Man, Which?

20 Jul


Letterbalm Overweight ManDear LetterBalm: My husband and I have been together for three years, married for one. He was hefty when I started dating him, but since then he’s put on about 45 pounds. I’m the cook of the family, and I’ve been trying to prepare healthy meals – grilled chicken, fish, salads and the like – but he balks and eats burgers, fries and pizzas when he’s with his friends. We’re hoping to start a family, but he’s 29, and I’m worried. He’s had chest pains, and the doctor has advised him to lose weight. I manage my weight, and I try to keep active at a gym, bicycling, etc., but I don’t make a big deal about it. I understand my husband’s situation and don’t nag him. He says he won’t exercise, and he thinks I’m not attracted to him because of his size (not true, and I can’t convince him that I find him sexy at any size). So, we’re stuck. What can I do about all this?

–Sympathetic Spouse   

Let’s sort out these threads. You’ve got a husband who knows he’s overweight. He’s not yet 30 years old and he’s experienced chest pains and, probably, shortness of breath, which are terrifying. He refuses to eat healthy or exercise, he sabotages his diet, and he feels unsexy. He wants a child and knows you do, too, but he can’t even regard himself as a spouse attractive enough to get busy to make one. Ms. L.B. advises that before you can address your husband’s physical concerns, you need to consider his mental and emotional state. It’s quite possible he’s depressed and scared. Maybe he has issues of self-esteem and worthlessness going back to childhood. Perhaps an overbearing, critical parent, a mocking sibling or school bullies. These can be powerful roots of dysfunction. A good marital counselor can help both of you (most likely with additional therapy for your husband).  Have a gentle talk with your undistracted mate on neutral ground – not in bed, at the dinner table or in front of the TV. You’re concerned, you love him and you want him to be happy. Try this:

Dave, I know things have been tough for you lately. You’re concerned about what Dr. Smith said about your chest pains. I’m concerned, too. The whole issue of dieting and exercise is something you haven’t wanted to deal with, and I do understand that. I also understand that even talking about having sex and starting a family is overwhelming. Darling, I’m going to propose something I think will help. How about we talk to a couples’ counselor? I can’t believe we’re the only people who have gone through this – and, I want to tell you we are definitely in this together, for better or for worse, remember? You’re the love of my life, and I want us to have many years together. Let’s make an appointment as soon as we can to start dealing with this.

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