Dear Margo: Love Me, Love My Pet

When it comes to relationships, is pet compatibility a deal-breaker? Margo Howard’s advice

Love Me, Love My Dog/Cat/Hamster/Parrot

Dear Margo: I’m at odds with my boyfriend. I grew up with pets and as an adult have nourished my passion for animals by working at an animal shelter. I’ve been at this job for several years, occasionally bringing home an orphaned kitten to bottle-feed or other small pets (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) that would’ve been euthanized had I left them at my job. My boyfriend, on the other hand, grew up without pets and has little interest in them. He doesn’t understand what my job is like. He’s kind to the pets we have, but whenever I mention a pet at the shelter, he gets very irritated and starts a tirade about how he doesn’t want to hear about it, how I always want to bring more animals home, how we have enough pets already, etc.

He told me he’s beginning to no longer care about the animals, me or our relationship. It’s very frustrating because sometimes I need to vent or cry about situations at work. It’s caused friction in our relationship where there used to be none. I don’t know what to do. Part of me feels like I should find another job, but part of me knows that what I’m doing is important and thinks I should find another outlet to “talk animals” with. Any ideas? –Animal Lover

Dear An: Yes, actually. You’re with the wrong man. It is not a good match for an animal person to be with someone who doesn’t get it. It would be a great strain to be in a marriage where you couldn’t talk about something you cared about greatly. Your interest is so fundamental that I cannot imagine things getting better with your boyfriend, only worse. Even changing jobs wouldn’t diminish your love of critters, so I would continue to enjoy your work, feel free to talk about it, and find a guy with whom you are more compatible. –Margo, logically

A Weighty Question

Dear Margo: I have been committed to “John” for two years and recently found out something that could potentially destroy the relationship. Apparently, before I met his family, he told his brother not to expect me to be “model skinny.” John told his brother this because his brother is shallow and John was afraid he might say something about my weight! (By the way, I am 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh 155 pounds — by no means overweight, but also not, as John so kindly pointed out, “model skinny.”)

Apparently, the brothers have had a few discussions about my weight since then — instigated by his brother. Before we took our relationship to the next level by moving in together, his brother called him and had another discussion about my weight, this one revolving around our having kids and me “potentially blowing up to 225 pounds.” The brother basically asked if he would be OK with that; John’s response was no.

I’m not sure who I am more upset with. I think it’s beyond disrespectful that John ever described me to his brother as “not model skinny.” While it is true, I don’t feel that’s how you describe someone you love. So my question is two-fold: Do you think it a forgivable offense on John’s part, and how do I get past this with his brother? I’m at the point where I don’t even want to be in the same room with him. –Steaming

Dear Steam: The brother must be a lulu if your guy “warned” him, fearing he would say something insulting. I would give him a pass for his initial alert, but … tell John you would like him to be done discussing the subject with the jerky brother and next time he brings it up to tell him basta. Even shallow people respond to “knock it off.” As for being with said idiot brother, a slight frost is permissible. –Margo, effectively


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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139 Responses so far.

  1. avatar stargazer says:

    I would have been more sympathetic with the 2nd LW (not model skinny) if she had not added ” I am 5 feet 6 inches tall and weigh 155 pounds — by no means overweight.”  Actually, that is a BMI of 25, which is considered overweight.

    • avatar Anathema Teatime says:

      I agree, except . . . BMI can be a pretty inexact tool. My boss is a marathon runner, basically solid muscle without an ounce of fat, but he’s short, and that combo means his BMI says he’s overweight, verging on obese. I’m 5’8″ and 160, which is definitely overweight, but I’m also very muscular and have big boobs, and people are often shocked to learn that I’m a size 10 to 12, as I manage to look much smaller. Not that I’m not losing the weight, because I am, but still. Most men look at me and say “woohoo” rather than “lay off the cheeseburgers, honey.”

      • avatar Mishy Smith says:

        I am 5’8 and 170. My doctor has told me I am not overweight. I know my BMI would seem off by normal calculations but it is simply not an exact science, as you stated. Also, It is obviously how we wear it because I am a size 6-8. To assume you can know how a person looks simply by a line in an article is presumptuous at best by stargazer.

