#774: “Am I being a jerk about my partner’s appearance?”

Hi Captain,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for 3 years. We are both in our early thirties. When I first met him, I thought he was very attractive, and I still do. I like skinny dudes and he was skinny when I met him. About seven months into our relationship he put on about 15-20 pounds, which I found less attractive. His stomach was no longer flat and he carried weight around his middle in general. I expected him to lose it quickly, but he didn’t. Eventually I brought it up and he said I should have just said so and that he hadn’t really noticed, and that he would start a diet and exercise more.

It didn’t stick for long and since then every few months I ask him if he is still on his diet or if he saw that forskolin by dr oz segment (which is all I do, I don’t bother him about it otherwise) and he gets upset and says yes (and sometimes no) and we had a fight about it recently where he said he wants me to stop asking.

I have stayed the same size, and I know he would not be super happy if I put on weight, since his preference is strongly skewed toward very thin women. I feel that while I do maintain my weight for my own sake, I also do it because I know he likes the way I look and I want him to be maximum attracted to me. That it’s been over 2 years makes me feel that it doesn’t matter to him if I am maximum attracted to him.

I am having a hard time distancing myself from this and figuring out what is right. I am a very goal-oriented person and also a “pusher,” one of those best/worst qualities — on the one hand, I always try my hardest at everything and I’ve accomplished some good things because of that, but on the other hand I also find it difficult to just let other people go at a slower pace and not micromanage. I try to rein this in, but I can’t tell if it applies in this situation. I want my boyfriend to stay in (reasonable) shape as we get older, but when I looked in the archives, particularly at #284, I saw people calling this mentality terrible and controlling (although I don’t think I’m like that guy, who sounds like he wants a different girlfriend. I don’t want a different boyfriend, I just want him to look a little more like he did when we met). Should I just deal with it, or is there a better way to approach this issue?

Thank you.

– sad, possibly a jerk

Dear Sad, Possibly A Jerk,

Watch (or rewatch) the movie Vertigo sometime. Scottie, played by Jimmy Stewart, becomes obsessed with a woman named Madeleine, played by Kim Novak. Things don’t work out between them. Later, he runs into a woman named Judy (also played by Kim Novak), who looks exactly like Madeleine except, not. Madeleine was blond and coiffed and wealthy and dressed in upscale, tasteful, elegant, “classy” clothes. She wore just the ‘right’ amount of makeup. Judy is “a tawdry redhead” and dresses in brassy, “cheap,” bright colors and wears very heavy makeup. Scottie sees Judy’s resemblance to Madeleine, who conformed utterly to a certain kind of beauty standard, and he’s haunted by that potential and the memory of Madeleine. So he buys Judy new clothes and a makeover and pressures her to dress like and do her hair like Madeleine, to become his Madeleine. There are many examples of vertigo as a paralyzing fear of and attraction to heights in the film, but this makeover sequence and the way Scottie browbeats Judy creates a different kind of emotional vertigo for the audience. Like Scottie, we are curious, and we want to see Judy’s transformation into Madeline so badly that we’re complicit in the horrific emotional abuse and destruction of “Judy” for the sake of even a glimpse of Madeline. Lots of movies have makeover montages, but director Alfred Hitchcock and costume designer Edith Head mix the pleasurable, aspirational aspects of transformation with the oppressiveness and destruction that comes with having this imposed by others. For audiences, especially audiences at the time, there is a perversity in Judy’s refusal to conform to the beauty standard because she’s so very close to it, like, if you could choose to look like Madeline why on earth wouldn’t you? Judy loves Scottie, so why wouldn’t she want to be “maximum attractive” to him?

My advice to you, Sad, is to make sure that you are not hurting the man you love in order to chase a memory or a status symbol. He is not a project or raw material to be sculpted (nor are you), he is a being and a universe entire. Bodies change with time, and if this becomes a lifelong relationship both of you are going to go through many changes in looks and abilities. What if you could decide to enjoy and love your body and your boyfriend’s body to the fullest extent that you can? Have sex as often and as joyfully as you can. Touch his body and your own with love and awe for the things it can do. Revel in its solidness and strength and in the miracle of his warm skin under your hands. If you like to dance, then dance. Someday you are going to be very old and you are going to look at pictures from this time in your life and think “why did I waste a single minute hating our bodies when we were so goddamn beautiful.”

One very concrete thing you can do is to practice saying only kind things about your boyfriend’s body and your own and about all the bodies that you see. Ask him to do the same, and refuse to tolerate any double standard that makes you feel dissatisfied with your own body. Having a preference about who you’re attracted to is one thing (though let’s not pretend that these preferences just spontaneously develop independent of the bombardment of idealized images of thin people and damaging shaming and denigration of not-thin people), mentioning and proclaiming and reinforcing that preference as a way to police the bodies of people in your life is quite another. If you and your boyfriend can wean yourselves off of negative self-talk, stop pointing out “figure flaws” on your own or other people’s bodies, let go entirely of the idea of what people should and should not wear or show on their own bodies, stop bonding over negative body talk and shame, and phase out consumption of magazines and other media that talk about bodies as a collection of “problem areas,” these things will go a long way toward increasing self- and mutual acceptance and joy that can last you both through all sorts of physical changes.

If your boyfriend can’t agree to try out a “no negative body talk” practice, and if he insists that your body needs to look a certain way but rebels against that standard for himself, then you’ll know what to do. But if he’s just asking to be left alone about his diet and not scrutinized about his weight, and all else is light and love between you? Turn your ambition and your goal-setting energy to your own life instead of toward sabotaging something that makes you happy.

Recipe for Happiness, Khaborovsk or Anywhere Else, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.

One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.

One fine day.

Please read the comments policy before adding your input. We have a strict “no-weight loss talk, no mention of specific weights, no promotion of dieting, no insulting your own or other people’s bodies” thing going on here and I’d like to keep it that way.

My comment derailing bingo card filled early today. We’ll try this another time.

162 comments
  1. starsandgarters said:

    So the Captain’s advice is wise and compassionate. I did notice one sentence in your letter that I want to discuss, though:

    “I have stayed the same size, and I know he would not be super happy if I put on weight, since his preference is strongly skewed toward very thin women.”

    How do you know this? Has he made not-so-nice comments about the bodies of women you know (or women you see walking down the street)? Has he ever complained about your appearance before?

    Because if he has… this sentence is reminding me that there’s huge social pressure on women to be decorative in a certain way, and that pressure is much lower for men. I’ve known too many men who felt they “deserved” girlfriends who looked like supermodels (and most of these men didn’t conform to their own standards for conventional attractiveness). If he’s got a hurtful and obnoxious double standard, I think that’s a big problem here. If he does criticize you or other women for not looking the way he wants you to, I understand the temptation to come back with a snappy remark about his own looks, though I know the Captain’s way is the kinder way and would probably make you both happier in the long run.

    • Stephanie said:

      That’s an interesting statement, isn’t it? I agree IN GENERAL, that women are hounded more about these things, but I do believe it is changing, and men are starting to feel the pressure to conform a lot more than they were say twenty years ago. In THIS specific situation, I’m wondering if the LW is projecting in the statement about his preferences, and that in this specific relationship, the dude is being held to the higher standard than the lady. I think that’s why your “how do you know this?” question is pretty insightful.

      • starsandgarters said:

        Good point, Stephanie. If the LW’s boyfriend ISN’T actually holding her to this higher standard, then I think you may have hit it on the nose.

    • JenniferP said:

      Sexist double standards about appearances are definitely a Thing – go to brunch sometime in Chicago in cold weather and count the number of perfectly coiffed and made up women wearing stunning coats and tall boots accompanied by men who are basically wearing their dirty laundry pile – and I think that putting a “no negative body talk” policy in place can address at least some of this between the LW and the boyfriend. To be even more specific, a script could be “I am sorry I have been bugging you about diets, I can tell it is really stressing you out and hurting your feelings, and I promise to stop. I also want to ask you to stop talking about how much you love thin women. You’re probably not aware of how often comments about weight and thinness come out of your mouth, and since I am thin it probably doesn’t occur to you that it might hurt my feelings. You are allowed whatever preferences you have, but can we both agree to try to be very kind and positive about other people’s bodies and our own when we speak out loud?”

      • starsandgarters said:

        Cap, I am a native Chicagoan and I have been to more of those brunches than I can count — what a sight! My brother and the women he’s dated fall into this kind of pattern, and I think it’s a little gross. (Lucky for me, I’m dating a man who is anti-negative body talk and rocks a nice peacoat and collared shirts to brunch.)

        This is a great script and one I think I will keep in my back pocket for the future in case anybody I love needs it. Thanks!

      • PollyQ said:

        *cough*AdamSandler*cough*

    • Anonymous said:

      These were my thoughts as well. What would happen if the roles were reversed? Is he putting pressure on LW to keep in a certain shape herself?

      Either way, the problem here is not boyfriend’s body, it’s someone’s attitude. His, hers, or both – it may well be that he has held himself to the same standards she does in the past and is currently struggling with the biological inevitability that his body is mortal and is starting to change as it ages.

      Regardless. LW, you cannot make someone have a different body than they have, regardless of how they have looked in the past or what you think their potential is.

    • I literally just copied that sentence to come here and make roughly the same comment! Jedi high five. LW, like starsandgarters above, I’d encourage you to think about what it is that he’s said and/or done to make you feel that way.

    • Smithy said:

      This caught my eye as well.

      I also want to add that preference in terms of movie star crushes, porn, or other fantasy life aspects may not necessarily evenly match up who we are attracted to as people we’re dating or even what we’re looking for in a long term partner. So again returning to the Captain’s advice – thinking about all of the things related how we talk about bodies – be it our abstract fantasies or the people in real life – all of that can have an impact.

      The kind of guys “on screen” that make me swoon are the very generic tall beefy athlete/Magic Mike types. I’ve also never truly dated any guy like that. In regards to the type of men I date and actively pursue – they are far more often tall, built slightly, pale skin, dark hair and in varying degrees of “in shape”. When it goes to men I date, I have a generic “type” that is almost a comical joke among my friends. But I will also swoon after a photo of Thor. And this doesn’t even get to various points of age…..

      While all of these various types and preferences can be harmless, they can also be very hurtful and strike various nerves about looks, body shape, self esteem, etc. The OP’s boyfriend may not necessarily think that how he’s talking about women on the street or on screen as affecting the OP – but if it has, it’s fair to bring that up in a larger conversation.

      If there is a double standard at play, then that is a genuine problem. But it may also be cases where the OP and her boyfriend are striking at sensitive issues about physical appearance and a change in perspective and language can be really helpful and supportive.

      • starsandgarters said:

        Right! If she’s inferring that he’s only interested in very thin women because he has certain celebrity crushes, well, LW could maybe use a reminder that that’s not how these things often play out in real life. I think Captain America is hot as hell, but so is my boyfriend (who is average height, not the most muscular fellow, and has a little belly). If he heard me waxing poetic about Chris Evans and then started obsessively going to the gym and looking into a golden-blonde dye job and blue contacts, I’d be very confused (and certainly scale back any talk of celebrity crushes for his sake).

        • Smithy said:

          Exactly. I also think it’s fair that at certain points someone may hear about a crush on Chris Evans or a Sports Illustrated swim suit model – and it can just be talking about fantasies. And then at other times, things may be more sensitive and so more awareness, boundaries and positivity is needed.

