have said your muscle tone is flabby, but from where I sit, what's sagging is your self-esteem. Go to the gym. Get into a training program. Improve that muscle tone, and along with it your image of yourself. Then, once you have achieved your goal and feel better about yourself, decide whether you want to remain married to a man who has such poor "muscle tone" between the ears.

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