Relationship Connection: I’m turned off by my husband’s weight

Question

My husband and I have been married for 30-plus years. In the beginning, I tried to “change” him, and ultimately discovered that I can only change myself. I realize that his life’s experiences are a part of who he is; and as we have different opinions regarding many things, we have agreed that on some topics we will just disagree. He is a good husband and father.

My problem is that my husband has become very overweight. Even some of our children have mentioned their concern about his weight to me. He doesn’t like to exercise, is always tired, and hasn’t been to a doctor in over 10 years. In the past I have voiced my concern to him that he stops breathing for short periods of time at night, but now I just don’t say anything. His family has a history of diabetes and cancer, but these diseases don’t seem to be a concern to him. My problem is that being intimate with him is not appealing to me.

What can I do to voice my concerns to him without him feeling he is being criticized? Is there anything I can do or say that can help him want to be healthier? What can I do to change my own thoughts about him being overweight?

Answer

You’re right that addressing this topic is going to be a difficult experience for both of you. You’re also correct that you can’t change his behavior. However, it doesn’t mean that you should stay silent.

You have legitimate concerns about his health, but none of that will matter to him if you don’t have the kind of relationship that can handle something that loaded. The quality of your relationship with your husband will determine how he hears your concerns. Before you figure out what words you’ll use to communicate your concerns, I recommend you take in these considerations.

One of my mentors, Dr. Wally Goddard, once told me that he didn’t feel permission to correct anyone he didn’t love. He said the great surprise was that once he truly felt love for them, he modified the way he approached them. He shared that the motivation came from a place of love instead of irritation. Since you’ve got difficult things to discuss with him, it’s wise to check your motives and make sure you’re approaching him from a place of love and compassion.

I have received feedback from loved ones over the years on a variety of topics. The difference between how I received the feedback from them usually came down the strength of our relationship and how I believed they saw me as a person. When I’ve been able to feel their deep love and concern for me, it’s been much easier to hear.

The fact that he’s ignoring his health and is obese signals a potential addiction to food or an underlying depression. Individuals who struggle with these conditions usually have no idea what kind of impact they’re having on their loved ones and live in a deep state of denial to keep them from their painful reality.

While minor irritations with your spouse’s physical self-care might require more patience and flexibility on your part, a true addiction or severe depression requires something more direct. It is possible to be direct with love and compassion. In fact, not saying something to spare his feelings isn’t love. It’s fear and it may keep him from getting the help he needs.

Cicero, a Roman philosopher, taught the powerful truth that we should “criticize by creation, not by finding fault.” Bringing up your concerns isn’t finding fault. Instead, your inviting him to create a new reality where he isn’t trapped in his self-defeating patterns of neglecting his health and his relationships.

Instead of dancing around the issue by gently suggesting you exercise together or eat healthier meals, I encourage you to go straight to the point and let him know that his behavior and lack of self-respect and self-care is not only causing concern for you and the children, but it’s also creating distance between the two of you. Let him know how important he is to everyone and this is an attempt to create more closeness between the two of you.

Even though you recognize he gets to be in charge of his own body, you can still let him know that you would like to be taken seriously and understood. This isn’t criticism about how he should live his life. This is you describing your fears and concerns about the stability and longevity of your most important relationship. Building a relationship strong enough to hear our partner’s deepest fears and worries takes work and time.

These experiences can be jolting to both you and him as you start to discuss the real issue of him numbing and avoiding dealing with difficult emotions or stressors. Encourage him to get into some couples counseling so he can hear and understand what you need to feel close to him again. My guess is that you aren’t pulling away from him just because you’re superficial. You most likely feel ignored and unimportant as he continues to self-destruct. There are bigger issues here to discuss than just his physical size.

Remember to double-check your motives so you can stay with him in love through his denial, ignoring, and rejection. Your desire to see him thrive and connect with you and his family has to be motivated by your loyalty and commitment him. Hopefully he can hear you this time.

Stay connected!

Related posts

Geoff will be holding a 2-day couples workshop on April 25-26 to help couples deepen their connection and strengthen their marriages in a fun and interactive setting. This workshop is limited to 10 couples.

hold-me-tight-book

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

4 Comments

  • Hatalii April 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    OK this sentence from the writer is key, and should not be ignored. She wrote, “He doesn’t like to exercise, is always tired, and hasn’t been to a doctor in over 10 years. In the past I have voiced my concern to him that he stops breathing for short periods of time at night, but now I just don’t say anything.”
    There are several strong hints in this sentence that must not be ignored. I am betting that he is also a heavy snorer which goes along with him stopping breathing. It is called Sleep Apnea, and is a very treatable problem. It sounds like the poor guy is not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep will lead to being tired all the time, being overweight and being depressed. It is a terribly vicious circle that just keeps building.
    Whatever his reluctance to go to a doctor is from, he had better overcome that, and get in for a full checkup. It sounds like he is in denial, and is probably also terrified, but you will never get him to admit it. Either that, or he is just fatalistic, which is also another sign of depression.
    There is help for him. But only if he is willing to get it. Like a drug addict, or an alcoholic, there is not much anyone can do for him, if he isn’t willing to help himself.
    If you really care for him, you will not withhold sex and affection from him, even if he is not terribly desirable right now. This is the one thing that I have seen a lot of spouses or significant others do, that is sure to be detrimental to getting him to seek help.
    Also, nagging him isn’t going to do it, that will just make him more defensive. As Geoff said, “Your desire to see him thrive and connect with you and his family has to be motivated by your loyalty and commitment him. Hopefully he can hear you this time.” Perhaps, if you cannot reach him, the children can. Or possible a close friend.
    Good luck to both of you. It sounds like he is a ticking time bomb, medically speaking.

  • johnson April 24, 2014 at 6:28 am

    She could just do what other women here do. Get another guy on the side.

  • JOSH DALTON April 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

    So what if someone is turned off by “her” weight? Then I would be a typical bad husband! The double standard in america is driving me nuts!

  • SSfreeze April 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Why did she take his picture at the beech? It is not very flattering..

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.