          I will also add that among the vast sea of “wo/men should look like X” problems – while women are told to be thin and forever young, we’re also told to diet, eat salad and yogurt, etc. While the Gone Girl’s “cool girl” issue is another problem, comparatively speaking women aren’t shamed for dieting. For men, fitness stereotypes end up in the cross fit mode of bulking up on protein to “get swole” – but for losing weight, eating salads – or worse, yogurt/lean cuisines – that can also fit with problematic ideas about being woman-like/not-like-a-man. So it may be that at work or around his friends, the OP’s boyfriend finds it uncomfortable to be eating “woman food”.

          For better or worse, we do not live in an age that’s kind to how 99.9% of people’s bodies look. And that can fall into lots of issues around self esteem, self worth, and so on. Sure, eating/drinking/moving in combination to make us healthy – aside from body shape – is a factor. But it’s an issue that can get massively tied up in lots of other issues. So perhaps recognizing that now is the time for body positivity and love can help.

        • rydra_wong said:

          And it’s also possible that LW’s boyfriend might tend to be attracted to very thin women in real life (maybe there’s a “type” that catches his eye) and enjoy the LW’s appearance — and yet wouldn’t actually be too bothered if she put on weight. Because humans are complex and attraction in relationships is an ongoing thing.

          The LW herself likes skinny dudes, but says she still finds her boyfriend “very attractive” even though he’s no longer the same weight. It seems like the problem isn’t that she’s not attracted to him any more, it’s that she feels he isn’t putting in the same amount of effort she is and doesn’t care about her being attracted to him (which is a whole other issue).

          If he’s saying stuff which indicates that he expects the LW to maintain her weight at exactly the same level and that it’d be a problem for the relationship if she didn’t (or he’s making derogatory remarks about the bodies of women who are not very thin or whatever), then yeah, double standard, call him on that shit.

          But it’s possible that the LW is making some assumptions here (“he has tended to date very thin women, therefore he must expect me to remain very thin”).

        • Erika said:

          I think that people often forget that you can find very different looking people hot. For instance, I have a GIANT Chris Hemsworth crush. Huge. It’s a bit embarrassing. My husband? Tall, not-as-thin-as-he-once-was, dark haired (but going bald so he shaves it now) and strong Native American features. We’ve been together 20 years this month, and have two kids. And people, he is most definitely hot.

        • Jenny Islander said:

          The look on my poor husband’s face when he asked me about my fantasy men and I described Constable Odo–! He was expecting Commander Riker, who looks a lot like him…:D

  2. enigmaticblue said:

    I think the thing to remember is that you cannot bully, guilt, or otherwise browbeat someone into change. Either he will someday say, “Hey, I’m not happy with how I look, or how healthy I am, so I’m going to do something about that,” or he won’t. Your boyfriend is the one who is choosing what to eat, and what not to eat, and whether he wants to exercise, and ultimately, if he’s okay with a little fluff around the edges.

    When my husband and I were first married, I was thin and he wasn’t exactly, but all I told him was that I wanted him to be healthy so he could grow old with me, and that’s all I asked. And he has done me the same favor as medical issues have caused me to gain weight and no longer be thin.

    Bodies are going to change and age and droop, and maybe even fail. If you are lucky enough to live a long time, at some point you will probably feel as though your body has betrayed you in some way, or that it’s not exactly as you wish it would be, and you will want your partner, whoever it might be at the time, to look at you and say, “I love you, and I just want more time with you.”

    So, maybe think about ways that you can spend time with him to build memories and have fun together, and maybe that means going for a walk or a bike ride or cooking a meal, but that might also mean eating dessert first, or making love, or snuggling on the couch. But let go of the image you have in your head of the unchanging boyfriend who is always thin and cute, because he was always going to change, just as you are also going to change.

    • “I think the thing to remember is that you cannot bully, guilt, or otherwise browbeat someone into change. Either he will someday say, ‘Hey, I’m not happy with how I look, or how healthy I am, so I’m going to do something about that,’ or he won’t. Your boyfriend is the one who is choosing what to eat, and what not to eat, and whether he wants to exercise, and ultimately, if he’s okay with a little fluff around the edges.”

      Yes! And he might decide to focus on eating healthy and exercising and *still* have some fluff around the edges, and that’s ok too.

    • Sarah said:

      Exactly! The emphasis should always be on health.

      My boyfriend has been putting himself down for gaining some weight around his middle recently. I always try to emphasize that I love him and am attracted to him just the way he is, while encouraging good habits like quitting smoking and a diet that includes vegetables.

      • Courtney said:

        “The emphasis should always be on health.”

        …so long as the emphasis on health doesn’t substitute as code for more body-shaming and food-policing. “I’m worried about your health” is frequently used as a way to excuse some really bad behavior towards people who are fatter than their family and friends (or even perfect strangers) think is appropriate. Don’t go there. The subtext is clear and frequently very hurtful.

        • Very good point. I had a boyfriend who tried the “I just want you to be healthy/live a long time” line as a cover for “I’m actually not attracted to you.” He shut up right quick when I pointed out that, even though I was much heavier than I should be, I worked out frequently, ate very healthy, didn’t smoke, and had perfect doctor visits (aside from weight…), all things he *didn’t* do.

          Perhaps it’s my indoctrination into fat activism, but the “I want you to be healthy” does raise little red flags for me, like it’s a back-door way to shame me about my weight regardless of how healthy I am otherwise.

        • Exactly. I had an ex who did the “I just want you to be healthy/live a long life” as a cover for actually shaming me about my weight. He shut up right quick when I pointed out that I worked out, ate healthy, and had great doctor visits (aside from my weight), while he didn’t work out or eat healthy at all and hadn’t been to see a doctor in years.

          Perhaps it’s from my indoctrination from fat activism, but the “just be healthy” line always sends up little red flags for me, like it’s just a back-door way to shame me for not looking like how the other person *thinks* I should look, regardless of how healthy I actually am.

          Perhaps tangent, but also infuriating: I had an ex who frequently compared my body unfavorably with thinner women. In response, I ramped up my diet and exercise to try to lose weight. However, that meant I had less time to hang out (shopping for fresh food + cooking + more hours at the gym), couldn’t eat out as much, and couldn’t eat a lot of the foods he loved (pizza, pasta.) He kind of hated me for it. The important lesson I took from that is people really, really want you to be skinny, but they hate when you demonstrate how much effort that actually takes.

          • Gaah, double post, sorry.

          • rikibeth said:

            I dated a guy who was more concerned about staying slim than I was concerned with him doing so. My “health” comments happened when he brought up not feeling great, and then it was “sweetie, those 5-hour energy shots might be dehydrating you, have a glass of water?” and “headaches suck, and skipping lunch doesn’t help there…let’s get dinner, maybe you’ll feel better after.” He was never critical about my body, though he did notice fluctuations, in a very science-Vulcan way, but he was often self-critical, and expressed a desire not to gain weight as so many of his friends had. I offered some gentle reassurance that he looked attractive to me whether he was at his slimmest or not, but I tried NOT to suggest that he change more than the immediate situation giving him a specific discomfort.

            I worried, though. Even though we’re not dating now, I still worry sometimes – he’s talking about doing a Warboy cosplay, and I hope he takes a different approach to changing his body than he has in the past.

          • Courtney said:

            @rikibeth – that is showing *actual* concern for health, not the fat-shaming-covered-by-fake-health-concern that I’m talking about. I have no problem with someone showing genuine concern for their partner’s actual health issues.

        • LA said:

          Yeah, seconding this. I’ve had countless relatives use that phrase on me, and it was never what they actually meant. What they actually meant was “you’re so fucking fat I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to date you, and that must make you super sad.” (totally surprised them when I met an awesome guy who loves me as I am) I can’t even talk about health with my mom b/c it always inevitably becomes a talk about what I eat.

          The “but what about your health” thing is a massive, massive red flag. My cholesterol and other non-weight numbers are better than my thin brother’s. So I tune out the “but health!” if it’s coming from anyone not informed about the ins and outs of my actual health (aka: my doctor, my husband). Fat does not automagically equal unhealthy. I mean, it’s okay to not be attracted to someone for superficial reasons–I totally get it!–but you don’t have to make them feel shitty about it. Especially if you actually care about them.

          My friends and I can talk about health/weight/etc. without it being awful or judgmental, so it’s not like I can’t discuss it with other people. But I fail to get why most of my loved ones can’t do it without making me feel like the worst person on earth for being overweight.

        • For my better half and me, sometimes “health” includes “emotional health”, and that may mean “not obsessing on eating Just The Right Things.” Sometimes it means eating comfort food and figuring that if the kilos you gain doing it are a problem, you’ll lose them in the future.

          And loving your partner for the long term means supporting that dynamic in them, if that’s the way they work.

          • mossyone said:

            Indeed. I can’t think of anything worse for my boyfriend’s emotional health than if I was to attempt to get him to change his body. We are both on an emotional roller coaster ride a lot of the time and sometimes trigger each other without meaning to, all for reasons that have nothing to do with physical health and diet talk. The last thing I would ever want to do is add to that emotional mix. No one can know what the future brings health-wise, but in the present I want nothing more than for him to be happy.

        • Jenny Islander said:

          YUP. “Oh, I’m just worried about your health, sweetie” is pretty much a free space on the fat shaming bingo board!

        • LabLizard said:

          I think it depends on who mentions health. My mister is not happy with gaining weight, is frustrated that he has gotten out of shape, and is verging on prediabetic thanks to coming from a high risk family. He brought up health and his desire to change, so I bring it up when trying to support him, usually to fight discouragement about slow weight loss (“Yeah babe, you haven’t lost much but you are less out of breath when we run, that is progress!). I can mention that I am happy he is getting healthier, but only because I know that is a priority to him.

    • JulieB. said:

      This. This plus 1000. When I was in my teens and 20’s, I was a total string bean, blessed with a crazy metabolism that let me eat anything in any quantity. In my 30’s, this changed, so I changed my eating habits, picked up the exercise routine, and stayed reasonably thin. Not string bean thing, but “society-pressured” thin. Now, I am well into my 40’s and dear LW, how has my body changed. My metabolism has slowed. I am on meds that slow it even farther. I am peri-menopausal. Any weight I put on just stays and stays. I am 20 lbs heavier than when I was in my 30’s. And at this point in my life, I don’t care about the weight. Life happens. There are things you cannot control. I eat very healthy and I stay active. I have so much going on in my life that my weight and how people think of me as a result are just not on the priority list. So, echoing enigmaticblue above: You and your boyfriend will change in ways that you cannot even anticipate. So focus on what is important. Be happy for the good things that inspire your relationship.

      I will add this too. My husband (who is my second husband whom I started dating just four years ago – who never knew me as a string bean and who should not have expectations of me being a string bean) would like me to lose that 20 lbs. He picks at me about it – not often, but he does and in ways that make me think of you, LW. He accepts me and supports me in every other way – except he pokes at me about my weight. (I think he falls prey to the double standards of society about women, appearance and weight, and trust me, I do not tolerate this level of bullsh*t, so I challenge him on it, but this is not my point here). My point is that, being on the receiving end of the picky little comments really, really, really pisses me off. It’s hurtful and harmful. So, LW, I want to say to you, don’t do this to your guy. Ask yourself why are you doing it? Are you really concerned about his health? Or as CA and others have pointed out, you are striving for an image?

