Q: I love your column and would love to get some opinions on this. I don't know how to say this without sounding shallow, so here goes. I am no longer attracted to my husband because he has gained quite a bit of weight in the 6 years that we've been married (I would guess 40 lbs) and he was already short and on the big side when we started (which was fine with me, that's how I loved him), but this gain takes him from overweight to, well, obese. I am not slender either and have gained weight myself in the past few years (mostly due to having kids) but I do watch what I eat, go to the gym, jog, and am losing the pounds, albeit slowly - so I'm not expecting perfection. He, on the other hand, is just getting worse and worse and it disgusts me - won't go to the gym, use our treadmill or weights or boxing equipment and snacks on chips, soda, and greasy foods even thought I shop for and cook healthy meals.
The weight exacerbates other health issues such as his depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. so it's more than just how he looks. We talk about the health issues but he doesn't actually DO ANYTHING to get started on the road to weight loss and better health. Anyway, this is affecting our sex life because he repulses me to the point where I flinch when he comes near me. Lately it hasn't been an issue because his antidepressants kill his libido but even hugging, kissing, cuddling etc. make me recoil. I don't see him changing any time soon and we aren't splitting up, so how can I change my reaction to him so that we can maintain at least some minimal contact and not grow even further apart? Would it be cruel to just lay it on the line and let him know that his weight is coming between us? Would that perhaps motivate him to get moving or just make him hate me for being mean and critical? I've tried the soft-sell (let's go biking, let's go for a walk, hey wasn't this dinner great it was only 300 calories!), we've been to couples counseling and individual counseling, he has had life coaches and career coaches, and I've tried ignoring the problem and no approach has gotten any results so I'm trying to shift the focus on how I can change my own reaction to him and find a way around the un-attraction.
Turned-off wife, Danvers
A: Turned-off wife – I don’t think it’s your responsibility to change your reaction to him. He’s putting his physical health at risk. His emotional health is already suffering. You have every right to demand a change. You ask if it’s cruel to put it on the line and tell him his obesity is killing your relationship. My answer is: no, it’s not cruel, it’s necessary.
I think you should go back to counseling, both as a couple -- and alone. Coping with a marriage that puts you in the position of having to love someone who is depressed must be overwhelming.
When you go to therapy as a couple, be frank. Be clear. Say everything you said in this letter – even the part about recoiling. And then tell him what you’ve also said in this letter – which is that despite all of these horrible feelings, at no point have you thought about leaving. He’s a lucky guy for that. And it means you love him.
I get the whole clinical depression thing, but he should want to keep you around and to keep himself alive.