Temper (06/06/07)

Dear Zelda,
My wife didn't have a bad temper when I married her, but now she seems to lose it at the slightest thing, be it my driving, my eating habits, or if I forget and leave the toilet seat up. The other day she exploded when I had to work late and she claims I ruined the dinner she spent all day preparing. Honestly I called to say I'd be late, but it didn't matter. She slammed the plates on the table so hard that the food flipped off. We have three teenage children and I don't think it's good for them to grow up around this. Could it be menopause or maybe midlife crisis? Do you have any advice for a man in need?

Demolished Dad

Dear Demolished Dad,

Sounds like you’ve one hot mamma on your hands! Clearly there’s something going on below the surface, and the sooner you address the situation, the more likely you are to defuse this explosive turn in your marriage. Your wife’s consistent “acting out” over small things is a lot like a dog who chews up your favorite shoes or pees on your rug (you know who you are). The dog is frustrated that the normal means of communicating just aren’t working, and so it resorts to increasingly desperate measures. Incidentally, for the sake of your marriage I wouldn’t share this particular analogy with your wife.

Relationships require a lot of tending, and the bustle of daily life may have caused you to put your relationship second behind a long list of smaller daily emergencies. Regardless of the underlying cause of your wife’s unhappiness, it’s time to pour some cool water on her short fuse, and the best way to do it is through better communication. Whether you try to tackle this by yourself or involve a third party like a marriage councilor, you need to sit down together and work on mending the frayed lines. Your wife may be resistant to the idea initially, but try to explain that it represents your willingness to work toward a good relationship.

Three teenagers in the house and a husband who leaves the toilet seat up might even make me menopausal, and it sounds as if your wife may, in fact, be experiencing either peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms as a result of declining hormone levels. Let her know she can count on you. When she’s feeling overwhelmed do something helpful that’s still on her “to do” list. Vacuum, take care of the laundry, pick up the kids, or pour her a strong margarita. Also, make sure she feels loved by you and that she still feels attractive to you. Middle age brings a lot of changes for everyone, and people deal with those stresses differently.

IF you’d like more advice about dealing with menopause as a spouse, there are two good books out there for you: No, It’s Not Hot In Here, A Husband’s Guide to Menopause, by Dick Roth (remember when he won a Gold Medal for swimming in the Olympics?) and Men Surviving Menopause by Paul Selinger. Both of these books were written to help men understand what the menopausal women in their lives are going through. When women go through menopause, smart men go through these books for help.

Here’s hoping all this red-hot advice will turn your wife’s hot temper and hot flashes into hot new love for the two of you, or at least rekindle the embers of romance and bring a little more happiness into your home.


Dear Zelda,

I have a two-year-old English bulldog named Stanley. Whenever I take him for his daily walk, he barks ferociously and yanks his leash when we pass other dogs. I've even come close to losing control of him when he goes berserk. His unruliness is embarrassing, and I don't feel I'm being responsible. Would it help if I had him neutered, or put him on doggy Prozac?

Master of Distress

Dear Master,

You need to take the bully out of your bully. What a drag that your bulldog has been taking YOU for a walk. When my owner and I walk, we walk together. I recommend you try training and conditional response before resorting to drugs for him. The way you train your dog is the way you train your children...be consistent, be loving, be firm. Neutering might neutralize his behavior, and an obedience class might provide him opportunity for socializing and becoming accustomed to one-word commands, but ultimately YOU’RE the one responsible for his behavior. Whatever the roots or type of his aggression, you need to establish your dominance and leadership. Once you do, if he displays aggressive behavior again while on a walk, you might try shaking a large noisy can of coins to grab his attention, and then firmly say, "No!" Never scream or yell. When Stanley calms down, reward him with praise and a treat. If this doesn't work after a few attempts, simply can that idea, remove the coins and use them as down payment for a personal trainer for the two of you. Or...

My other suggestion is that there is a great book on the New York Times Best Seller List now that would definitely help teach Stanley to become a well mannered member of your family. Tamar Geller’s book, The Loved Dog, shows dog owners how to teach their dogs good behavior in a nonaggressive way. Tamar has trained Oprah’s three dogs along with a cast of other well known celebrity dogs. Her play training uses mutual respect and understanding and puts an end to out-dated methods that rely on physical exhaustion, choke chains or prong collars. I love Tamar and her methods are my methods! She is a dog's best friend. Understanding and respect are the key words in dog training.

Finally, a little canine advice for manly Stanley: turn your aggressions into attitude. Works for me.


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