        • avatar stargazer says:

          If LW2 is not overweight, it would be better to have simply said so, rather than presenting information to the contrary, and then claim “by no means overweight.”  Her wording leaves open the possibility that she is overweight but in denial.
          Regardless, I agree with Margo’s advice.

          • avatar nycgirl2 says:

            Stargazer – – I don’t need you to tell me what my BMI calculation equates to. Anyone with a calculator can do that.

            However, the point you are not realizing and that I think numerous people have conveyed here is that BMI isn’t an accurate calculation for all people and all body types. If you want to consider that statement a cop out, then so be it. But be assured that I have gone to several different doctors (Obgyn, FP, and IM) and have been told by each of them, that I am not overweight by their calculations which take into account numerous factors beyond height and weight.

            I included that information in my letter, not because I thought it would lead to you (or anyone) telling me I was overweight, but because I thought it would show my confidence in the fact that I’m not.

            Long story short, regardless of what anyone’s thoughts are on my weight; I wanted advice on how others would react to this situation. Whether or not I am overweight can be left up to each individual to decide, I was just wanting advice on whether it was (in other people’s eyes) a forgiveable offense.

          • avatar Cloudette says:

            Sounds to me like the LW has her dander up over a perceived slight, when in reality it’s just the way men, especially brothers, talk about things like that.  I think it’d be interesting to find out how the LW found out about these conversations in the first place.
            The issue of her weight, although hardly relevant to the actual “problem”, is a tough one.  I’m a nurse, and believe me when I tell you … there are /very/ few doctors who are going to tell a patient they’re “fat” these days.  Doctors have been sued for “emotional distress”. 
            Otherwise than whether the LW is overweight or not (if you define “overweight” as “over the ideal weight”, then the answer from this end is “yes you are”), I can’t help but feel that she’s over-reacting.  Why so touchy? Big deal.  They’re family, and families feel free to discuss all kinds of subjects with each other.  Your bf’s brother thinks you’re chubby and likely to get chubbier.  So what.  Lighten up and don’t let the little things come between you and your bf.  Relax.  It could be /ever/ so much worse.

          • avatar Sianne S says:

            That WAS the letter writer you just spoke to. :)

          • avatar wendykh says:

            I agree this is how guys talk. What the heck he was thinking telling her about it is beyond me. Men, we don’t want to know about these talks. There is no way you can NOT look like a class a jackhole.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            I agree. The LW sounds like she’s not confident AT ALL about whether or not she’s perceived as being overweight—by her sig-o, his relatives, or even her self. Confident women don’t write letters to advice columnists.

          • avatar NA2 says:

            Why is everyone concerned about the BMI issue and her possibly being overweight?  She wanted advice on her relationship.

            Dump him.  If he is so shallow to care more about how his brother is going to react to your weight than how he feels about you, he’s not worth it.  He should be telling his brother that you’re a wonderful person, regardless of how much you weigh and he doesn’t want to hear anything about your weight.

            Don’t waste any more time with him.  Find someone who will actually love you for you, not for what is airbrushed and photoshopped in magazines.

          • avatar vicki ebeling says:

            Amen to NA2. 

            it’s about time someone with any sense replied.  there is so much damn concern with weight and body presence, that people can’t see the forest through the trees – like someone’s character.  are you healthy…are you happy…

            i am 5’9″, and 135 lbs.  and who the hell cares.  if i were a bitch, i’d be a skinny bitch. 

