Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My girlfriend is overweight — more so since we started dating — and I’m becoming less attracted to her. I’m hesitant to discuss this because I don’t want to project my own insecurities or expectations on her. I used to be overweight but slimmed down because I don’t want to suffer the health problems that run in my family.
She also seems to be insecure about her appearance, and I don’t want to aggravate that insecurity. She doesn’t like talking about emotional stuff, particularly about herself, so what should I do?
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— Losing Attraction
DEAR LOSING ATTRACTION: Not talking “about emotional stuff” is arguably a more fixed part of her than her weight (though weight is tougher to change than we tend to think, research suggests). If you want to be with someone you can approach with whatever’s on your mind, then she’s not the girl for you, physique notwithstanding.
This allows me to dodge the weight question, but I won’t. Used to be I was annoyed by people who saw weight as a deal-breaker. How shallow, I’d think. Over time, I came to pity those who saw others as paper dolls.
Now I see weight as a red herring; it’s really about love. If your attachment to your girlfriend is so sensitive to appearances, then I don’t like its chances even if she takes a turn for the thin. If you loved her as a person, then you might dislike the extra weight, but you wouldn’t eye the door over it.
Now, unlovable habits are something else. There are definitely some love-killing behaviors that also strain waistbands, but that, too, is more about the person inside than out.
You once answered a letter (link: http://wapo.st/1qX02oG) from a guy whose girlfriend gained significant weight after they’d gotten engaged, and you felt it was underhanded to wait until she had a ring and then let herself go. Today’s answer seems like the opposite of that, or am I missing something?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: You’re missing, I suspect, that the column you cite primarily addresses the fiancee’s behavior.
Uh, so wait — I can’t be upset if my husband puts on 50 pounds and I no longer find him sexually attractive? How does that make ME the bad guy? Especially when I work hard to keep my weight in check and look good for him.
Sex — and attraction — is a binder. And if one person starts to become less attractive/attracted, then yes, there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed. I don’t see why it’s OK for someone to get fat and lazy but it’s NOT OK for their partners to call them on it.
— Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: I see your “uh” and raise you a reiteration.
“Get fat and lazy,” you say. That’s behavior; weight is a consequence.
Are these common causes of weight gain “lazy”?: working long hours, caregiving, grieving, having a bunch of kids, suffering medication side-effects, even inheriting a body that fights leanness despite the same exercise and portion control as thin people — because weight isn’t a simple 2 + 2, there are multipliers involved. In those cases, seeing only pounds, not circumstances, betrays a weak underlying bond.
Assess cause, not effect. Seems like basic kindness to me.