Friday, December 19, 2014

Tell Me About It: It's not about her weight, it's about the quality of your love

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: My girlfriend is overweight - more so since we started dating - and I'm becoming less attracted to her.

I hesitate to discuss this with her 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?

Answer: Not talking "about emotional stuff" is arguably a more fixed part of her than her weight. 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 loses weight. If you loved her as a person, then you might dislike the extra weight, but you wouldn't be eyeing 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.

  Reader comment: 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. If one person starts to become less attractive/attracted, then there's a problem that 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 partner to call them on it.

Answer: "Get fat and lazy," you say. That's behavior; weight is a consequence.

Are these common causes of weight gain "lazy"? Working long hours, elder-caregiving, having a bunch of kids, 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.

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