“My wife wants me to lose weight, and says she’s starting to lose attraction to me. I was about 25 pounds lighter when we met and used to be really physically active. But since my job has gotten more demanding, I’ve definitely become sedentary, and have gained weight as a result. This never really bothered me…until I realized that it bothered her! So, do I owe it to her to lose the weight? Or can I explain that this is just the way my body is right now?”
Physical attraction is an important part of any romantic relationship. I know we’d like to think that everyone falls in love with their partner for a glowing personality, but perceived hotness usually precedes the decision to become intimately involved. That said, you should never feel scrutinized for every bit of weight you lose or gain. Bodies change. Attraction shifts. Life happens.
So, on that front, do you owe it to your wife to lose weight and in order for her to stay attracted to you?
In a word, nope
You get to define your weight, diet, physical activity and general appearance—not anybody else. I often see situations where one spouse’s appearance becomes a means of control, and the time they spend maintaining or altering that appearance proves the product of an abusive dynamic. It is not OK for someone you love to make comments about how often you order pasta, whether you really “need” the chocolate cake or where your bicep muscles went. That is no way to live. That is no way to be happy. And that’s definitely not love.
While physical attraction is important as an initial spark in a relationship, as love evolves, you start to grow more in awe of other things—how kind she is, how supportive she is, how good a mother she is. Those intangibles are the glue that keeps you together and allow you to work through these very issues. If physical attraction is the only thing that has kept your wife in this marriage, then your relationship is not built on a solid foundation. But if this is just something she wants to work on, together, well...
It’s important to address the issue of lost attraction as a couple
Do you want to lose weight in order to feel sexier? If you do, this is something you can treat as a joint venture, especially if your wife is enthusiastic about helping you in your efforts. Maybe you can find activities you love to do together. Perhaps something you used to enjoy back when you were more active? It doesn’t have to be gym time. Exercise is healthy…and a natural aphrodisiac, per research.
Or maybe you could make meal prep and healthy cooking your “date night” instead of wining and dining. Whatever. There are a thousand opportunities to connect in a healthy, cool way that can make you a stronger couple.
It’s also worth noting that this is a two-way street. Do you feel the relationship has lost its spark? Do you have any ideas about how you could improve your bond with your wife, have more sex, feel those butterflies again? You’re allowed to make some suggestions, too.
But bottom line, if you feel good about the way you look, stand up for yourself
Sit your wife down and tell her that you feel happy and healthy at your current size, and you will make decisions about your own weight, moving forward. Set that boundary, which she needs to fully respect. Then, open up the conversation to other ways you could reignite the fire, whether it’s a weekend away or learning a new activity together (for the sake of health, not visible abs). My guess is that there’s a mutually agreeable plan of action in there somewhere.
Jenna Birch is a dating coach, journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love.