            gees, people, maybe that’s why our children are so out of touch.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            I have two concerns here. The first is with your self-image. Or conveyance of it. Now maybe I read this wrong and you are just trying to enlighten us by using these facts to state your case, but it seems contrare because you state you are confident in the fact you are not overweight, but you then state ‘I have gone to three physicians who all assure me I am not overweight.’ From where I stand you have issue with it or you wouldn’t been seeking physicians opinions or you would’ve said something like: I am comfortable with my weight and realize I am not model skinny, nor do I want to be. I am perfect the way I am…   Very few physicians are going to comment on your weight-especially if you are borderline. It’s like asking your spouse if your pants make you look fat. Any intelligent man would never say yes even if his girl was 300 pounds. I’m also not sure if you included your stats for as descriptors or in attempt to elicit a supportive response.  I’m certainly not implying you are overweight, but simply I am reading between the lines that you have issue with it, which is why brother’s comments bother you. Unless it is just because he is an a55 and the physician comment was just an aside to state your case, not that you sought this info from them. .  I’m not looking for a debate or trying to make you defensive. It’s not about me, your bf or his brother. It’s about how you view yourself & if you are happy with that. Think about it.
            The second even more important issue is how potentially shallow your own guy is. I don’t think it is just his brother. If he has issues with you gaining weight with your pregnancy (and later), are you okay with that?!?!?!?  If your genetics have you prone to weight gain, is this a battle you intend to fight?  Will your self-esteem plummet if you start gaining because of these expectations? You know your familial tendencies. Those are hard to counter.  My point is what kind of future do you foresee?  Did he share these conversations because he is hoping you will assure him this will never be the case? There seems to be no other reason for him to share. He had to know it would hurt your feelings. Just food for thought.
            BMI is tough. I am also 5’8″ at 125. But I am small boned, very small chested, mostly legs & very lean. Last time I looked ideal for me was 135-145. I’ve been there & for my frame that was not “ideal”.  You are so right no one can gauge anything by ht & wt alone–or even clothing size. I have a gf that is as thin as me, but very busty and short & wears a much larger size due to these factors.  She looks great!  The best way to measure leanness is by assessing muscle mass at any gym. That is about the only true measurement of leanness. You could use that against bf brother if you want ammo.  (Other than the obvious eyeball assessment.) And pant size is also a bunch of crap. I can wear a 4-9 depending on brand. These are all moot points though. It is about how you feel/perceive yourself.
            btw, I absolutely hate any conversations about weight! I think the topic should be put up there with those never, ever discussed like religion & politics. My husband is very thin as is a good friend of mine. I have most always been very thin. We are naturally thin & cannot/do not gain weight.  I’ve been shocked how many people think it is okay to comment on my weight. I’ve had people comment that my hub looks like he has cancer, That he looks unhealthy. That I shouldn’t lose any more weight. We also hear when we go visit family every couple years how thin he is & how he needs to stop losing weight. He has been a steady weight for his whole adulthood. It has got to a point that he doesn’t want to visit his family.  Then we have to listen to how great it is that we don’t gain weight & how just smelling brownies makes them gain.  He would like to be heavier. It is especially difficult to respond to overweight people.
            If brother makes another comment to you I’d tell him you and your boyfriend are happy with how you are. And your boyfriend should also be defending you & expressing his happiness with everything about you.  If he is not, it is a warning sign.  I would also tune into his parents and their takes on life. Because these weight comments will be directed at your children eventually.

      • avatar Laurtew says:

        I’ve found the BMI to be completely wrong. I’m 4’11 and the BMI says that a healthy weight for me is 63 pounds!
        That’s insane. If I weighed that I’d be hospitalized. The height/weight charts say 113 is a good weight and that is a lot more realistic.
        Those charts say she should weigh 145 to 150, so she is not dramatically overweight.
        Anyway, I’ve just learned that BMI is not all that reliable.

      • avatar Karleen S says:

        The Body Mass Index is a gage, not a rule.  Any doctor would tell you that.  There are many other factors that a person doing the assessment would consider, such as frame size, bone density, muscle mass, etc.  BMI is one of those tools that is commonly misused in the wrong hands.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      stargazer, BMI cannot simply be calculated from height and weight. It is necessary to have one’s skeletal frame assessed, and one’s muscle mass and density, and one’s bone density, as well as one’s age. Nor can it be calculated from alleged BMI measuring scales.
      I have had my actual, ideal weight assessed by medical professionals specializing in BMI and weight loss (including my cardiologist, who is head of the cardiology department at two of Houston’s major medical centers), and at 5’2″ inches, my “perfect weight” is 142 pounds. At that weight, I am largely muscle and bone (unless I amputate my breasts and buttocks). You can’t go by the weight charts of the fashion mavens, or size charts. Everyone is different. My younger sister, who is one inch taller then me, has an ideal weight of 119 pounds…but she carries no muscle at all, and wears a size 0 in tops. At my thinnest, I can’t wear less than an 8-10, because of my shoulders…but I once had a 22 inch waist (the same size as hers). So it goes.

