- “I feel too fat for my husband.”
- “My husband says my weight is a problem.”
- “My husband is not attracted to me because I gained weight.”
- “My husband left me because I gained weight”
- Why do wives get fat?
- Will losing weight help my marriage?
- Is weight gain a reason for divorce?
- What do you do if your spouse or significant other gains weight and you want to leave him/her?
He says: “My wife got fat.”
A few months ago I heard from a reader who felt guilty because he wasn't attracted to his after she gained weight.
“I used to think guys were assholes who cheated on their wives and blamed their weight as the reasons. Well, my was really fit and hot for the first 5 years of our relationship.
“But she wife pigged out like crazy when she was pregnant with our twins, and would tell everyone that she was ‘treating' herself. Well, now the kids are 5 years old, and she doesn't work, the kids are in kindergarten all day, she has tons of free time, and has made no effort to get back into shape. I go the gym or jog 4-5 days per week, and have offered to help her find a routine (with me taking care of the kids, etc.) so she can go to the gym, but she ignores me. I've taken over cooking so we all eat healthier, but she eats chips and ice cream all evening.
“I am in good shape, and I see that women check me out. She is overweight by at least 30 lbs and does not otherwise care for her appearance. When we do have sex, it is hard for me to really be into it. I'll be honest: I feel like is unfair that she gets to have sex with someone who goes to the gym, and I don't.
“There is a woman at work who is my age, also has kids, and takes care of herself. She is not even my type, but I find myself so attracted to her, her body, and fantasizing about her all the time. I feel guilty, that this superficial thing makes me feel like such a bad dad and husband.
“But at the end of the day, I feel like I give my wife the gift of my own health and attractiveness, and she does not return the favor.”
“My wife is gaining weight on purpose.”
A man emailed me recently: “My wife found out that I’d had an affair, and even though we are working through our marriage in therapy and I have broken off the relationship and am very committed to the relationship, I feel like my wife is intentionally packing on the pounds to punish me. It’s as if she is exploiting my guilt and excessive promises to never leave her by intentionally making herself unattractive to me — almost daring me to leave her.”
I think this guy’s read on his marriage is spot-on: His wife wants out of the marriage, but wants him to be the one to leave her for what many will consider a petty and selfish reason: Her weight gain.
She says: “I feel too fat for my husband.”
We all want to be with someone we are attracted to both in and out of bed, and who we are proud to be seen with. Weight, fashion and other variants vary by person. This is not wrong.
Can you talk to your husband about how you feel? Do you want to take extra care of your health and appearance? Get your free 14-day Noom trial now >>
Personal story about weight and marriage:
My husband was mostly fit, though he put on a few pounds after we married, which bothered him, and made him worry it bothered me. It didn't (though his self-consciousness did). I have always taken care of myself, though I could stand to lose a good 10-15 lbs. People often remark that I always look nice and wear makeup every day, even though I almost always work from home. During one marriage counseling session, in a plea for more appreciation, I mentioned that I freshened up my makeup before my husband came home. “Wow, that is really something—women hardly ever do that,” the therapist said (cue my gloating).
On the other hand, my current boyfriend has a really killer body. Seriously, I cannot get enough of his broad shoulders and muscular ass. We recently went to the theater and I spent the whole two hours clawing at his huge arms. His back is so rock-solid I sometimes wonder if I'm not sleeping with David, looted from Florence. His physique is not the main attraction, but it is an important one. As our relationship develops—and our bodies deteriorate as bodies are prone to do—I would hope that our intellectual and emotional rapport would deepen, and replace to a degree my focus on being ravished by his man-body. But, of course, if in years to come, the socks-on-the-floor and other minor and major grievances mushroom into serious relationship friction, I can imagine piling onto the list a flabby tummy or swinging triceps. In other words: If the relationship is solid, bodies matter less. But when things go south—drooping boobs and a sagging ass seem that much more egregious—especially if we're talking about something within the person's control, like weight gain.
But this all comes down to expectations from the very beginning. I can imagine my boyfriend's inevitable physical decline bugging me more than my ex-husband's because his is better to start with. His bod plays a larger role in our story, and—should things head that way—the expectations for the long-term. Marriage, after all, is an agreement and a business deal based on current expectations. You expect going forward what you sign up for today. It's not reasonable for a man to be be surprised his wife doesn't acquire a string-bikini-worthy body 20 years into their relationship if she was plump when they met.
“My husband says my weight is a problem.”
Listen to him. He wants you to be attractive — and healthy. If you are unhealthy, that affects the activities and lifestyle you two can enjoy together. It also shows that you care about not being a burden and dependent on him if your health fails.
Now, if you do live a healthy lifestyle, and maintain a healthy weight, the problem may be him and his ego. If he is mean about sharing this concern, he is otherwise unhappy in the relationship and/or an asshole. There are other issues in this relationship you need to address.
“My husband is not attracted to me because I gained weight.”
Often, the issue is not just the weight. It is that you stopped caring about your health and appearance. It may be that the emotional or intellectual connect is no longer there — or was never there in the first place. Weight and appearance are important — but usually part of a more complex picture of your relationship.
“My husband left me because I gained weight.”
Does your divorce story start and end with, “My husband left me because I got fat”?
Maybe a boyfriend broke up with you because you gained weight.
Maybe he had an affair with a thinner woman, or started dating a smaller girlfriend shortly after you divorced. Maybe he told you: “I'm not attracted to you anymore because you are overweight, and I want a divorce.”
