Am I wrong to want my husband to lose weight to save our marriage?
I was hot right before I got married, or at least my version of hot: fifteen pounds down from when I first met my husband, teetering on the edge of a size 8 (a milestone for me). In our wedding photos, my stomach looks flat in my fitted dress, my arms toned, my cheekbones visible.
That sounds nice, but I'm not pleased I've gone up a size (or two). I can tell that Randy, my high-energy/low-body-fat husband, doesn't like it much either. The other day, I mentioned how I missed having a gym membership since moving to our new town. "Well, why don't I pay for you to get a personal trainerit will be your birthday present!" he offered. I was about to thank him profusely, when he continued, "It will be a present that benefits both of us."
"Well, you'll feel better and I'll enjoy looking at you." I gave him an icy smile, which, lucky for him, he interpreted correctly, because he quickly backtracked. "It's not that I don't love looking at you now, it's just that..."
There have been other tiny humiliations. When I asked Randy to guess my weight (bad ideadon't try it at home), he was right on the nose. So much for my thinking I look thinner than I am. And I admit: When the scale disappoints me, I'm more likely to slip under the covers and reach for a book than for him. Instead of marriage making me feel secure in my body, I am vaguely ashamed that I'm not the woman I was on the day we tied the knot. Marriage is an ever-evolving entity, but when those changes occur around the waistline, marital tensions get bigger, too.
The couple did what many do when they're having difficulties: They withdrew emotionally. "I felt like he was a shallow person, someone I didn't know at all," Melanie says. "Frankly, I thought that it was only a matter of time before I left him. In my heart, I knew he had a point," she concedes. "But I was still pissed off."
That shame is corrosive. "The problem isn't the extra pounds but the withdrawal that follows," says Mary Beth George, a couples counselor in Houston. When Kara Richardson, 40, of Summit, NJ, gained back the 120 pounds she'd lost a few years into her marriage, she and her husbandastoundinglydidn't discuss it. "I didn't bring it up, because I didn't want to give him a reason to bring it up," she says.
Just as a major weight gain can divide a couple, so can a dramatic weight loss. "I was more than 250 pounds when my husband and I met and he totally wanted me, which was thrilling," says Christina (not her real name), 35, who lives in California. But when she started thinking about having a baby, she realized she'd have to lose weight. "If I couldn't take care of myself, how could I take care of a child?" she asks.
I get that too. I'm a feminist, dammit, and I'm not about to lose weight for a man. But if my extra pounds are making me unhappy, it's time to do something about them. Because whatever Randy thinks about how I look naked, I want to feel the way I felt on my wedding day: proud of my body, of my strength. As my husband likes to tell me, one of the reasons he fell in love with me is that I'm a strong woman, a woman who can do amazing things when she sets her mind to them.