In a world infatuated with physical beauty, it’s little wonder that so many people are unable to remain faithful to their partners when their physical attributes diminish. The two most commonplace examples of this physical degradation are weight and age. Whereas aging is an expected outcome that takes a gradual toll on our bodies, weight gain can and does occur at any point in our lives. Most people choose their spouses based on a number of factors such as compatibility, love and chemistry. Physical attraction to your mate, which is the main part of chemistry, is one of the primary components of this selection process. If your partner is physically delectable at the beginning of the relationship, but changes over time, you may struggle to feel an attraction to their new appearance. It goes without saying that diminished attraction afflicts both parties in a relationship. If this decrease in attraction is serious enough, your sex life is likely to suffer, causing infidelity in some cases. You or your partner may still love each other and wish to preserve your relationship, and thus decide to satiate sexual urges with another, more physically desirable partner.
When one person in the relationship gains a significant amount of weight, their partner can experience a strong emotional response. The partner may feel that this is not the person they fell in love with, feeling “duped” or cheated that the person they initially chose is not the same person occupying their bed every night. Often the partner feels anger towards their mate for harming their “happy sex life” by not staying in shape. If one partner gets to the point where they feel repulsed by the sight of their significant other, the relationship will not last. Either you are able to love your mate enough to see past their physical form, or the overweight partner must work on getting into shape.
A spouse can speak to their partner about their concerns in a loving supportive way. Not talking it through with your partner is what leads to resentment, disinterest and infidelity. Perhaps you could suggest that you both start a diet and exercise regime. Be creative and innovative with your outdoor excursions, and patiently introduce healthy recipes to your standard fare.
If you are the one with the surplus weight, a little perspective is required. You must want to lose the weight to look good for yourself. Changing yourself strictly to please someone else will only make you resent them.
Reflect on the changes caused by the significant weight gain. People are often driven by emotions to over indulge, eating whenever they are depressed, bored or nervous. Pay attention to what emotions you are feeling when you eat. Develop healthier eating habits by recognizing genuine hunger versus emotional substitution. Realize that a healthy body and lifestyle makes you feel better about yourself and lessens the potential for future heart problems, blood pressure and diabetes.
There’s no excuse for betrayal. The cheater in the relationship is ultimately always at fault for destroying the relationship, but the infidelity can be avoided if both partners are honest with one another about their needs before things get out of hand. Either the two of you want the relationship and are willing to do the necessary bodywork, or you move on. However, it’s good to remember that those “love handles” you made no effort to lose will follow you into your new life, and very likely limit your prospects for a new relationship.
(Bonus: Regular Columnist Eric Leech Offers Practical Tips!)
A Few Notes to the Disinterested Partner
You have a right to desire that your partner take reasonable care of themselves, and want to be attractive for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. The key to this dilemma, however, is the way in which you go about asking for change. The first order of business is to cease and desist all criticism and food policing, and try to encourage better eating habits by example. Research suggests that leading by example can be a very powerful tool when trying to change a partner’s bad habits.
Never threaten a spouse by withholding sex until they lose weight, as that will always prove more damaging than therapeutic. Discuss any feelings of disappointment with your partner, gently, using the word “I” (I feel your weight is becoming a detriment to your health), rather than “you” (You are becoming obese and unhealthy.)
For the time being it may be helpful to concentrate on other features of attraction, such as personality, voice and smell. Research suggests that some men withdraw further when women attempt to change or please him, suggesting that many of these problems go much deeper than they may at first appear.
Look to the Inside Before Blaming the Outside
In more cases than not, there is a stressor in the relationship that is causing one partner to gain weight. He may be moving away because he is falling out of love, and she may be gaining weight from the depression that has resulted from his lack of attention. The end result is the convenient excuse to blame their marital problems on, yet the real cause lies somewhere else.
Ultimately, a partner will only lose weight when they are good and ready, which means you can influence (but never enforce) change. While attraction is important to good relationships, its importance is dependent on other emotional factors, as well, so before you start blaming weight gain on your ability to remain faithful, examine the inner workings of your relationship. There is a good chance that the real root of the problem is a lack of intimacy and bonding coming from one or both sides of the partnership.