I imagine that hurts like hell. After all my own, related shame around my body in romantic relationships hurt really badly, even though it was not a full marriage at stake.
But I am not going to let you off that easily. Two big points:
1. It takes two people to make a marriage work, and it takes two people to end it. If your weight were the single deal-breaker in keeping the marriage together (which it never is, keep reading), then why wouldn't you just lose the weight?
2. It is never just about the weight. Fat people stay happily married all the time. So do couples in which one is fit and the other is not. Weight is like money in a marriage: It does not help or hurt a marriage in and of itself. What the thing does is highlight other, deeper, more human parts of the people involved, and the inner workings of the relationship itself.
As psychiatrist Gail Saltz told the Today Show:
“Your turned-off feelings likely have to do with a lot more than weight. I suspect there are other issues that are harder to pinpoint: You are angry at your wife, you feel awkward being honest with her, you have let your lives become dominated by workday things, you have trouble communicating.
“I’m not saying that having an overweight spouse has no impact on your sex life. Sure, your wife might be less attractive to you in the physical sense. And being overweight sends a negative message — that your wife doesn’t care enough about herself, the marriage or whether you have sex. Now, you fear saying anything and she feels you are pulling away, so you are wary around each other, setting off a vicious circle of avoidance and annoyance.”
“Why do wives get fat?”
The reasons wives get fat are the same reasons everyone else gets fat:
- Not prioritizing health
- Too little time to exercise and/or cook healthy foods
- Childbirth and nursing tend to be connected with weight gain
- Emotional issues involving food, self-image and connection to our physical selves, which can stem from deep and old wounds
- She is pushing him away. Whether consciously or consciously, she may really be unhappy in the marriage, and knows that her weight is an easy way for him to blame her for the end of the relationships—and for her to label him a superficial jerk for not loving her no matter what.
- People are complicated and complex.
- Marriages are complicated and complex.
This Cornell University study found some interesting takeaways about marriage and weight gain:
- Married people are heavier than single people
- Obese women are happier than other women in their marriages. Researchers suspect this is because they appreciate that their value on the singles market is low, and therefore are contented with their marriages than thinner women.
- Obese men were less happy with their wives than other men, because, the paper proposes, their wives nag them about their weight, which causes marital conflict, and because men do not internalize societal fat-shaming as much as women.
“Will losing weight help my marriage?”
It might. Any effort to take care of and love yourself will improve your self-confidence, which improves relationships in your life — including your marriage. This new dynamic also may highlight other flaws in your relationship that have nothing to do with your weight. Get your free 14-day Noom trial now >>
Here’s what a friend of said:
A friend was telling me of her new diet and plans to lose 20 lbs. “I told Jack (her husband of 10 years), ‘I'm so sorry I got fat since we married!'” From everything I can tell, their relationship is thriving, but my friend has a deep-rooted sense that she has an obligation to make efforts in her appearance and weight.
This is no 50s housewife. This is a progressive, fabulous professional woman who enjoyed an adventurous love life for years before marrying a wonderful (also progressive and fabulous) man. I admit I was a bit taken aback by her commitment to maintaining her figure for her husband. The partyline progressive and feminist (is that redundant?) stance is that it doesn't matter what you look like! He should love you/be committed no matter what! Conforming appearances for your partner's sexual desire is degrading! It's what's inside that matters.
Like many progressive and feminist issues, this one does not take into account the very human nature of dudes and chicks. There is no arguing with the fact that men are more visually inclined. Sure, there have been a couple of recent studies that challenge this stereotype, but suffice it to say that an MSNBC poll a few years ago revealed that half of men would dump his female partner if she got fat (just 20 percent of women said the same of their husbands and boyfriends). According to my own scientific research (dating a bunch of divorced guys), I can tell you that if his wife got fat, it bugged him. Even the really progressive and feminist guys. And, I might add, especially the professionally successful ones.
“Should we try relationship/marriage counseling when a husband or wife gets fat?”
A skilled couples therapist—whether you are married or not—can be instrumental in helping your communicate your needs and stresses in the relationship. A good relationship counselor will also help you and your husband or wife uncover the deeper reasons that you are not connecting any more—and help you realign once again.
Couples counseling can be very challenging for reasons that include practical ones:
- It is hard to schedule a time that works for both of you—including location and driving to and from the session
- Cost, since insurance rarely pays for therapy any more
- Finding a couples counselor that you both like, which is especially hard in smaller communities that have fewer mental health professionals
Online therapy platforms are a great option. BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and allows you to choose from thousands of certified and licensed therapists. With prices starting at $65 per week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions, BetterHelp is extremely convenient and efficient. Financial assistance is available. Check out BetterHelp now >>
Or, research reviews of the top online therapy sites to find the help you need, now.
“Is weight gain a reason for divorce?”
Weight gain is really never the reason for divorce. The weight symbolizes a lack of effort to maintain the relationship, lack of sexual connection, failure to prioritize health or simply a growing apart.
Plus, people have divorced for far, far less.
“What do you do if your spouse or significant other gains weight and you want to leave him/her?”
First of all, just be honest with your partner. Maybe you sit down and tell them:
“I really love you, and I want desperately to make this relationship to work. For me, that includes each of us taking care of our health and physical appearance. That includes weight.”
If things have gotten this far without this level of honesty (which is likely a sign of your kindness!), then bring in a professional.
If your marriage or relationship is really headed for divorce, be smart and start planning. Here is what every mom should ask for in divorce negotiations.
This post was originally published Nov. 9, 2014.