    • avatar Kathy says:

      Oh, come on.  24.9 BMI is considered healthy.  So, 25 BMI isn’t exactly gobby fat.  It’s borderline and – really – immaterial.  This kind of judgment statement helps make us all paranoid about how we look.

    • avatar raven1462 says:

      Ok, I am a physician, and while you are correct that a BMI or 25 is technically overweight, a BMI of 24.9 is not.  So while I would certainly encourage someone in the 25-29 range to keep an eye on their eating habits and physical activity, I wouldn’t make any judgements about a specific person, especially if they are at 25 (which I can guarantee is better than about 50% of the population out there).

    • avatar RL says:

      So what?  Frankly, I don’t think every thin person I see every day is attractive.  I see a lot of thin women that could benefit from a breast enhancement and been with more men than not who could use a penis enhancement.
      And in terms of the government’s BMI — remarkably, for about a thousand reason I don’t trust everything the federal government puts out.
      The truth is women can’t women with women or men b/c I think many women are insecure about their bodies no matter how thin or big they may be.
      Those who are hostile to overweight or obese people can get a life, but they probably won’t because they are so insecure.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        I believe that the phrase you are searching for is: “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help…”

    • avatar Morgan H says:

      It’s irrelevant to the issue. Even if her BMI was 50, it’s not her boyfriend’s brother’s business to “warn” her boyfriend about her weight; clearly he is aware of her body size and is perfectly fine with it. They are all adults capable of making adult decisions for themselves.

  2. avatar RL says:

    I don’t know what it is with men these days because all of them think model skinny is attractive.  Maybe that’s been the case for decades now, but I have a 0 tolerance policy on this issue.  What kills me is that not nearly as many men take as great care of themselves as women do.  If it was me, I’d dump him.  Two years is 24 months, so what.  Steaming, this is just the beginning b/c typically the fruit don’t fall too far from the tree if you know what I mean.  Consider this a signal.  If your boyfriend needed to “warn” your brother, maybe he doesn’t think that much of you to begin with.  Maybe he’s just using you until “something better” comes along.

    • avatar elaine s says:

      I agree with RL.  Dump this guy.  I think men who are obsessed with our weight, especially when a woman, like the letter writer, is not overweight, are using it as a pretext to lord it over us and express hostility.  It really isn’t about weight.  It’s just that our society talks about nothing but weight these days, so it’s become a  handy tool to use against us for any number of reasons.  I am willing to bet the guy is no Jon Hamm.  I think mean remarks about a partner’s body are about the lowest a person can go.  Men know how sensitive we are about weight, and this guy may be using what his brother supposedly said just to gig her.  Dump him and tell him you are lookikng for somebody better looking, better in bed, and richer.  Let him see how that feels.  He can then take his own “inner beauty”, which is what loving somebody is supposed to be about, and jump off a short pier along with his brother. 

  3. avatar Lindsey M says:

    LW #2 — Why do you know about all these conversations between your bf and brother?  That’s the part I find really strange.  If you’re not eavesdropping or snooping through email (and I hope that’s not the case), how are you finding out about them?  Is your bf bringing them up and telling you these details?  If so, that would really make me worry.  I’m not saying that this is the case, but I learned the hard way that can be how some emotionally cowardly people can convey information indirectly.  Like he has some issue with your weight (or potentially blowing up to 225lbs), but instead of discussing that with you directly, he couches it in terms of what his brother said.
    I had an ex that did this with difficult subjects and it took me a while to realize how emotionally manipulative it is.  It allows the person to tell you the information, but not allow you to confront them about those ideas and deflects your anger at the other person (in your case, your bf’s jerky brother) — an emotional handcuffs of sort.
    If I were you, I’d seriously have a big talk about this with your bf and see what his issues are.  Given his brother’s comments and even his own about blowing up to 225 lbs and not being model skinny, I wonder how secure he is in himself — or how much he worries about his gf’s weight as some sort of reflection on him (i.e. the guy that dates the arm candy because she’s some sort of status symbol like a fancy new car).  I may be way off here, but if any of it rings true, consider it.

    • avatar Lady Jane13 says:

      I don’t think you’re off at all, I think you nailed it.  This is exactly what I was thinking.  It has happened to me too.

