Til Weight Do Us Part

What Will you DefendA man wrote a letter to Dear Prudence saying that he had “zero feelings” for his wife of 25 years, and mother of his three kids, as she had gain 50 pounds in the last 10 years which he referred to as a “major turnoff.” You can see his full question and Prudie’s answer (which I thought wasn’t too bad) here.

I was recently asked a similar question at a live event.  The woman said that she had gained weight and her husband said he no longer found her attractive,  and that she felt like it was her fault because she was thin when he married her. She asked me what I thought she should do.

I explained that I couldn’t tell her what to do, I could say what I think I would do.  I would never marry someone who told me that they only wanted me if I was thin (or fat, or any thing other bit of physicality that might change over time.)  But what happens if you’ve built a life with someone and then find out that they somehow believed that you wouldn’t change over time?

To Dear Prudie’s credit she did not suggest weight loss as a solution, but I’ve definitely seen this suggested before – as if we owe our spouses thinness. Many people say some form of “love and cherish each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” but they get tripped up on simple physical changes.

How about some therapy for the spouse whose narrow view of beauty – and apparent delusion that their partner would always look the same as when they married them – is negatively affecting the marriage? What else is a divorce-able “offense”?  Grey hair?  Wrinkles?  Disfigurement from an accident? Hair loss?  Twenty-five years, three kids and a life built with someone, and this dude is still stuck on thin=beautiful, shocked that after 25 years and three kids, his wife looks different?

Some people may choose to stay, to try to change their picture until it fits their partner’s frame, and they are allowed to do that. Some people are not in a position to leave such a relationship for any number of reasons. Anyone who deals with this situation gets to make their choice for their reasons (and for some there really isn’t much of a choice), and that’s not for any of us to judge.

As for what I would do? Even if I had complete control over my body size, if someone I was in a relationship with told me that they were no long attracted to me because my weight or appearance had changed, I would likely offer to support them if they wanting counseling/therapy to deal with that issue and, if they wouldn’t or couldn’t work it out, I would leave as soon as possible and never look back.

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11 thoughts on “Til Weight Do Us Part

  1. My first husband was like this – outraged and furious that I had ‘failed’ to remain at the weight I was when we married, because having two children was ‘no excuse’ for getting unattractively fat. He never seemed to look in the mirror… I did my best over the years to lose weight, being locked into a ‘please him at all costs’ mentality, but eventually sanity broke out and the marriage broke down.

    Many men seem to have this problem with women changing shape over time. My first husband had marked Asperger tendencies, and folk on the autism spectrum can have huge problems with face/body recognition and with processing physical changes in others. It can be so severe that if a partner goes from long to short hair, or dramatically changes their style of clothing, the bloke can seriously struggle to recognise said partner.

    ‘You’re no longer the woman I married/fell in love with’ can be a serious problem. I think you’re right, Ragen – therapy is needed for such people – because although it CAN be a genuine autism-related issue, it remains a judgment based on physical appearance alone. Just getting such people to accept that there is far, far more to a person than their physical appearance is a major task.

    My lesson from that unhappy time? Don’t get involved with a man who shows any characteristics of strong habit and reliance on unchanging routine, unless you’re really well clued-up on the autism spectrum and willing to live with it. He won’t change, and he won’t be able to cope with YOU changing.

    1. Keep in mind, though, that autism affects us all differently, even by sex; girls and women with autism, especially less prominent and high-functioning types like Asperger’s, have symptoms so different from those boys and men typically have, that it’s been less than 20 years since we’ve begun to be correctly diagnosed with any acceptable frequency. Prior to 1994 and the release of the DSM-IV, which included Asperger’s syndrome following a great deal of effort from a very small group of exlerts (and which then vanished in the 2013(?) DSM-V), girls and women could be misdiagnosed with a wide range of conditions, from ADD to depression to “sit down and shut up.” Most common, though, was schizophrenia. Through most of the 20th century, that meant lifelong institutionalization, and all the horrors within. At that time, the diagnostic criteria for autism and schizophrenia were nearly identical. It was only when the conditions were better studied that other differences came to light–and only years after that did the commonality of girls and women with autism come to light.

      I had more, but I’m exhausted and insomniac. Long story short, my girlfriend and I are both autistic, though she’s young enough she missed the end of Hell. Both of us having the condition does far more good than harm–we share an understanding the average person can’t understand. We have minimal problems with shape changes–hell, I slipped and broke my back ten feet away from her, and it hasn’t put her off nearly three years later. I’d say your ex’s problems had more to do with male privilege than autism. If that’s the case, then damn his eyes for dragging back and stepping on all the work the rest of us struggle with every single day.

      1. But, autism is so darned common, you’d think it would be a higher priority for research, as well as for public information. Telling people the truth about it, how to identify it, how to deal with it – these should be common PSAs.