      My reply: Ditch the image. Love the guy. Love yourself. Stay healthy and seek happiness. Don’t look for the negative. There are too many negative things in life. Don’t add one more. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Treasure today and the guy you have right now.

      • Cor! said:

        Yeah, I get what you’re getting at. I’m a real “let the genitals want what the genitals want” person, but I’m also on the monogamy side of things, which means if you want to stay with someone for as long as possible (as long as things work) there has got to be some trade off and compromise, and for better or for worse looks always go. For example, I consider a full and awesome head of hair a huge turn on, but the fact is that age and health can play quite a number on this, especially on men but a lot of women also. I’m no one to judge other people’s deal breakers, but frankly, breaking a long term commitment that still has a lot to give over a bald spot sounds kinda silly.

        Looks can and should be enjoyed, looking at someone you find hot (your own subjective form of hot, of course) is the kind of sensory pleasure you get from eating a really good piece of cake; but a cake ain’t a whole meal, just like finding someone hot isn’t a whole relationship, and I (personally) rather be with a cool partner (or partners) who may not look the same after 2, 5, X years together but who still has that same zest, rather than becoming one of those serial-daters-for-all-the-wrong-reasons* who are only out looking for their next trophy boink.

        *as opposed to those Serial Daters for the Right Reasons, who may not be interested in commitment at the moment or ever and just enjoy seeing people, but treat them as their own persons and not just bodies.

        Also, some interesting insights on the importance of looks I hope you find interesting, from the likes of Dr Nerdlove http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2014/06/building-attraction-which-matters-more-looks-personality/
        http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2014/01/do-looks-matter/
        And LinzerDinzer

    • ashbet said:

      “I love you, and I just want more time with you” is the most meaningful thing I’ve heard from a partner.

      I have a disease which will eventually (barring bus accidents or meteorites) cause my death, through one of the body systems that it causes to fail.

      I could have decades, or I could go tomorrow.

      And my loved ones don’t focus on the way my disease has changed my body (including adding fat as a side effect of some of my meds and reduced mobility — and as someone who love/d to dress up and model and feel “sexy,” my weight and changed appearance has been hard on my self-esteem.)

      Knowing, however, that the people who love me think that I’m ravishing as I am — that has helped me come to a better place of acceptance and self-love.

      LW, you or your partner could have a life-changing event in your future (and will, by definition, have your lives and bodies change as you age.)

      Do you want to remember the early years of your relationship as a time when you damaged your happiness by picking at your beloved over some extra weight? Or do you want to remember them as years when you seized the day, loved him fiercely, and accepted the body he was in?

      Please follow the Captain’s advice of BOTH of you changing your approach to negative body talk — and if you absolutely can’t, be kind enough to let him go, to find someone who accepts him as he is.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        Same here. To me “maximum attractive” is the woman who has been beside me for eleven years, back when I was independent and mobile. It’s the woman who attended every appointment, held my hand and promised we’d get though it. It’s the beautiful, wonderful treasure who takes care of my every need (yep, everything), and through it all still treats me as if I’m still the woman she first met.

        I wish the biggest problem in our life was a podgy tummy. We are on the poverty line, both have disabilities and life-limiting health problems, and both have conditions that could cause almost instant death, on top of the major health problem I have which will result in an early death.

        Life is so short and so precious. Like the poem the Captain quoted – perfection is a quiet place to sit, to share time with a loved one, and to watch the world go by. Love one another, appreciate and admire your SO based on who they are and what they do, rather than berating him for what he isn’t.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          Missed a chunk out!

          She’s been beside me for eleven years. We met back when I was independent and mobile, and is still here, even though I’m completely dependent on her.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          I missed a bit!
          She’s been beside me for eleven years. We met back when I was independent and mobile, and she’s still here, in spite of my immobility and dependence on her. .

        • JenniferP said:

          I’m glad you have each other.

  3. Curious86 said:

    What it is like to think that your boyfriend may never lose that weight? Could you accept that he may never? Would you want to stay in the relationship? Those are the questions that jump to my mind. Because it seems like you are just waiting for this to change (“I also find it difficult to just let other people go at a slower pace and not micromanage”). What if you let go of the expectation that it was going to change? Would that feel better for you or feel like giving up?
    I understand somewhat how you feel- my husband and I have been together for pretty much all of our 20s (we’re 29 now). He was still teenage guy skinny when we met and has put on a significant amount of weight over the course of our time together. Then again, I’ve put on weight too. We are getting into adulthood and bodies change and habits change. Do I wish that both of us would make some adjustments? Yes. But accepting that we are where we are and realizing that I love my husband and want to jump his bones regularly regardless of how he looks have been really good for me.

    • alexcansmile said:

      This! Bodies change and “I just want him to look a little more like he did when we met” may be an impossible standard. What happens when his hair goes silver and he gets smile lines and crows feet? Is LW going to ask him to get plastic surgery? Likely not, but it’s a reasonable extension of that thinking. Weight does not equal health. If he’s healthy, maybe it shouldn’t matter that there’s a bit “extra” around the middle.

      • kl said:

        So much this. My SO now has several large scars that he did not have when we met. They are the scars of major and necessary surgery. The alternative to the scars would be not having him here at all.

        Time and biology come for us all.

      • Tana said:

        Not only do bodies change but there is ZERO proof that any current diet/exercise programme will cause someone to lose weight and keep it off (the studies say five years maybe, but because five is where most fail, most studies only go out to three years.) If this stuff worked, diet companies would not have to put *** Results NOT typical. Also it’s been shown that yo yo dieting only causes your body to increase the set point (because our bodies are too close to our history of serious food insecurity to let periods of self starvation go unremarked.)

        People’s bodies change, their set point changes as they get older, if they have an illness, there are a zillion reasons. And seriously if less than 30 lbs is an issue for you, it’s your issue, not his. if he’s happy (and I mean independently happy despite you telling him he should NOT be happy,) leave him alone.

        If you love him and want to be with him, be with the him he IS not the him you want him to be. Captain has said and so have a zillion other decent advicemachers YOU CAN’T CHANGE HIM. I add to that if you want to change him so much, figure out why you’re staying interested in someone who is no longer the same person. Everyone changes in three years. This isn’t even that big a change. 30 lbs or so in THREE years?

        • attica said:

          One other thing to bear in mind: the boyfriend hasn’t gained weight at you. His flab ultimately isn’t your row to hoe. Your row is “am I not attracted to this body and does that affect the love I feel?”

          If at the end of your row, if you can’t bear his weight, it would be a kindness to both of you to break up so you can find more compatible partners.

  4. blep blep cat said:

    I am a much happier person – and I am a person who attracts much happier people around themselves – ever since I started the project of treating bodies like the necessary, neutral meatsacks that they are. To nourish and protect

    I reject the kind of rhetoric that says all bodies are inherently beautiful. Saying that they are sets a standard of bodies needing to “appear” rather than “function.” Bodies are vessels for the brain; they’re the engine that gives the soul a chance to appear in the world, if you believe in that kind of thing. This is as much objectifying language as I can possibly use – the language of machinery when that is not true.

    Maybe it’s easy for me to see bodies this way because I am demisexual? I don’t think so though, much of the sex I used to have that seemed unsexy was because I had become conscious of a flaw in my own body (I am assigned female at birth). I used to project my own insecurities at my partners. Had nothing to do with my partner, and everything to do with gendered conditioning.

    *gentle hugs for anyone who needs them*

    • blep blep cat said:

      second thought: LW, whether or not you want to hear this, it is the word control.

      I am not saying your behaviour is controlling (I mean. Yet? You’re aware you’re potentially not on the right track here and that’s great! If only other people were more self aware), I am saying it sounds like you like to have control over things in your life (me too!), and that you should be careful to not let that slip to other people’s lives.

      • Accepting that there are always going to be things you CAN’T control, and that includes your body, and especially other people’s bodies might be a thing to focus on.

        I know you’re thinking but I CAN control my body blah blah blah. But you can’t. Your body is going to react to the stimuli you give it in ways you can’t control, and so is your partner’s. You wont be able to control when you start getting grey hair, or when you partner starts going bald. You might have a hormonal shift that means you gain weight, or lose weight. You might develop repetitive stress injuries from certain exercises and be limited to others.

        I think society right now certainly wants to give everyone the illusion of control. That if they just eat the right things or do the right things they will be able to stave off aging and health problems. But it’s just not true. You can certainly reduce your risk factors, but sometimes we’re talking about a .01 chance of a health event vs a .007 chance of that same event. And I could get real nerdy about what that means and what it doesn’t. But I really think it all comes down to managing our own anxieties about illness and death. If we can just DO the things we don’t have to be afraid.

        The way I look at it is you have the choice between to taking the time you have and try to live a life you love, or you can spend a lot of time and ultimately futile effort trying to control the shape and functionality of your body.

        • Serin said:

          I think society right now certainly wants to give everyone the illusion of control. That if they just eat the right things or do the right things they will be able to stave off aging and health problems.

          There is nothing capitalism loves more than an outcome everyone craves (such as long life and attractiveness and freedom from discomfort) that is not within anyone’s control but can be made to look as if it is.

          • robotneedslove said:

            I feel like that illusion of control around food, exercise, health, and fatness, while TOTALLY tied to capitalism, is also a proxy for religion. Many people have given up on religion and therefore an external structure for virtue and also the promise of eternal life. But I think people still crave those things. So there’s so much “if you just work hard enough and eat all the right things you will be both good in this life and also you will live forever”. Plank as proxy for prayer.

            It’s super complicated, because I also know I’m happier and whole-er when I exercise and eat in balanced ways. But a six-pack won’t save me, from agony, from pain, and certainly not from death. Organic veggies and avoiding wine won’t protect me from cancer or the bus that might hit me tomorrow. That’s just life, man.

          • Robotneedslove – I totally agree that it is a new religion. (Not necessarily a substitute for though, I know people who buy into both.) Religion itself is really serving the exact same purpose, giving people the illusion of control where they really have none.

            I don’t think there is anything wrong with building your own set of rules about eating based on what makes you feel better. I know I feel better when I eat a generally lower fat diet,(WHAT BUT SUGAR ZOMG) and avoid caffeine after 6. But that’s about improving the quality of my life, not seeking false hope that I will be able to extend it indefinitely.

          • Jenny Islander said:

            @shinobi42: Or the ability to understand that much of life is beyond control and that’s okay, because we are not going to be lost.

    • I, too, am happiest when I see bodies in terms of “function” rather than “appearance,” and for me, being sexual fits right into that. So when I think of my body in terms of “what it can do,” the things it can do include functional tasks, allowing my soul to appear and affect the world, and also making me feel really good! My body is the transmitter of “awesome sexy feels” to my brain, and my body is capable of giving awesome sexy feels to someone I care about, and I love that about it.

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      I appreciate this comment even though I *so* disagree with it! From the inherent beauty to the function to the adornment part. (Could it be because my body does not, in fact, function without some pretty damn sophisticated medical technology, and that I like shoes a lot? Could be! Could it be I am not a fan of Descartes and the mind-body cogito ergo sum of the early modern era. Yes!)

      I appreciate it because it’s good to remind myself that what a body is and what they do and what they are for is… well, it’s a thing that has so many answers. They are personal and every one of them is important. It’s not a good idea to get overly enthusiastic about imposing what I like bodies are about on to other people- that is a quick route to not understanding other people and what their lives are like. However bodies play a role in this, I prefer to have connections to people over the illusion that my experience of being an embodied human is the right way.

