Here's the Thing: Weight Isn't the Issue

A CUTIE PIE:

Here's the issue my partner and I are having: her sex drive is gone, mostly because she's gained a lot of weight in the past two years, she says she's at least 50 pounds heavier than she'd like to be. Here's the thing, I truly do not give a single damn if she ever loses any weight at all, I want her just as much as ever did, looks are nice, but how a person treats you and makes you feel is so much more important to me, and I tell her I love her and how beautiful she is just the same, and God do I mean it. If she's happy, I'm happy, but her weight amplifies her every insecurity. She want doesn't to go out, ever, getting dressed is a chore that only makes her miserable, she sleeps all day long, has persistent stomach and hip issues, and all this makes her spiral and eat bags of candy, chips, and other desserts. She's more angry and short-tempered than I've ever seen her. We live together and have had sex about 3 times in the past year, she's had to keep a shirt on with the lights off throughout each time. She said she wants to go back to therapy, but says it's too expensive, so I offered to pay for half of it, she still says no. I have no desire to be unfaithful to her, but I can't help feeling a lot of resentment. On the outside everyone thinks we have a good relationship, and I feel like if I end this over that, I'll seem heartless and unsupportive. I feel like I'm doing all I can, but the world hates women not shaped a certain way, and it's hard feeling like I'm fighting an invisible force. What do I do? Where do we go?

SOPHIA:

Oh baby, oh baby this is a doozy. Weight is one of the thorniest issues of all; there is just so much societal value assigned to being a certain body type. I’m coming at all of what I’m about to say from the point of someone who used to be very overweight, and I don’t know that it will work with your partner. Some things I heard one day when I was fat were perfect and then the next day they would have made me sob.

I say that to warn you right now that no matter what you do or say to address this issue, your partner will likely get hurt. What you say at some point will likely be very painful for her to hear. It will hurt because being a weight you don’t want to be hurts like a motherfucker all the time nonstop. Your partner is deep in grief. Deep. Grief that her body is not the way she wants it to be. Or that society wants it to be. (The two are so often intertwined, sadly). And unlike when someone dies, there is very little of a roadmap for how to deal with this grief. There aren’t books like, “Here’s how to keep showing up at work even though you hate your body today, and not just a little bit like hate hate hate your body and can’t stand to be inside of it.”

I use the word grief so that you can perhaps frame your interactions with her that way. She’s grieving. She’s mad and angry and sad and in denial and all of it all the time. Ok? That does not— DOES NOT— give her permission to be mean to you. It doesn’t give her a pass to drop out of your relationship forever and expect you to do the heavy lifting. It might give you and her language to work with, though. Because you two need to TALK. Although, honestly, I don’t think you need to bring her weight up. Your issues are about your relationship, not her weight, so that’s something to deal with later and maybe that’s something she only works on with her therapist by herself.

Write down beforehand everything emotional that you want to say to her. The angry shit, the resentment, the petty things. And then don’t say that; tear that paper up and throw it in a fire. Now, write down what you would like her to hear. What do you think she needs to hear from you? Write that down and bring that paper with you to the talk so that even if you get derailed, you have something to go off of.

I would sit her down on the weekend or when she has off work and say something like this (in your own words, obviously): “Regina (I have no idea what her name is), I love you desperately. Like the most a person can love someone, and because of that, I am here to have a terrible, horrible, uncomfortable conversation with you that we will both hate. I do not want to do this, but I need us to get to a better place, and this is the only way I can figure out how to take the next step. If you need to stop or take a break, that’s fine, but we need to finish this discussion at some point; not addressing this is a dealbreaker for me.

I’m not ok with our sex life, and I’m not ok with our romantic life right now. I need us to come up with ways to address this together, and then I need for us to follow through. Part of that includes both of us going to therapy. Both individually and together; we can’t handle this on our own. I’ll cover the costs if that’s a concern, but when you’re not willing to go to therapy, that says to me that you aren’t willing to try to help our relationship, and that is very painful. If we don’t address this, I worry how much resentment will build between us. I know you want a good relationship with me, too. I think you see the same problems I do. And I’m asking for your help to rebuild it.”

Ok, and then you see what she says and see how much effort she puts in and you go from there! Got it? Easy!!!! (jk jk jk this will be painful and I’m sorry).

As for ending things: it’s ok to end your relationship over this issue. I hope (and predict) you’ll stay and make at least one more effort to get her to help you try to salvage the relationship, but I understand if you don’t. You don’t need to stay with someone and give years of your life to misery to prove a point. You are not leaving her because she gained weight. You’re leaving because the relationship is not healthy—a very good reason to leave. But remember, you don’t ever need a reason—good or otherwise—to leave. If something is not working, you’re allowed to walk away. You’re allowed to toss in the towel “too soon.” It’s not mean or cruel. It’s what you need.