IS THERE A RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP ONE’S SELF IN GOOD PHYSICAL SHAPE AFTER THE “I DO’S”?
I recently supported and encouraged a male client to tell his wife that since kid number three he was watching his attraction to her start to slip. Although she was nearly back to pre-baby weight, her not going to the gym and eating poorly, and for him, actually seeing those extra pounds on her body, were, at best, disturbing. He was terrified to share the information with her, knowing she would be crushed by the weight of his words.
When it comes to male-female relationships, this is not a surprising phenomenon. In my experience, most times the loss of attraction revolves around weight gain, or abnormal weight loss in the case of someone who didn’t have the weight to lose in the first place. By their nature, men are more visceral, so it is often their quiet little secret they can’t bring themselves to share. Women tend to have less of a reaction and are more likely to accept the fact that body parts shift and move over time. Extra weight on their man is generally not a deal-breaker in the bedroom or for the relationship. Now, that may sound stereotypical, and some women and men might disagree. That’s OK; I can only share from my experience as a Relationship Coach.
A touchy subject that requires great care in communicating
Here is the pattern of advice I offered to my client. I present it here in the hope that you will find value and ultimately greater happiness as a result.
- Be honest. It may hurt your partner’s feelings and make your life miserable for a period of time (you may even find yourself sleeping on the couch). There is always the initial shock that the truth can provide, especially on a sensitive topic as attraction. Yet, once the screaming dies down, the two of you now have something tangible to work through together.
- Think about the words you use in sharing such delicate information. Share your truth from a place of self-observation and inquiry, rather than accusing your partner of anything she is intentionally doing or neglecting. “I am noticing that my attraction to you has shifted, since I’m aware that I respond more sexually when you are carrying less weight.” Notice the use of “I” language versus “you” and how that can shift the focus to your ownership of the issue. Indeed, your being attracted to someone is ultimately about you.
- Allow your partner to feel whatever he is feeling and to share it as needed. Yes, you have quite possibly opened up a can of worms and they are crawling all over you. Risk that the outcome and clarity down the road will far outweigh the current onslaught.
- Wait for things to quiet down and remind your partner that you have shared your experience not as a way to divide the two of you but to ultimately bring you closer together. In most scenarios when one person is withholding this type of information, it is playing itself out in other areas. Avoiding sex. Becoming short-tempered. Looking elsewhere. This will ultimately cause more damage than the willingness to speak your truth.
- In partnership, decide how the two of you can best address this issue. There are a lot of variables to be considered, such as do you both agree something needs to change, and is it something that can be supported and approached as a team. Remember, this wasn’t “I don’t love you anymore.” And though it may feel that way, attraction is a big part of what brought the two of you together in the first place. It is also important to remember that one of the first things people do before getting back out there after a breakup is to hit the gym and get their bodies looking good to attract a new partner. Isn’t the partner you are currently with worth this same response? The attraction part can be recaptured once the two of you agree that this is a fair and legitimate request.
After a few weeks of prodding, my client decided to face the music and speak his truth to his wife. There was a week of tears, loud conversations and lots of hurt feelings. He even realized that some of his expectations of his wife were unrealistic and without merit. Yet in the end it paid off, because together they were able to support what was ultimately needed to “right” that part of their relationship.