    • robotneedslove said:

      So interesting!

      I actually totally personally disagree, because my very nebulous spirituality is an embodied one – I believe our bodies aren’t the *houses* for our souls, but that they kind of *are* our souls. I don’t think I would exist if my brain was put into a vat and keep on cogitating. I believe my essential self-ness is more holistic than that, and includes my body. I don’t think my body is an “object” in the way that, say, a desk is. I think it’s something else.

      But on the other hand, I also kind of totally agree, because I think my body as being a part of my soul also means that my body needs to function rather than appear. My body as a part of my soul is WAY more important than my body as object sensed by others. And I come to the same conclusion, perhaps: my body is my soul, and has no “problem areas” or “flaws”.

    • Jane said:

      *gentle fist bump from one neutral meatsack to another*

    • Goat Lady said:

      “I am a much happier person – and I am a person who attracts much happier people around themselves – ever since I started the project of treating bodies like the necessary, neutral meatsacks that they are. To nourish and protect”

      YES! With my chronic pain and chronic crazy I have had such a desperately hard time with “love your body” rhetoric. Eventually the compromise I came to was that I have to at least treat my meatsack with the care I treat my animals. Maybe I’ll never love it or even like it again, but I have to give it food and water and medical care and change its bedding.

    • Cor! said:

      The way I try to frame physical attraction that’s least “judgy” and easy to understand for people who don’t feel it as often is simply, good looks feel good, they feel good like a really comfy chair or a really tasty bagel, it’s sensory pleasure that you get through your eyes. I don’t remember where, but a long time a go I remember reading an advice column about why men looked at other women, and the answer was that men felt good, they actualy got pleasure from seeing a good looking woman, it didn’t matter if they were never going to sleep with her, actualy, they clarified that it didn’t mean they found their partners less desirable or that they felt like cheating, they just found that looking at someone hot was nice for a while. So that was when I was younger and knew a lot less about my own sexuality, but now I can confirm from my stand point, just looking at a hottie is pretty nice.
      That being said, no matter how comfy a chair is you wouldn’t waste half your pay check on one if you were in debt, right? Or no matter how good those bagels on the other side of the street were, you wouldn’t eat them everyday at every meal, talk about unhealthy! What I’m saying is, treating yourself to something pleasurable is nice but you have to have priorities, being with someone respectful kind and supportive is much more important to a long termterm commitment than being with a *size √π*, I mean you could enjoy people of that shape who look great, but your relationship is (or should be) a thousand times more fulfilling.

      Also, I find it important to note something the Cap touched upon, that are desires for better or for worse don’t exist in a vaccume and we are constantly bombarded by all sorts of media and messages about bodies and characteristics we should or shouldn’t find desirable, so it’s good to be aware and ask ourselves, do I enjoy\reject this because I want to or am I being preassured to?

      • JenniferP said:

        “The way I try to frame physical attraction that’s least “judgy” and easy to understand for people who don’t feel it as often is simply, good looks feel good, they feel good like a really comfy chair or a really tasty bagel, it’s sensory pleasure that you get through your eyes. I don’t remember where, but a long time a go I remember reading an advice column about why men looked at other women, and the answer was that men felt good, they actualy got pleasure from seeing a good looking woman, it didn’t matter if they were never going to sleep with her, actualy, they clarified that it didn’t mean they found their partners less desirable or that they felt like cheating, they just found that looking at someone hot was nice for a while. So that was when I was younger and knew a lot less about my own sexuality, but now I can confirm from my stand point, just looking at a hottie is pretty nice.
        That being said, no matter how comfy a chair is you wouldn’t waste half your pay check on one if you were in debt, right? Or no matter how good those bagels on the other side of the street were, you wouldn’t eat them everyday at every meal, talk about unhealthy!”

        Wut.

  5. I’m going to throw this out and then sit on my hands because I’m coming from a place of fat activism and I know it: there is a lot (like, a LOT) of evidence that some people simply cannot lose and keep off weight. I’m one of them. I won’t go into details about how I know, and you can choose to believe or disbelieve me as you will.

    If your boyfriend can’t lose (and keep off) the weight he gained, it may take years to be sure of this. We’re heavily trained to view all weight as the fault of the holder. And because humans are rarely perfect at diets, exercise schedules, etc we blame ourselves for things we may not be able to control.

    I recommend reading up on fat activism. It might change some of your feelings about whether he’s at fault here. Good luck to you both.

    • Ha, I basically just commented the same thing! He’s actually going to get heavier over time thanks to the yo-yo cycle than he would if he just let his body do its thing.

    • I wholeheartedly second the recommendation to read up on FA! This is one good starting place.

      I also recommend:

      -Looking into the related movement, Health at Every Size, which is about focusing on healthy behaviors and letting your weight fall wherever it falls. (With the caveat that your boyfriend’s health is his own business, and pressuring him to prioritize his health in a certain way would be uncool even if you left weight out of the picture entirely.)

      -Seeking out images of both men and women with a variety of body types, to normalize shapes and sizes other than super-thin. (A few potential places to start: the “fatshion” tag on Tumblr, plus size fashion blogs, Chubstr, and the Adipositivity Project, which is NSFW.) That doesn’t mean you have to develop a preference for fat men or anything, but it might help you to see all bodies as good bodies and realize that people can be happy and attractive in a variety of sizes–which in turn might help you feel less pressure to make both your own and your partner’s body look a certain way.

      -Practicing body positivity by looking at strangers on the subway or street or wherever, and thinking one positive thing about them. Like, “that woman has a cool scarf,” or “that guy looks like he’d be fun to have a beer with” or “that person’s magenta hair is awesome.” Or even “that women has really impressive calf muscles” or “that guy looks super-cuddly,” which are totally valid things to think to yourself as long as you don’t say them out loud.

  6. Here’s the thing about weight loss: it’s by its very nature impermanent. Something like 95% of people who lose weight will gain it back in about 5 years, no matter what they do, because bodies adjust. Many of them will gain back even more than they lost, meaning over time every diet attempt will result in a net gain. So if you’re really that hung up on his weight, your pressure and possible jerk-dom (your words) actually are making him heavier. How about just loving each other because you are whole people instead of being so attached to some arbitrary ideal?

  7. notemily said:

    Yeah to me the most pertinent part of the Captain’s advice is that you will eventually both grow old and, most likely, lose many of the features that made you “attractive” in the first place. If you want it to be a lasting relationship, physical attractiveness can’t be the main thing keeping it going, or it’s going to have an expiration date.

    • JenniferP said:

      “Attractiveness” and “attraction” are not necessarily the same thing, though I think that many people mistake them for the same and think that you have to be (& be with) a person of peak attractiveness (in a general, beauty standard sense) in order to feel attraction (to a specific person). Someone can hit every checkmark on the beauty standard and leave you totally cold, and some oddbody with a strangely-shaped head can send you up in flames. And as you aptly point out, one of the key categories on the beauty standard is youth, which is inherently fleeting.

      • This is so key. I think it can be especially hard for some people to let go of “Attractiveness” especially when they feel actual attraction for people that don’t fit those markers at all. Is it important that you and your partner look like you could be in a J.Crew catalog? Or is it important that when you touch your pants go up in flames?

      • Smithy said:

        This is important – and while upthread I’ve mentioned my thoughts specifically on weight/attractiveness – my counter point is that sometimes I think that some of us stop being physically attracted to partners when we haven’t quite mentally brought ourselves to leaving them. My first serious, long term, ‘adult’ boyfriend in my early to mid 20’s – in our last 6 months or so together, I physically stopped being interested in a lot of sexy times/cuddling activities that we used to enjoy. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested, but they started being physically unpleasant. In particular, I found his touch to be very ticklish to the point of discomfort.

        He was still my best friend and I was really nervous and uncertain about what leaving him would mean – but while I mentally waffled in that area, I physically found him less and less appealing. During our “we’re taking a break” period just before breaking up, I went to a therapist to talk about why sex had become so unpleasant and it very quickly became obvious that we just weren’t right as a couple any more. But I talked myself into believing I had some “sex stuff” wrong with my head, when ultimately by body just realized first that we should be breaking up before the rest of me got around to it.

        • embonpoint said:

          This is really important too. With one ex, I stopped liking the way he smelled. It wasn’t BO smell or even anything objectively unpleasant; he started smelling oddly like my grandmother, which caused feelings of affection but utterly squelched feelings of sexual desire. I noticed the tickling thing too.

          • Smithy said:

            Yeah….I mean, me back then could have written a vaguely similar letter about how “I no longer want to be intimate with my partner despite loving him and him supporting me and him being overall great”. The whole letter would have largely made me look fairly negative and possibly controlling (in my case it was “he can’t find a full time job and I’m being very goal oriented in trying to *help* him), because at the time I really felt like I was somehow wrong or defective for wanting to leave him.

            That is some serious projecting on this letter, but it’s an idea.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          For sure, I shared a similar story downthread.

  8. JIll said:

    I think a dose of maturity is on order here, LW, especially if you intend to be with your partner for the long haul. You don’t know where life will take you both and/or the toll it will take on either of your bodies. Pregnancy, illness, surgery, even the type of jobs you may have can cause dramatic weight gain or loss. Plus, hair goes grey or goes bald, wrinkles come on. Accidents and disease can ravage our bodies. The idea that either one of you can look exactly as you look now for the next 20, 40, 60 years is a ridiculous and unfair standard to hold both yourselves and each other to.

    Look for opportunities to do activities and/or share meals that contribute to general health. Work together for that common goal. But mostly, lighten up – see this person for the good in him and the good he brings out in you. On the flipside, if he can’t show you the same level of understanding about changes that happen to your looks, drop him like a hot potato.

  9. Amber Rose said:

    To be told, or to have it implied, that your partner is not attracted to you is a painful thing. It’s ok to have a physical preference! But it would be a blow to my sense of self to be told that my appearance was more important than my self after years of love. To feel that I am somehow less lovable with extra pounds.

    OP, do you love this man? Or did you stop at attraction. Therein lies the future of your relationship. In YOU. Not in whether he keeps or loses 20 pounds. It is never going to be OK to try to mold someone to meet your standards. If you feel you have to, you are with the wrong person.

    • k01pond said:

      “To be told, or to have it implied, that your partner is not attracted to you is a painful thing.”

      This, very much this thing. I know that when my abusive partner would have this ‘discussion’ with me it reinforced my feelings that I would never be good enough and actively killed any desire I had to do anything of the things I had thought about doing to improve my health.

      • Majikkani_Hand said:

        You know, you put that exactly the way I needed to hear it right now. Every time I talk with “somebody” about it I lose all of my mental progress and have to claw my way back up from square one. Just one more year and I can get out…

    • Muddie Mae said:

      Word.

      In a previous relationship, I lost my sexual attraction to my partner. For a long time, I believed that I had made a mistake in getting involved with someone who wasn’t “my type”, because obviously the attraction would fade.

      Blah blah stuff shifted in my brain and it’s clear to me that the real problem was his overall approach to relationship issues, including badgering me about sex stuff. Turns out that makes sex super unfun and not interesting, and when you are bored you focus a lot on someone’s weird shoulder hair or how stupid their face looks right now. And then they just morph into a hideous monster all the time, even if their appearance hasn’t changed a lot.

