Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Like many lifelong Alaskans I was very adventurous and outdoorsy in my youth. I'm now in my 50s, as is my non-Alaskan husband of 5 years. The problem: He led a much more sedentary life.
Now he loves to brag about stuff I did 20 years ago to anyone who will listen, both in my presence and behind my back. At parties he has dragged someone over to me, saying, "I told them about your climbing/diving/fishing/adventures and they really want to hear all about it." Or, "Tell them the story about the bear."
I'm pretty private and I hate it. I try to slither out of it in public but I'm often caught between saying no to him and being rude to others. I detest bragging and I feel like he is putting me in a spotlight I don't want. It's also my life, not his. I have asked/begged/demanded/screamed at him over this, that I'm not his performing monkey, and two months ago he promised to stop.
Well, no. His new (specious) argument: Since I've told my stories to others, they are "in the public domain." He admits he broke his promise again but acts as if that shouldn't matter. He has less of an audience here in Alaska but we winter in Arizona and RV life gives him an endless supply of strangers. I don't want to spend the winter hiding out.
Not a Performing Monkey
It's funny, the things that the people we love do that drive us batty. My ex and I warred over what temperature to keep the house. Another girlfriend goes postal on her seemingly perfect husband when he leaves lights turned on.
Small problems, no? So my first thought was, if your worst marital problem is your husband vocally oozing with pride about your fascinating past, then you have it pretty good, because here's a man who's so proud of you he'll tell anyone who will listen. But that's oversimplifying, isn't it?
Obviously your husband's need to resurrect your past adventures constantly as entertainment fodder for others deeply upsets you. Your reasons -- feeling paraded about and intruded upon -- are certainly valid. Maybe you also worry that your husband's affection lingers too long on who you once were, and not on the woman before him? Regardless, I'm sorry he has yet to understand why this is such an issue for you, despite the conversations, screaming and broken promises.
I suppose you could combat his fascinating bragging with scathing barbs: Him: "That was the year my wife climbed Denali!" You: "That was the year my husband watched reruns of 'Melrose Place'!"
Too catty? Perhaps Wayne has some witty insight here. By the way, Wayne also climbs mountains, bikes insane terrain and wracks up the AK adventures. Isn't that so, Wayne?
Yes Wanda, and don't forget that I also ski across glaciers, slay monster salmon and wrestle Alaska wilderness women. No big deal, really, and I don't need anyone to do the bragging for me -- I'll happily do to whoever will listen!
Look Monkey, you aren't a sideshow -- you're an adventurous Alaska stud muffin and your husband places you atop a pedestal of awesome. I'm not sure if you're a regular reader, but we receive letters all the time from ignored and deprived partners who would kill for that kind of attention from their significant other.
Sure, your backstory might be common in Alaska. And yes, his gushing might be over the top. But you have lived a life that your husband's Lower 48 brain has only seen in movies or read about in travel magazines. And I'm guessing that your epic past is one of the big reasons he was attracted to you in the first place and remains so today.
Are you bummed that your present isn't as radical as your past? Hey, it happens to the best of us. Jobs. Families. Age. An appreciation for safety. Real life eventually sets in for most of us but that doesn't diminish our adventurous hearts or experiences.
So get over it and let him brag. Heck, jump in and fill in some of the blanks. To you, this is no big deal; to your husband, this is the thing of legends. Bask in it, then maybe drag him up a mountain sometime to remind him (and yourself) that you've still got it.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.