Question: "I love my husband and always will but I no longer want to make love to him because of the way he has let himself go. I know it’s a sin not to want to be with my husband because of his weight, but I can’t help it. What do I do?"
Answer from relationship expert Joe Beam: That’s a courageous question. In our day of passionate counterattacks against the superficial standards of beauty shoved at us by television, magazines, and movies, you risk being scolded as selfish for not accepting your husband just as he is, without any regard to his appearance. No wonder you feel you’re sinning.
It’s true that we have an innate need to be loved for who we are and not for how we look or what we do. We crave being loved without earning it in any way.
It’s also true that shallow standards of beauty imposed by our world are ridiculous and unfair, leading some to do foolish things to their bodies or psyches. A fellow guest on a TV talk show in Los Angeles told me that she’d had fourteen cosmetic surgeries and was slated for more. Though too polite to mention it, I felt sad that she had to be completely remade to think herself loveable.
However, none of that means that what you feel is wrong. You say that you love your husband as he is: You just don’t want to make love to him. I assume that’s because either you’re no longer attracted to him, or you’re actually repulsed by his excess weight. Interestingly, if he’d been heavy when you fell in love with him, you wouldn’t be feeling this way now. You’d find his extra weight a turn-on rather than a turn-off. But that’s not the case with you, and that’s okay. What you feel is not wrong.
Whether we wish it or not, sometimes a person loses physical attraction for his or her spouse as an emotional reaction to the other’s change in appearance, such as significant weight gain. It doesn’t happen with everyone whose spouse becomes obese, but it does happen. It’s not an act of will, but a reaction of emotions. Part of that comes from feeling disrespected. You may think, “If he loved me, he wouldn’t let this happen. It’s not like he has a physical problem and can’t help it. He could control this. Why won’t he do that for me?”
Also, part of it may be the way you’re uniquely put together. Some things attract you physically; some things repel you. For example, if your husband came home muddy, reeking of freshly caught fish, and wanted to make love, you wouldn’t feel guilty about rejecting his advances and demanding he get himself clean and odor free before lying next to you. That same principle is why you reject his lovemaking now that he’s overweight. Your love and caring didn’t go away, but just as you would be repulsed by the smell of your dirty fisherman, so are you repelled by the sight of his body that no longer has any semblance of its earlier tone and form. You still love; you just don’t want to make love. It’s not your heart that holds you back; it’s your physical senses. The attributes that used to trigger your passion are gone, and your feeling disrespected leads you to pull away.
Because you react this way, other factors may negatively affect your marriage. Your husband may feel rejected and unloved. As you pull further away, his negative feelings will become worse and he may self-medicate with more food. He doesn’t feel loved, so he eats. You don’t feel respected, may even feel repulsed, and so you move further from him emotionally. My guess is that you are in a cycle that will only get worse until you do something to stop it.
So what do you do?
First, assure your husband several times every day that you love him just as he is and that you are committed to be with him for life. Second, open your heart and explain how you feel about his weight. Be honest about all your emotions. Third, ask him if he will commit to diet and exercise for you as well as for his own well being. Help in every way that he will allow. Encourage him to seek reputable professional guidance.
If you work on this together, with honesty and openness, you will bring passion back into your marriage.
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