      Funny story, after we split up he got super into a physical activity that made him closer to my quote-unquote type. Still not into it.

      • Lana said:

        Muddie Mae, I lived (what sounds like) that same situation. I only found out about/saw pictures of the post-sport-finding ex yesterday. Still not into it either, and couldn’t put my finger on why. Yup, badgering me about sex stuff probably has something to do with it! Also the personal hygiene stuff. So glad I’m out.

      • emmaclaire said:

        I wish I could upvote your comment. I’m currently with a partner who’s style of handing conflict, ceaselessly badgering me for sex, and just general immaturity have me questioning my choice to be with him. HOWEVER, I’m partially paralyzed about making a decision because I feel guilty about a variety of things; chief among them is “not finding him attractive anymore.” I wonder what kind of horrible person I am to be bothered by his body hair and ear hair, when before it was, “meh, so what?” How selfish can I be to say that his face makes me want to snarl? or that the touch of his facial hair grosses me out? I certainly can’t leave someone because I despise their appearance! Do I think I’m a magical supermodel or that no other potential partner will age?

        Now, I realize that this loss of attraction coincided with my increasing disappointment at how he ignored my needs/likes/dislikes and how he discarded how *I* wanted my body to be treated in favor of what *he* wanted to experience with his. And the fact is, even if he turned into an Iron Man tomorrow who kept his man-hair trimmed, I would still not want to get jiggy with him. Thanks for this revelation – I feel a tad less horrible.

        • JenniferP said:

          I look forward to congratulating you on the occasion of your breakup! That dude sounds like a very, very bad fit for you.

          • mamacitaconpistoles said:

            I am positive there are counter-examples out there. But, generally, if your partner is a badger, then they’re really probably only a good fit for other badgers. And I don’t mean Wisconsin fans.

            And badgers can be darned ferocious when provoked or harassed. So I am not really sure hanging out with them would be a good idea for these soon to be/actual exes.

        • Courtney said:

          “I certainly can’t leave someone because I despise their appearance!”

          Sure you can, even if that’s the actual reason and not a mental freak out based on more sinister reasons. Not wanting to be with someone is enough. The reasons why you don’t want to be with someone don’t matter. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you.

        • Mary said:

          I strongly suspect that the “despise his appearance” is your body’s way of sending up warning flags for other stuff that you also don’t like but can’t quite put your finger on. Don’t ignore it!

      • sara said:

        I think this is a really important thing to examine. I also had a similar loss of sexual attraction to a previous partner, and at the time I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me/him/etc. Looking back on the situation now that I’m slightly older and wiser, it seems pretty obvious that my “loss of attraction” was almost entirely about his “foreplay is boring and I don’t really care if sex is sometimes painful for you!” attitude and his constant complaints about not shaving my legs enough, and not at all about his looks. I have no idea if something like this could be playing a role here, but I guess something to ask yourself in this situation is whether sex is genuinely fun and feels safe and happy and good for you, and whether your partner is taking care of your sexual desires outside of his own appearance (which is a relatively small part of what makes sex good or bad — otherwise we could all get perfect-looking Real Dolls and get on with perfect plastic sex dolls).

    • k01pond said:

      “To be told, or to have it implied, that your partner is not attracted to you is a painful thing.”

      This, very this. I know when my abusive partner would have this ‘discussion’ with me it would make me feel a million times more awful than I normally felt, and killed any drive I had to actually do the things I was thinking about to improve my health.

      • Amber Rose said:

        I’m sad that you went through that. I hope you are in a better place now. ❤

        I used to be torn between two versions of this. On the one hand, my body shaming mother, who once lectured me for 15 minutes about sugar and weight gain because she caught me sucking on a lozenge, and husband, who believes I am perfect but joined a martial arts class with me to be supportive of my desire to improve my health/be more physically active.

        Both were trying to help me with a goal I wanted for myself. No guesses on which was more successful.

  10. Amy said:

    OK, so advanced warning that this may not perfectly match your situation as there are different gender dynamics in play, but –

    I had a conversation with my ex in which I admitted to being self-conscious about my body, where he told me “I think you’re just the right size” and then, offhandedly, added, “If you did start putting on more weight, though, I’d expect you to do something about it. Obviously I’d do the same.”

    Him announcing that he would lose weight for me in this context didn’t feel like a loving gesture or an expression of how much he cared; it made me feel like I’d been signed up to a contract that I never wanted (as the weight issue wasn’t a concern for me at all, and I’d never indicated otherwise).

    In fact, him insisting that he would do [big, unasked-for lifestyle thing] for me – therefore I should do [big, unasked-for lifestyle thing] for him – was just one of the abusive tactics he used to control my behaviour. Using your own choices to guilt your loved ones into doing things your way is not a good thing to do.

    THAT SAID. As the gender dynamics in your situation are entirely reversed, there’s a strong likelihood that your boyfriend has made clear to you – indirectly or otherwise – that his manner towards you would significantly change if you were to put on weight. Which is an entirely different situation from mine. I’d definitely refer to starsandgarters’ post above to try and figure out whether that’s the case – it’ll put you in a good position to decide whether your expectations are unfair/damaging, or whether you want to call him out on his double standards.

  11. Tricksie said:

    I think that weight is only one small ways our bodies change. It can be hard to deal with change–especially when you perceive it as negative AND someone’s “fault”–but embrace this one on the road to much bigger changes throughout life. My partner was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease about 1.5 years into our relationship. 4 years post diagnosis, his abilities and his body have changed a LOT. But he is still himself. And I love him.

    • Selena said:

      Very much this. I have always been overweight, and my husband used to be, too. Then he went through the long and agonizing process of being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (including two major surgeries.) Today he’s far thinner than he used to be, and we are much more aware of our mortality than we used to be, too; it’s not as if when bodies change it doesn’t change your self as well. But I love his self, all through the changes, all through these years. His body (scarred and thin as it is) has been just one good way to show him that love.

  12. Isabel said:

    I once had a boyfriend who was also very “goal-oriented,” and very into working out. I was not as into working out. He often urged me to do more, made teasing remarks about my imperfections and talked about my weight “Oh, you actually look sort of thin when you where that.” “Oh, have you gained a couple pounds in your hips, baby?” And he remarked on other women’s fitness levels and weight.

    I cannot even tell you how horrible this felt.

    • Courtney said:

      Ugh. I dated that guy too. Miserable. Absolutely miserable.

  13. ItsTough said:

    LW, I’m gonna go against the general grain of “readjust your attitude and try to salvage this relationship.” I was your boyfriend, I gained weight after 4 years. My husband stopped wanting to have sex with me, and it got so hurtful, I began to consider committing suicide. If my boyfriend had broken up with me when he started feeling this way, it would have hurt me more at the time but saved me several years of misery. Please consider that he may never be as boyishly skinny and if you really aren’t able to be attracted, go ahead and end this quickly and cleanly. I’d elaborate a little more but I gotta run–time for work. Good luck!

  14. LW, in many of my previous relationships there was one point I had to keep reminding myself of:

    No relationship is ever going to remain exactly as it was in the first few months.

    That amazing, exciting feeling that the two of you have the world’s potential at your feet? Nothing on earth can recreate that. You know this as well as I do, of course, but I do wonder if it’s not something you’re trying to do at a subconscious level? Are you maybe dissatisfied with other aspects of the relationship and trying at some level to recreate that Amazing Attraction Thing you had way back at the start?

    I might be barking up the wrong tree completely, but think it could be a possibility.

  15. Dear LW,

    I would like to talk about something that you touched on: you feel that he doesn’t care enough about you to be attractive to you.

    I hope that the Captain’s advice to only say nice things about your (or anyone’s) bodies will help.

    I think that you might want to explore whether you do feel unwanted and what that says about the relationship.

    I don’t think you’re a jerk.

  16. Heather said:

    It is astonishingly common for people in happy relationships to relax and gain weight, either because they are no longer neglecting themselves because ‘it’s not worth cooking only for me’ or because their lives are less stressful, or because they are going out for dinner more. In a way, it can be a compliment. I was a UK size 10 when I met my husband. 16 years on I’m size 16, and I’ve gone up and down a bit over that period, mostly stress or breastfeeding related. My husband says that through it all, the people he notices on the street as being hot are people who look like me.

    Do you love the person, and the meatsack in which they are housed is maybe icing on the cake, or you are attracted to the meatsack? Or is the attractiveness of your partner a marker of how attractive you feel yourself to be?

  17. Bittybird said:

    The thirties in particular are a BIG time of rapid change for bodies. I’m undergoing those changes now; joints are getting tweaky, energy levels have dropped, a gray hair or two has slipped in, and my metabolism will never be the same again. The last means that my body has changed dramatically, between some weight gain and weight redistribution. I don’t think that I’m less healthy than before, or that I’m lazier; I think that my body in my twenties was one body, and my body in my thirties wants to be this body. (and yes, I went through a period of trying to fight it. Nope! This is clearly what my body wants to be now, and it won’t take no for an answer!). It was effortless to be twenties-body-me in my twenties, and it’s effortless to be thirties-body-me in my thirties…but to try and force thirties-me back into my twenties-body would not be effortless, it would mean permanent unpleasant lifestyle changes that required lots of energy input with less and less return every year. That sounds so miserable and draining–to have to work the rest of your life to be what you used to so easily be, instead of letting yourself be what you are now.

    • servogirl said:

      The thirties are brutal with how much your body and metabolism changes, and it seems to happen so quickly! Even though I’m more physically active now in my thirties and eat healthier than I ever have before, I seem to be stuck at a weight I never thought I would be. It’s been so hard to change the vision of myself and just accept that this is my body in my thirties, to some extent, so your line about forcing thirties-you into twenties-you really rings true to me. I take care of this thirties body, I exercise it, I feed it right (90% of the time), and while yes, I could focus and drop [SOME WEIGHT – pls. stop mentioning specific weights, yours or other people’s, thanks, Your Moderator] I don’t think I could keep it off, because I agree, I think this is where my thirties body wants to be.

      However, bless my husband’s heart, he guessed my weight this weekend at my high school weight…so I’ll take it.

    • hawthorn said:

      This is such a great way of thinking about bodies. Things change! It can be weird and uncomfortable because you’re used to the body you had! But ultimately your body is YOUR body, always, no matter what things it does, just as you are you even when you’ve made decisions your younger self would never have considered.

  18. When I was reading LW’s words, I got the sense that while she is conscious of keeping to a certain size, it is also not that difficult for her. Or there would have been mention of “how hard I work” or the like in terms of keeping her current state.

    Considering that men often continue to maintain a growing metabolism into their early twenties… and then no longer have it, this state might be where BF has landed, naturally. It could take a serious and strenuous effort for him to change that, an effort that would compromise other areas of his life, and/or making him cranky, even compromise his health.

    The man I dated who I least liked as a person was also the most conventionally attractive, and so, this greatly encouraged me to continue getting involved with men who had a wide range of different looks.

    Being in love with a person is the surest route to finding them devastatingly attractive.

  19. Esti said:

    The bottom line, LW, is that you cannot make your partner lose weight and need to stop trying to do so. He knows what he weighs, he knows how you feel about it, he likely has a lot of his own (potentially complicated) feelings about it. Diets and exercise can work more or less (or not at all) for different people, but in pretty much no case will they work unless the person in question is committed to making and sticking with those changes. A partner badgering you about it is unlikely to generate that kind of commitment, and may well have the opposite effect. It is also likely to seriously hurt the person in question and create resentment that will torpedo the relationship.

