How Do You Tell Your Husband He is Letting Himself Go?

John and I have both changed physically in the 30+ years we’ve been together. Back then, John had a full head of curly hair, seven percent body fat and smooth legs (he was a competitive cyclist). I had really short hair, no stretch marks, and a smaller shoe size (the magical changes in pregnancy).

Most of these transformations are out of John and my control. Sure, we could spend money on hair plugs (his) or liposuction (hers) but neither appeals to us.

But what about things we can preserve, like a healthy weight through healthy eating?

A while back, I interviewed Courtney. She is a 35-year-old divorcee. There were many reasons her marriage didn’t work out. But her husband’s eating habits and weight gain was one of them. Here is our interview.

Courtney, what attracted you to Charles?
When we met, there was a strong physical attraction. Charles had the look I like – tall, broad shouldered, and with a great build. I liked the way he dressed too. He tried to dress nicely at the beginning.

Did this attraction last?
Shortly after we started to date, he put on a lot of weight really quickly. He was working around the clock at a start-up and resorting to fast food for lunch and dinners. His weight gain bothered me a lot because the person I was attracted to had immediately changed. I felt guilty for not finding him as attractive. Because of my guilt, I felt it was my responsibility to figure out a solution. I took the initiative to make him healthy lunches and dinners. He started to lose the weight and was looking better.

How were you hoping things would work out?
I certainly made some assumptions in thinking that the healthy and fit guy I met would continue to make the same effort to maintain his looks into our relationship. I didn’t change after we started dating or after we were married – in fact, I was becoming increasingly more health conscious so there was an even greater disconnect between us.

Did you tell Charles how you felt?
I felt I couldn’t ignore my concerns but that I needed to tread lightly given we hadn’t been together for very long when the problem started. I also felt extremely guilty for feeling less attracted to him. We are pumped with different messages in our society. On the one hand, there is a ton of pressure for both men and women to look good – but on the other hand, we are supposed to accept people for who they are and not put too much emphasis on looks.

How did his physical change effect your relationship?
Charles caring less about himself made me feel like he had stopped caring about me too. While physical attraction wasn’t the only thing that was not working in our relationship, it certainly was a concern that validated some of the other concerns.

Did Charles ever say anything about how he wanted you to look?
No, not really. Staying healthy and active has always been important to me, so I made an effort to look good without being asked to. He never expressed any concern about my appearance, nor did he ask me to change anything about the way I looked. If he had, I’m sure I would have been open to his comments.

Are we obligated to be physically attractive to our partner?
I want to look good and dress well because I think it is an element of being together long term. I would never be willing to go “under the knife” or have a boob job – we are born with the imperfect bodies we have and we age. But loving yourself and taking good care of yourself is very attractive. In my opinion, this is something you do for yourself and for your partner to show you care about your relationship.

With 20/20 hindsight do you think you should have talked about your expectations earlier in your relationship with Charles?
Absolutely, I should have been more honest about my expectations. I should have said something like, “Charles, I met you six months ago and maybe this is rude but your unhealthy habits are not attractive to me.” I started to resent the responsibility I had taken on for his healthy eating, and of course even more upset when he reverted to his old habits and gained weight when I didn’t take control.

What would you expect in your next relationship?
In the future, I would clearly tell a partner, “You need to take care of yourself because that’s what it takes to be with me.” I don’t want to be the responsible person all of the time; I want to share in that responsibility.

Photo credit: Unsplash – Scott Webb

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