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To love, honor and live with obesity
I have been in a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend for 2 years. We own a home together and life is great... but since I met him he has gained close to 20lbs. He was never super svelte and he's not tall so every pound shows. He gains and loses it several times a year. I am fairly fit and make an effort to maintain my fitness level with diet and exercise. I have known about his weight fluctuations from the beginning, and he showed me photos of him early on in our relationship where he was another 20lbs above where he is now. I was always upfront about how much I value staying fit.
I have tried to encourage him to lose weight and NOTHING works. He tells me that the more I mention it, the less likely he is to act on it. So I try to suffer in silence which is not working very well for either of us! He starts diets then stops; he even joined my gym and only went 3 times in 4 months. I even used the 'health' angle and sent him to a doctor who did not take any vital signs and said he looked fine and to come back at 40 years old (he's 38).
We are about to get engaged, and I wonder if it's reasonable to expect that he keep himself in shape. What can I do, if anything - or am I doomed to accept it? --Fearing Through Sickness and Obesity
You fell for a guy who was "never super svelte," and he was honest from the beginning about his constantly changing size--yet you stayed in the relationship, bought a house together and are now moving towards engagement. In other words, you walked into this with your eyes wide open, right? Or did you fall into that age old trap that many women get caught in, which is the belief that with the right support, encouragement, resources and motivation from YOU, that he could conquer this problem and change into the toned and svelte guy you see yourself with?
If this is the case, the key problem isn't about food choices and exercise--it's about his lack of motivation to address his weight and fitness issues. In a nutshell, he prefers the wrong food (and maybe more of it) to good food in smaller portions. He doesn't enjoy exercise and would rather be a heavier guy than a gym rat. YOU want this-- but no matter how badly you want it and how hard you work to be his cheerleader and champion, it won't bring about any change until it's what HE wants.
Have the two of you ever had an honest-to- goodness discussion about how he feels about his weight, dieting and exercising, and getting a handle on his size once and for all? This discussion would be one in which he is doing most of the talking and you would be listening deeply and giving him the space to really open up, without fear of blow back in the relationship if he is honest.
You may not like what he has to say, but you will have crossed an important barrier to true intimacy, one that keeps him in the position of agreeing with your views, and on the surface, going along with your program. Only then will you be able to truly evaluate how well a future with a plus sized guy fits into your long range plan. This is truly one of the situations where you have to ask yourself if this is something you can live with or a deal breaker.
(from September 2011)
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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