    So what you’re left with is this: assume he’s not going to get back the body he had when you first started dating. In fact, assume that over the years he’s likely to put on a few more pounds. Can you live with that? Not just grudgingly or resentfully (which he does not deserve), but with acceptance and continued attraction?

    The answer may be no, and if so then so be it — you aren’t obligated to stay with him, or to justify your reason for leaving to anyone else. And a loss of attraction to your partner, for whatever reason, is a pretty significant problem and one that would be a dealbreaker to most people.

    But here’s the thing you should probably examine when considering that question about whether you can be happy with and attracted to your partner’s new shape: just how narrow is your window of attraction to your current partner? Are you only able to be attracted to him if he’s at his absolute peak physical condition? If he has all his hair? If he doesn’t have wrinkles or stretch marks?

    And is the same true for all potential partners? Or are there people out there who you would be attracted to even if they gained some weight and lost some hair, but your current partner just isn’t one of them?

    The thing I’m trying to get at is this: the change you’ve described in your current partner isn’t all that dramatic. So for you to have such an extreme reaction to it makes me think one of two things is happening: (1) you were only borderline attracted to him initially/you were attracted to him only and specifically because of the thing that’s now changed, but might not have the same extreme reaction to typical changes in the appearance of a partner who you had a higher baseline level of attraction to, or (2) you just have highly unrealistic standards for physical appearance (at least as relates to weight) that are going to make it extremely difficult/impossible to grow old with anyone.

    From your letter, it kind of sounds like the latter. “Maximum attractive” is not a standard that most people are going to be able to meet, or something it’s fair to push for when your partner has told you it upsets him. Honestly, it sounds like you could maybe benefit from some counseling to work out what drives your “pusher” attitude and how you can best co-exist with the people in your life who don’t share it. But if that maximize-everything approach is really what you want, then I suggest you find a partner who has the same approach to life, where you both want to push yourselves and each other to maximum achievement in all things. Your current partner doesn’t sound like that type of person, and it’s not fair or realistic to expect him to become that.

    • Temporary Null said:

      Thank you for writing the comment I wanted to write.

      I also think therapy is a good idea. LW, they way you talk about being “maximum attractive” makes it sound like being attractive to your partner is an important way that you express love to your partner. If you’re maintaining your attractiveness to communicate your love to your partner, and they aren’t doing the same, then it can feel unfair. That said, I don’t think that’s a really healthy way of expressing love.

      You won’t always be “maximum attractive”. What happens if your appearance is changed (facial burns, weight gain, partial paralysis), so you’re unable to be what you think of as attractive, or are less attractive than your partner? Do you still deserve love? How would you reciprocate that love? How would you feel about yourself?

      When we rely on things we are to express love (attractive, wealthy, strong), we’re at the mercy of the universe when those things change. When we rely on what we do to express love, then when we’re unable to do those things anymore, we can express love in different ways, because it’s not the act, but the impetus to act that communicates the love.

    • Shameem said:

      I can’t second this comment hard enough! I feel like some here are downplaying the importance of attraction, which is hugely important here. LW, you really need to think about whether he is still attractive to you at a sufficient level to make the relationship worthwhile–and I get the sense that he IS. I get the sense that you don’t want to break up with him, because you love him and are still attracted to him. You want to stay in the relationship but also control his weight. (An understandable desire, and I don’t judge it at all–it’s just not FEASIBLE). I also get the sense that part of your desire to control his weight is NOT sheer lack of attraction. You say his extra weight makes him “less attractive” but not unattractive. Instead, your desire to control his weight seems based on a desire for reciprocity and fair play. After all, you’re controlling YOUR weight for HIS sake, so why can’t he do the same?

      But, even if he is actually demanding that you keep your weight down, two unreasonable demands don’t produce a reasonable outcome. Body changes are part of everyone’s life, as others have said. This is part of why so many relationships break up as people age. But for those who don’t want to break up and do want to stay monogamous, they need to commit to the emotional labor of expanding their sense of the attractive. This is not always or infinitely possible, and it’s nothing anyone gets to demand of you, but it’s something that can be worth it to maintain a good relationship. In your case, I think it seems feasible because, to be blunt but not judgey, it seems to be more about your need for equal tribute from him than about actual physical incompatibility. The reciprocity issue can be addressed without demanding that he lose weight. You can talk with him about his standards.

      Regarding the actual physical attraction–I recommend watching him do something physical he does well, if possible. If he has a hobby like a sport or a craft, something that involves some physical skill, that would be ideal. Watching physical competence at work can foster physical attraction based on skill and functionality rather than body proportions or size. Mental competence can ALSO be equally attractive, don’t get me wrong, but physical may work better in your particular case because it will give you something specific about his body to focus on that isn’t the thing you disapprove of.

  20. LW, I encourage you to stop interpreting his body as a referendum on his feelings towards you. He is not eating AT you, he isn’t exercising (or not) AT you.

    You say that keeping your body in a particular shape is something you do with your partner in mind, that it’s part of how you express your love for him. And so when you see him not doing the same thing for you, it feels like that means he loves you less. But all it means is that he expresses his love differently than you do.

  21. slfisher said:

    Something that made me sad about this letter is that I didn’t see any indications where LW was working to be helpful and supportive about any potential weight loss the partner might have, like changing their eating patterns at home, going out to dinner less often or at different places, or encouraging walks or something. Just “are you still on your diet.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Should the LW do any of this “helpful” work without being specifically asked by her boyfriend, tho? I vote “no,” only partly because brainstorming ways to make weight loss actually work is specifically not a thing that is allowed on this site and partly because unasked for helpful ‘hints’ and ‘strategies’ to get someone to change are pretty transparent and insulting. It would be different if he asked for her support, but he didn’t, so, don’t.

      • Yeah, that’s not helpful and supportive, it’s halpful. If I say to Best Boyfriend, “I am having trouble getting enough sleep on work nights, can you text me around ten every night and make helpful noises about bedtime?” THAT’S helpful. Best Boyfriend deciding unilaterally that I’m staying up too late and texting me at 9:30 every night to tell me to brush my teeth and get into bed? Gross. Paternalistic. Controlling. Weird.

      • Amber Rose said:

        Seconding your no vote Cap. I’ve been on both sides. The “helpful” suggestions were always things I didn’t personally want or had no motivation to keep up. The only suggestions I’ve had success with were when I came up with the ideas myself and was told “that sounds awesome, can I do that with you?” Or “great, let me know if I can help.”

      • Charlene said:

        Thank you so, so much for that. You just helped me to see something.

  22. Lillian said:

    I’m trying to put myself in the LW’s shoes and try to see the situation from her point of view, but I’m having a really hard time doing so. …

    [SPECIFIC WEIGHT TALK REDACTED BY THE CAPTAIN see moderator note, below].

    • JenniferP said:

      Moderator Note: I know you mean well, but “my husband was so dreamy before he gained [specific weight]” and “I’m attracted to husband even though he is now [weight]” is still unacceptable body talk for the site.

      Y’all don’t need to describe the bodies of your partners and justify or defend your attraction to them. Pounds weighed, pounds lost, pounds gained: You have (everyone, not just Lillian) reached a website where nobody wants to hear the specifics. Please break this habit of reciting your whole history of weight when commenting on a discussion about body image, and please remember that “Well, I actually *like*/*prefer* bigger bodies” offered as a corrective is just another Note From A Boner.

      • Lillian said:

        So sorry. I didn’t mean to offend.

  23. Manders said:

    LW, I actually do see where you’re coming from on this–it sounds like your boyfriend put on the weight very quickly, in the span of just a few months, and it can be surprising and off-putting when your sex partner’s body changes over a short period of time. I don’t think it’s a moral failing to be attracted to the body of the person you started dating and to be concerned when that body changes dramatically, especially since you’d been dating for less than a year when it happened (and it sounds like the weight gain happened REALLY quickly).

    Here’s the bad news: people tend to gain weight as they age, and a lot of men carry that weight around their middles. Even the very athletic middle-aged men I know have developed some fat around the waist. It’s worth examining whether you really and truly can’t be attracted to this body type (which is going to limit your dating options as you age, if you want to date men), or if there’s something else going on that’s killing your attraction to your boyfriend.

    Is your boyfriend’s implicit or explicitly stated preference for thin women making you feel like he’s holding you to a standard that he won’t hold himself to?

    Are there other body types besides extremely skinny men that you’re attracted to? Would you be attracted to a body that’s athletic and healthy, with some fat on it?

    Do you feel like the changes in your boyfriend’s body have coincided with other changes in his appearance? Do you feel like he’s not trying as hard to be well dressed, clean, or otherwise as good-looking as he can be now that you’re in his life?

    Does your boyfriend go to the doctor regularly? Was his doctor at all concerned about the amount of weight he gained over a very short period of time? This might fall under “not your business, please stop asking,” but sudden changes in a person’s weight can be a symptom of several serious medical conditions.

  24. Polychrome said:

    LW, instead of looking so hard at your bf, I would look at your own feelings: you are feeling less attracted to your partner. Full stop. When my husband was getting ready to leave me, he found about a thousand things wrong with me (none of them in our case physical, as it happened). It was so demoralizing to hear this inventory of flaws — some of them, in retrospect, spot on and some of them not so much — and feel anxious about my ability to work on them, my failures, how I was losing him because I was failing to improve enough, etc. etc.

    I think, in retrospect, I just lost him. He didn’t want to be with me, and he felt bad about that, and so he wanted to make it my fault. He picked on a combination of things I might have been able to change (but which admittedly I didn’t, really) and things I couldn’t really change. I don’t think even if I had changed all the things he mentioned it would have helped anway. But the months-long process of trying and failing put me through a horrible, horrible wringer.

    This pattern is pretty common in relationships that don’t have anything huge wrong with them, but in which one person is just not feeling it anymore while they feel some responsibility / care toward their partner. They don’t want to hurt them by saying “hey it turns out I’m not really as into this as you are” (because that’s devastating, of course) so they say “could you stop making that snurfling noise when you read / interrupting during the radio news report / telling me boring work stories / asking to have sex / acquiring a muffin top / planning for our future “excessively” / insert long similar series here.

    It really will be kinder to think less about your boyfriend and what he could / should be doing, and more about yourself and what you could / should be doing. You are feeling less and less attracted to him. What do *you* want to do about that, going forward?

  25. emdashing said:

    I want to second (100th? It looks like everyone agrees on this) the Captain’s approach of “no negative body talk,” and also add a specific addendum: no “good job, sport” for changes YOU perceive as positive should they ever occur unless your partner explicitly asks for feedback on the issue. Even then, tread lightly.

    As a woman with Body Issues and Weight Issues whose weight fluctuates considerably I’ve experienced this in interactions across the board (family, work, random waiter at my favorite restaurant) from well meaning people who think I appreciate “positive” comments about how “good” I look due to weight loss when I am on a down trend. The most egregious was one trying-to-be-sweet ex who, to his credit, never spoke a negative word about my body, but was pretty telling in the positive comments he made. Toward the end of our relationship, when sex was rarer (for MANY reasons, not just because I wasn’t necessarily feeling super sexy), he got in the habit of saying “You look like you’ve lost weight” whenever he saw me naked. This was so transparently a lie (really? since yesterday?) I should have called him on it, but I was afraid to find out whether he just thought he was helping contradict my jerk brain or if he was telegraphing what he really wanted to have happen, that me losing weight would definitely be a positive thing.