  4. avatar Nancy Pea says:

    LW#1: on this i have to agree with Margo. she is so very right. being an animal lover myself, i couldn’t imagine not having some kind of creature in my house (except when the landlord didn’t allow it, but when they said as many as you like, hehe). they bring joy and will stick with you longer than the bf!
    my suggestion tell him, it’s him or the animals! unless it’s his place then take your animals and go! find a new love and you and the critters will be super happy!!!

    • avatar elaine s says:

      I agree with Nancy Pea.  Get rid of this guy.  Anyone without empathy for helpless animals is not a good person.  He might be the same way with future children.  He is already telling you he is fed up with you and the animals.  Run, don’t walk, away from this situation.  You sound like a wonderful person and you can do so much better.  God bless you for the work you do and please don’t change jobs for this loser.  He wants out…so open the dog door and let him go.  It is his loss.

      • avatar STACY SEARS says:

        There is a difference between not being an animal person and not having empathy for animals.  I’m not “an animal person” but that didn’t stop my heart from breaking when our 17 yr old lab had to be laid to rest.  It was horrible to see him struggle at the end.  That being said, I do not want a bunch of animals in my house or to talk about them constantly.  I prefer to utilize my resources (time and money) primarily on my children and sweetie.  I do agree that if the LW’s fella is showing signs of animal fatigue, it isn’t a good fit.  She should not change jobs, this would only hurt her.  It is time to end the relationship.  To suggest that just because he isn’t an animal person that he will not be a good parent it completely ridiculous. 

        • avatar Lepidopter Phoenyx says:

          Any man who could not deal with my animals would not be a candidate for a permanent relationship with me.
          My husband shares my love for animals, and he and I have rescued numerous strays – the current quadruped count at our house is three dogs and five cats, all of whom were thrown away by someone else.
          They sleep on the couch, in our bed, on top of the piano, and in the windowsills.
          We wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither of us would be able to live with anyone who couldn’t deal with it.

          Only once has anyone come into my house and complained about the number of animals underfoot. They were told, “They live here. You don’t.”

    • avatar Deni says:

      I agree with Nancy, Margo, and all animal lovers out there.  Recently I spent close to 3,000 to save my two dogs, both had cancer and we caught it in time.  Because I recognized the signs (from my own history with the disease) I got them straight in and they were treated immediately by the greatest Vet in the world in my eyes (Dr. Curtain) both Mac and Sassie have years of living yet to do.  Everyone outside my family thought I was nuts to spend my money on my pets that way, all I could say to them, “it’s obvious you’ve never had a pet you loved like a child or since the time they were born, or you’d understand”, and they told me I should be committed.  I just wished them well and told them to stay out of my finances and gave them the hand and walked away (also found out they don’t use the hand gesture any longer, I felt old, lol)

      Their love and support is unconditional where a man’s comes with strings and pressures, and what if’s.  Our pets are happy to see us when we get home for more then getting out to do their thing, but they really missed us, and they want to spend time with us.  Our pets give us so much more then we give them, their unconditional love doesn’t depend on dinner being on the table by 6, laundry being done, meeting his buddies, listening to a stupid football game you have no interest in, and the list goes on, where your pet wants his belly scratched, or his head rubbed and when you do that for him/her it also calms you down, and relieves the stressors in your day, this is a proven medical fact.  Ask Dr. Oz, or Dr. Phil.
      I never would have gotten through my last two cancers without my 2 dogs and cat, they kept me calm, warm and I felt loved and needed.  They gave me a reason to get off the couch, they needed to be fed, and walked and I needed someone to comfort me and they were right there all the time, all I had to do was reach out a hand and one of them was right there and I felt so much better.
      Keep the pets and lose the guy, there’s a guy who will love your pets the way you do and care for them the way you do, trust me, I know this to be fact  God Bless, Deni

  5. avatar Nancy Pea says:

    Dear Margo, you missed just one thing about LW#2, she said “john” her committed relationship partner said he couldn’t deal with her getting fat after having a couple kids. so i think there is also that point.
    if it was just the idiot brother, i probably would just say ignore him. we all have in laws we could do without. but, john himself admitted  that he would have trouble with her gaining weight. i think that he probably was the one that brought up model thin because he