        I’m always happy to read more about it, because I suspect that one of my relatives is on the spectrum, and when I started reading and saying, “Yep, he does that. Yep, that too. Yeah, he hates that. Oh, I should try this with him! Hey, he liked it!” it helps to improve my relationship with him, and we get along well.

        For example, he used to hate hugging me, because hugging hello and goodbye is pretty standard in my family, whenever we visit. And I’d hug him, too. But then, I said, “You know, you’re always allowed to say No to a hug.” And when he did, I honored that. Now, I ask him for hugs, and he doesn’t hesitate, and the other day, he hugged me before I could even say anything!

        Also, he’s a flapper. He flaps his hands a lot. During church, we used to encourage him to fold his arms and be still, but then he wouldn’t get a thing out of the sermon. If we want him to pay attention, we let him wiggle. Works for home-schooling, too. He’s doing much better in the home school than he was in public school, because we don’t keep telling him to sit down and shut up and keep still.

        So, yes, please, more research, and more information, and really, I had no idea it presented differently in girls and women. WOW! Thanks for that! Time to do more research.

  2. I’m so thankful the answer was given bu the current Prudence and not the previous one, who insisted that a middle-aged woman’s mother should be cajoled into removing her chin hair when she stopped doing so because, at age seventy, she felt she didn’t care about what people thought.

    1. That was my exact thought, thank goodness it’s Mallory now. Because the other one would have been “diet already,” etc.

  3. Yes that guy needs therapy. Such ridiculous expectations! I wonder if he changed at all throughout their marriage that makes him no longer “attractive.” Outward appearance is a flimsy board on which to build a foundation.

  4. So, I followed the link to the original article, and this statement from the OP made me do a double-take: “I just feel like I’m on the treadmill of life going nowhere real fast.”

    He’s going nowhere in life because she gained weight? So, not only is he stuck on the attractive=thin trope, he also seems to be subscribing to the success=trophy wife plank in the toxic masculinity platform.

    Wow. I feel so bad for his wife.

  5. Thank goodness for her sensible answer. I remember once, I was home sick, and tuned into some daytime TV, because I couldn’t sleep any more, and it hurt my head to read.

    Big mistake: Dr. Phil was on, and he chastised a wife for gaining weight. When they married, she had literally been a model. Now, she looked like a very pretty fat woman, and her (still thin, and so unassailably moral, in Dr. Phil’s eyes) husband couldn’t stand to look at her, and dragged her to Dr. Phil to tell her how horrible she was.

    I remember no talk about “What did you actually promise in your marriage vows, anyway? Oh, is that a bit of grey hair I see on that thinning scalp?” Nope. The man was thin, therefore perfect, and the woman was wrong for changing. They admitted that she still had a great personality, but “great personality” is, apparently, code for “not good enough, either lose the weight, or get lost.” It made me so sad. And, yes, she admitted to emotional eating. Since her husband turned away from her, she said she got her hugs from ice cream. Literally, that’s what she said. This bozo couldn’t even hug her, any more.

    Likewise, I knew a woman once, who got cancer, and her oh-so-loving husband said, “I can’t deal with this,” and left her. He actually left her to beg in the streets, just to survive a bit longer, let alone get the treatment she needed to hopefully beat the cancer and put it into remission. Nope. Just, “In sickness and in health? NOPE!”

    I agree with you, Ragen. Everyone is allowed to have their own turn-ons and turn-offs. However, if they are all about the physical, and can’t deal with the fact that bodies change over time, due to age, illness, accident, and what-not, then they either need to get counseling to learn to accept that, and fall in love again, or else they need to step up and admit that they are truly shallow, and let the wonderful, deep, full of good things and great personality person find someone else, who can appreciate them for who they really are, and not just get stuck on the current look. That wonderful woman deserves better, and hopefully, once she’s free of tying herself in knots trying to please a man who can’t/won’t keep his marriage vows, she’ll find better.

    I went to read the comments, and fortunately, sanity asserted itself, and I closed the tab.

  6. Granted, we see this portrayed in the weight loss program advertisements. “I lost 25 pounds, and now my husband looks at me again!” They’re pandering to an attitude that they help perpetuate.

    Our culture promotes the lie that attraction is all about appearance, but that is only a small part of attraction. It’s not just how someone looks, but also about how they act, who they are, how they make us feel, how we make them feel, and so on. I’ve seen plenty of people with that culturally accepted look that were about as attractive as a wart hog covered in excrement, because the person inside the body just acted ugly. I’ve seen other people well outside that cultural standard that were sexy and desirable because the person inside is the kind you want to spend time with, to be around, to get close to. That kind of person typically remains that kind of person, despite what life does to the body.

    I’m blessed that I’ve spent the past 36 years with that kind of person.

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