    Rather than encouraging, it was demoralizing. People in my US/western culture have so thoroughly bought into the notion that weight loss ALWAYS equals improvement, that people who normally know better than to comment on others’ physical appearance forget. “I’m just saying something nice!” they think. Because a person losing weight is obviously better. OBVIOUSLY. Ugh. When I am on a downtrend and these comments begin, I always hear the unsaid: “as opposed to how you looked BEFORE, which was hideous.” For me, this common assumption is hurtful because of mental health issues I have. But people also lose weight when they are ill or stressed or unhappy or stressed, etc.

    DO NOT ASSUME that the physical change you notice in someone is something they are happy about even if you think they look “better” according to your own understanding of what “better” is. Just don’t do it.

    Rare Exception: If someone has openly discussed a desire for a physical change that they have achieved, you maybe can say something, sometimes. Tbh, however, I still wouldn’t, unless they brought it up first. My boss has been on WW for the last six months and openly seeks encouragement for this (whether this is okay in a boss is a conversation for another day), so when it’s *crystal* clear she wants me to say “You look great!” I will say that, but often say “You always look great!” and sort of refuse to engage with what I think is a really flawed premise. YMMV.

    • emdashing said:

      That second “stressed” was supposed to be “depressed.” Oops.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      “But people also lose weight when they are ill or stressed or unhappy or [depressed], etc.”

      And the assumption that weight loss is good means that people can not take sudden unexplained weight loss as a warning sign that something might be going on health wise. I know quite a few people with serious health issues who’ve been complimented on weight loss that was absolutely not a good thing.

      • rikibeth said:

        There are a number of people in my circle (including me) with chronic health conditions that can cause weight loss when they’re being most detrimental to our health. There are also a number of us who’ve had weight loss surgery. These two things have combined to stop a LOT of the weight talk, and making assumptions about the implications of people’s body sizes. “How are you feeling?” is an important question before jumping in with “You look great,” though “I love that shirt!” is a much safer way to pay a compliment.

        There’s still more food talk than I’d like, ideally, but it’s less about policing others’ food than talking about safety, lamenting what we’ve had to give up, etc. Kind of understandable. And the longer folks have lived with their dietary requirements, I’ve noticed, the more they try to make it about “hey I’ve discovered X delicious thing!” which just happens to be safe for them as opposed to “woe and alas, I cannot.”

      • Jane said:

        Definitely seconding everything in this thread — the last time I lost a bunch of weight I was quite sick, though with mental illness. This is another reason conflating thin-ness with health is so fucking frustrating for me. My mother has been vocally saddened by “all the weight she’s gained” in the past few months. I always wonder if she is living in alternate scary mirror land, because the reason she lost weight in the first place was a life-threatening bacterial infection.

        Beauty standards are a hell of a drug, as they say.

      • This is me now. As a response to some medication that I would never consider stopping taking, I have lost a noticeable percentage of body weight in an interval of time slightly less swift than is actually dangerous. Everyone comments on it all the time. It’s always very hard to find the right time to slip in a healthy “could you not with the weight talk”, as I like to wait and see if people will move on on their own, but I still need to get it in before my resentment builds up enough that I get snappish. My temper on the matter is not improved by the fact that my appetite has gone to shit and eating regular meals has become a minor odyssey.

        Tl;dr weight loss =/= health improvement.

      • Ros said:

        Oh, man, the assumption that weight loss is always good is SUCH a killer.

        I got SO MANY ‘you look great! Must be losing weight!’ comments when I was 3 months pregnant, including from my DOCTOR (ffs) and I had lost a significant amount of weight due to having spent 3 months being nauseous and only able to keep down lactofermented pickles and chickpea curry. Like, guys, you can’t stay healthy and grow another human on like 4 portions of chickpea curry in a week, there’s actually an issue here. But apparently the almighty gods of weight loss are more important than a woman actually getting to, y’know, EAT.

        In my case, it was enough of an issue that I finished my pregnancy and had to buy jeans a size smaller than my pre-pregnancy jeans because I had lost weight by being pregnant, which my DR was HAPPY about. Let me tell you that there’s gonna be another doctor for next time, because this ain’t healthy or good in any way. Ugh. *rant over*

        But yeah. Weight loss: often a symptom that there’s something wrong, and too often ignored because socially it’s ‘a good thing’. Ugh.

        • Mary said:

          Also lost weight with pregnancy here. I was actually pretty worried about it, and I did not appreciate all the congratulatory comments.

    • Good Wolf said:

      “But people also lose weight when they are ill or stressed or unhappy or stressed, etc.” Yes, so much. My most dramatic weight loss came right after a devastating turn of events in my life that brought on a huge flare-up in my depression. In just a couple of months, I looked very noticeably thinner, and actually got a TON of compliments, which made me feel very conflicted. On the one hand, one small part of the initial depression had been brought on by my not feeling conventionally attractive, so in a way it felt nice to have people saying I looked good. But I didn’t realize just how much it was bothering me until one guy said half-joking to me, “Did you get a tape worm?” I laughed so hard at how absurdly tactless that was, and also realized the other “nice” comments on my weight loss had actually bothered me more!

      Now I don’t feel nearly so confused about my own reactions. My weight fluctuates a lot, and I get a lot of probably well-meaning comments when people think I’ve lost weight (oddly though, I get more of these when I’m certain that I HAVEN’T recently, or even when I’ve gained some – maybe all they really mean is “you look different somehow, and this is the nicest way I can think of to express that”), and it bothers me every time. It would bother me much more coming from a romantic partner, who I want to love ME, not my weight.

  26. Jess said:

    I had a boyfriend once who commented on the fact that I had gained weight in the four years or so since we had got together (during which time I had developed and been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder). To be clear, this was a weight gain that was sufficiently minor that it didn’t change the size of clothing that I wore, and indeed he had gained an approximately equal (proportionately) amount of weight over the same period. This happened more than ten years ago, we broke up a few years after that, he’s now married to someone else, he’s a great guy and I love him and we’re still friends – and more than ten years later, despite the body confidence that I have now in my mid-late 30s, I still remember every single word of what he said to me that day, and it is still a painful thing to remember.

    LW, these comments stick. Your comments are hurting and upsetting your boyfriend. I don’t think you are a jerk – attraction is what it is; e.g. I am simply not at all attracted to blonde men and I don’t think there’s much point trying to change that basic preference – but I do think you need to stop with the comments and either accept your boyfriend as he is, or, if the diminution of attraction is a big enough deal for you (and it’s OK if it is), break up with him. There is no viable third way.

  27. Hey, LW. I have a very specific set of preferences for men, and I know that having preferences sometimes causes other people to say you’re a jerk. I’ve been called a jerk for having preferences, so I know that self-doubt, but the thing is: preferences are okay. They’re even good! You know what you like, and that’s great. However, if your boyfriend isn’t what you like anymore, that’s okay too. He doesn’t have an obligation to be or to stay what you like, and you don’t have an obligation to be or stay what you like.

    I’m sure it’s for space concerns, but what I notice here is what’s missing: you don’t say what a great guy he is, or how he’s perfect for you in every way BUT that he doesn’t fit your very specific body preferences, or that it’s just this one thing, or that you love him. If you love him and are attracted to him even though he’s not your usual preference, that’s great. If you don’t love him and aren’t attracted to him, it doesn’t really matter why. If you don’t want to be with him anymore, it’s okay. You can totally break up with him. You don’t need a “good” reason. You don’t need him to be the bad guy. You just need to not want to be with him anymore.

    If you *do* still love him, if it’s just this one thing, if your concern is that “you always thought” you’d be with someone who was X, Y, or Z, and he’s not one or all of those anymore but you still love him, then probably working on your negative talk and learning that there’s a lot more to appreciate about him than any conventionally attractive features, and that the most important thing is the way you feel about him will help a lot.

    If you really just don’t want to be with him anymore, then don’t. If you can’t do yourself that favour, do it for him. He deserves somebody who isn’t constantly telling him he’s unattractive.

    • sorry, that should have been “you don’t have an obligation to be or stay what he likes” but I have had insufficient coffee. 🙂

    • RodeoBob said:

      I was just thinking about how to make this same point.

      It’s entirely possible this relationship has run its course, that the partner who started the relationship being sweet and writing love poems or wearing special underthings doesn’t do those things anymore, and now that the initial glow of a new relationship is gone, the Letter Writer just isn’t as attracted to their partner. The question of weight is the, um, visible(?) aspect, but attraction is a complex, many-factored thing and there may be other things that led to this cooling off.

    • Shameem said:

      Excellent advice! I was hoping someone would say this exact thing.

  28. LW, I think there are three ground rules, an observation and a PS to think about when working through this:

    1) Your attractions are your attractions, and your boyfriend’s are his. That is A-OK.

    2) Your body is your body and his body is his. That is fundamental.

    3) What is sauce for you is sauce for him too. There must not be a double standard of what is and isn’t acceptable expectations when it comes to thinking about modifying *your* body to meet your *partner’s* attractions.

    4) You and he both will be incredibly lucky if you make it through your lives without major changes to your bodies. Through aging, injury, illness, changes in circumstance, job, health, whatever. If this is a dealbreaker for you now, you will be looking at this dealbreaker with him for a long time and with other partners in the future if this situation doesn’t last.

    What you want to do with that information, I don’t know. You are under no obligation to do anything, and that really is okay. But I am not sure how happy and secure you will be in your relationships going forward if things stay just as they are. I think the Cap’s advice about restablishing your… hrm, context *around* your preferences, maybe? will help a lot. In a holistic way and not just in a partnership dynamic way.

    PS: If I’ve learned anything from watching my parents’ 45 year marriage, it’s that things like attention to weight loss and gain are cyclical, as are attentiveness to other health concerns. What has never, ever worked, as far as I can see, is the three-month “how’s that diet going?” reminder, or anything like it. You get ONE “for the sake of your health and therefore my ability to enjoy retirement with you, I would really like it if you would go get a colonoscopy.” That goes for “your staying at the office until… is going to run you into the ground with stress and it worries me to see you do that for a job that doesn’t deserve it.” At least, you do if you are my family.

    After that, you have to let it go. Again, if you are in my family, I mean. All you can do is take care of your own body in the ways that are good for you, and do it *for yourself.* “I am going for a walk so I can do that big hike when we are on vacation. Would you like to come so we can talk?” You can remain unjudgmental, or at least neutral, about consequences of body stuff left unaddressed. “I know you knee hurts. And you know if it hurts, you should go see someone. You deserve good healthcare so you can have good health.” Or “I know you hate doctors. It’s a drag knowing this thing that is probably good to do is so uncomfortable” or “remember how good you felt when you went to PT and started stretching for that?”

    Best of luck, LW. however you decide to address this issue, I hope you find a way to express, experience, and enjoy your attractions and desires in a way that will be good for you for a long time to come. ❤

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Um… four. FOUR ground rules and a PS. My life is a Monty Python skit, apparently.

  29. Aurora said:

    I have an opinion on this that nobody likes, but that may be liberating for the LW nonetheless.

