Q: My partner and I have been together 16 years. Even with motherhood and a sweet tooth, I am still around the same weight I was when we got married. My partner (who has gained at least 50 pounds since then) says I am blessed with good genes, but I think he just eats too much. Lately, I have lost all sexual attraction to him. I love him, but I am turned off by his weight and his unwillingness to do anything about it. I try to encourage him to put down the pizza, but he doesn’t seem to listen. I hate to be shallow, but how can I get him to lose weight and be the man I fell in love with?
A: Wow. It sounds like there is a lot going on here. First of all, I don’t think you are shallow for wanting your husband to take care of himself. We all want — and need — to be attracted to our mates. That sexual attraction is what separates you from being platonic roommates and bonds you as lovers. However, it is important to keep in mind that you have to have realistic expectations. Not only do we all age and get wrinkles, but most people also end up with a few extra pounds. That is simply a part of life and something all partners must accept when it comes to a lifetime marital commitment.
However, as lifetime partners, we do have a responsibility to maintain our health and fitness. To live a long, healthy life, we have to make decisions to eat healthy, exercise, quit smoking, etc. When one partner doesn’t hold up his end of that, it can be quite frustrating indeed. Yet, from what you describe, it sounds to me like you aren’t giving your partner the support he needs to make those healthy choices.
You mention that you have a sweet tooth and that you are blessed with a good metabolism, and that’s wonderful for you. But most people have to eat healthy and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Are you ordering pizza for yourself? If so, it will be very difficult for your partner to simply opt for a salad. If you want him to make healthier choices, I think the best thing you can do is make a commitment to the journey as well. Take a cooking class and learn how to make healthy meals as a couple, and pack healthy lunches to take to work instead of having fast food.
You can also commit to exercise as a couple. Together, join a gym or go for walks. You can even join a coed sports team or take up a new activity like hiking or rock climbing. The most important thing is for you to show your partner that you are right by his side, making these healthy lifestyle changes, too.
I think it’s also important for you to explain to him how you are feeling. Let him know that you want him to live a long, healthy life with you and that he won’t be able to do it if he continues to gain weight. It’s also important to find out why he is overeating and gaining weight. It could be a symptom of something deeper, such as depression. The most important thing to remember is not to attack or insult him in any way. Lift him up with compliments and support, and focus on the things he does right in your relationship, not just the things he does wrong.
Lastly, be prepared for some honest feedback in return. Maybe you haven’t gained weight over the years, but maybe you have let go of some of the grooming rituals you used to engage in when you were first dating. Honest communication goes both ways, so you can’t just dish it out, you also have to be willing to listen and change some things about yourself as well.
— Dr. Laura Berman