    People like what aesthetics they like. It’s basically impossible to change in my experience. Heavy, light, pale, tan, tall, short, whatever, these are all preferences that are purely subjective. In fact, I’d say it’s none of *our* business to tell *anyone* else what to find sexy. Just like it’s dangerous to tell people that thin is the only way to be pretty, it’s dangerous to tell someone that they MUST like a certain body type or whatever, no matter what that body type is. Don’t shame someone for having a boner for certain things and not other things. Like kinks or fetishes or whatever, it’s just a thing you have.

    Appearances are just another thing in a relationship that some people put more or less significance on. LW, if his being thin and lithe is what you need to find him sexy, and him being sexy to you is important to your side of this relationship, *that’s okay.* However, it does mean you’ll have to think about what to do. There are sort of two paths here.

    One, you could have a sit-down with him and tell him that really, this change is affecting your attraction, and be honest and say you feel he’s just not wanting to put forth the effort. If you two are really close, I’d hope you can have serious words with each other without one person blowing up about it. He could decide he either won’t or can’t change for you, or he could do it. The latter is ideal for your current claimed problem; the former leaves you with the decision as to what to do now — leave or get used to it. You have demonstrated enough maturity in this that I think the conversation can happen — you occasionally inquire as to how his diet is going, but you don’t nag him, and you don’t mock or shame him. You could try this.

    Two, you could try to change yourself. This is not automatically the right solution; it’s my belief that partners should consider sacrificing things for each other if it’s really that important and it’s not causing active harm. However, in the end, if you don’t want the serious conversation and you think that this is something you’d rather edit out of your own mind, therapy and other stuff might help. Sadly, I have little confidence it will, because just as nobody could train me into liking huge beefcake bodybuilders (just not my thing), it’s probable nobody can train you into liking chubby dudes.

    Just remember, if you *do* end up finding this super important and want to leave the relationship, *that is okay.* You shouldn’t stay in a situation you don’t like because some people on the internet or whatever are pissed at you. Someone will always hate whatever decision you make in any situation. The important part is for *you* to be happy and okay with yourself.

    Also, last, for people who are all “what about when they get old and it’s now irreversible that he looks less than young and hot,” well, maybe some people aren’t going to do lifelong relationships. And that’s okay too. My grandmother was single from when her kids left the house until the day she died — she divorced her husband and was thrilled to bits to be alone. And sometimes, being alone is just fine. Sometimes having flings or friends with benefits or whatever is what someone wants. And it’s okay for older people to like younger people so far as they don’t take advantage of anyone or cause harm. I imagine the LW’s tastes will change with age, but hey, if they don’t, that’s how it goes.

    LW, I wish you the best for whatever decision you make from here.

    • rydra_wong said:

      But the LW says she still finds her boyfriend “very attractive”.

      Now, maybe that’s not true. Maybe she’s afraid of sounding shallow, or whatever. If that’s the case, then I think very few people would argue that she should try to make herself feel attraction she doesn’t feel, or stay in a relationship she wants to leave.

      But it sounds from what she says as if the problem isn’t that she’s not sexually attracted to him any more, it’s more about feeling that he’s not putting in the same amount of effort she is.

    • Manders said:

      “Just remember, if you *do* end up finding this super important and want to leave the relationship, *that is okay.* You shouldn’t stay in a situation you don’t like because some people on the internet or whatever are pissed at you. Someone will always hate whatever decision you make in any situation. The important part is for *you* to be happy and okay with yourself.”

      This is really well said. I got the impression from this letter than LW thinks that leaving the relationship is less kind or less fair than continuing to stay with someone she’s not attracted to in the hopes that he’ll change. It sounds to me like LW is beginning to think about what this relationship will look like in the long term and questioning whether her reasons for not wanting to end the relationship are real or fair or coming from the right place. Sometimes sexual attraction doesn’t come from a place that’s objectively fair. The boyfriend isn’t a bad person for gaining weight *and* LW isn’t a bad person for thinking about ending things.

    • jd said:

      I will counter that it is indeed possible to change deeply-ingrained but still externally imposed standards of beauty/attractiveness, if you are motivated and work at it. It may not be your experience, but it is mine. I have greatly expanded the range of human bodies I am capable of being attracted to through a years-long campaign of learning to love and accept my own body more and challenging my internalized racist, ableist, classist, misogynistic, transmisogynistic, and fatphobic beliefs. I’m not saying it’s something you can turn on and off like a tap, but it’s not impossible to realize that people classified by society as “unattractive” can indeed be very attractive once you start pushing back on those internalized beliefs about what “makes” someone attractive. (I don’t offer this as a “notes from my boner” or a “you should be attracted to XYZ or you’re a bad person!” kind of commentary. It just bugs me to see “your aesthetics are just your aesthetics–nothing you can do!” when I know that’s not strictly true.)

      • Shameem said:

        I’m uncomfortable with a blanket statement that it’s possible, since just because it’s possible for you, doesn’t mean it is for everyone. I know you’re not saying anyone “should” be attracted to XYZ, but someone who assumes they *can* be if they just try hard enough can make themselves pretty damn miserable for a long time trying. (See, e.g., innumerable closeted gay and lesbian people who tried really hard to make themselves be attracted to a different gender, but were unable to do so even for the sake of avoiding brutal persecution).

        • CommanderBanana said:

          I think it’s more about examining one’s own attitude towards beauty/attractiveness instead of taking “what I am attracted to” as a given. Especially since what we view as attractive is, very much so, shaped by external cultural influences. A lot of the FA/HAES blogs I read talk about deconstructing what we see presented as normative and/or attractive for exactly this reason.

          I definitely see your concerns about this comment, though, but I don’t think the answer is always “you like what you like, it can’t be changed” or “what you like is infinitely changeable.” It’s way more complex than that. In the context of this conversation I think we’re definitely talking about beauty standards/”attractiveness” and not about attraction to this gender or that gender.

          • Speaking of examining one’s own attitude toward beauty/”attractiveness,” this column by Virgie Tovar just showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. That LW’s situation is a bit different than the LW here’s situation, but it’s very relevant to the discussion of how attraction is shaped by cultural influences.

          • twomoogles said:

            I do think examining your preferences is a good thing to do, and, well…especially important if what you “just happen to naturally be attracted to” happens to align really closely with what society says is attractive. I admit my eyes start a-rollin when I hear guys say things that basically amount to “it’s not my fault that I just coincidentally am attracted to thin white ciswomen between 18 and 25 only!”

            Though I think “examine your preferences” is a very separate thing from “could I be attracted to this one, specific person?” I feel like, at least for me, examining my attitude is more likely to make me find different random people attractive, catch my eye, whatever. It is really unlikely to change my attitude towards someone I already know pretty well and feel “Hm, super nice person,but no pantsfeelings there!”

        • jd said:

          I think I was pretty clear about what I did and did not mean. I am a queer and trans person who is directly affected both by pressures to be attracted to people in line with (homophobic/transphobic) social expectations and who experiences the (homophobic/transphobic) consequences of being considered inherently unattractive. So I’m hardly ignorant or naive about this.

          A blanket statement that it’s possible to challenge internalized oppressions about who gets to be attractive (which I stand behind and which is explicitly what I said) is hardly the same as a blanket statement that people should change their attractions to fit oppressive social standards, which is explicitly what I didn’t say. Please don’t take my comments in bad faith to make an unrelated point.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            That definitely wasn’t my intention; apologies if I misinterpreted your comment. I’m not posting anymore to this thread because I think it’s starting to go down a rabbit hole that isn’t really related to the LW’s actual question.

          • jd said:

            @Commander Banana

            Sorry, my reply was to Shareem not you. I also don’t want to pursue this further.

        • Temporary Null said:

          As someone who tried to fit into heterosexual relationships for over a decade, this comment resonates with me.

          I knew I didn’t find the opposite sex attractive, but, being female, I assumed that was how things were. Our cultural narrative tells women that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that you’re supposed to love your significantly less attractive partner because he’s a big lug, or whatever. Every time I was attracted to women, it was easy to brush it off with “women are just prettier” and “I like to be around women because I’m a woman”.

          I don’t know how important physical attraction should be in relationships. I do know that the “not at all” that I heard my entire life was probably incorrect, and contributed to a lot of hurt feelings in my relationships. Many of my lesbian friends have similar experiences.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            Yup. See basically every sitcom ever.

    • Shameem said:

      Yeah, agreed with both you and rydra_wong. Everyone has the right to their attraction preferences, and I will fight anyone who tries to shame those preferences as “shallow” or “being a jerk,” but there’s a fair and an unfair way to deal with your preferences. And in this case the preferences are…not the main issue, as far as I can tell. It’s the all too understandable resentment of feeling like the sitcom gorgeous girlfriend of the schlubby guy. But, LW, you’re not in a sitcom, and you don’t have an actual weight clause in your contract.

    • Charmed.Omega said:

      Seconding this a bunch.

  30. I don’t think people are being fair to the LW. Maybe it’s because I identify with her. My husband gained weight during our first few years of dating and every 6-12 months he talks about eating healthier/exercising more/losing weight and either gives it a shot for a month or does nothing. The thing that bugs me about this isn’t that he has gained weight. It’s that he talks about taking action and does nothing (a shared pet peeve of ours). I also get bummed that fitness and healthy eating aren’t important to him, because they’re really important to me, and I hate feeling like I’m a buzzkill when I want to go out to dinner less or when he groans at my suggestion we walk someplace instead of driving. It’s not that I’m trying to change him. These are things I genuinely want for myself (I have a sensitive stomach and going out to eat too much aggravates it and I genuinely like exercising/hate sitting still).

    It sounds like the problem isn’t that LW’s BF has gained weight but that she feels he doesn’t care about being attractive to her. This can be about weight or it could be that he doesn’t put effort into his appearance. Personally, I would sit down with BF and have an honest conversation. Ask him if he really intends to eat better/exercise more. If he doesn’t, then you have to accept that. If he does, you can ask him how he wants you to support his efforts.

    If you find his attitude unappealing, for whatever reason, you have to weigh that against his other qualities. No one is perfect, but it’s okay to have dealbreakers. It’s okay to say I only want to be with someone who lists staying in shape as one of his top three priorities. After all, staying in shape only becomes more difficult as you get older

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      I dunno. I think I’d steer clear of “so are you going to actually go on that diet or not?” conversation. It’s steering close to “because here comes an ultimatum about your appearance.” Again, you just can’t really expect to get anywhere with this kind of thing. I think it’s a case of decide if it’s okay with you or not, and live with the outcome.

      I do think there is a lot to be said for exploring “LW feels their boyfriend doesn’t care about being attractive to her.” If it’s an attitude or effort or engagement issue, then yeah, a talk could be really productive. But then, I suppose LW will have to think through “if BF altered his attitude but not his body would that be okay with me?”

      I could see *myself* saying “when you say ‘I feel bad about _______ feature and I am going to do _________ to feel better’ and you don’t I get really stressed and annoyed and sad because you never do it. And we spend an awful lot of our time on this issue. Do something about it, or don’t. But whichever it is, it’s okay and you need to come to terms with how things are going to be.”

      Because “never satisified” or “unable to act to secure own happiness and well being” are bad news, IMO. Thing is, raising weight and appearance issues won’t really actually address these internal issues. It could make them worse.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      Is it more that he gained weight or that he talks/complains about it and does nothing? I had a similar issue with a partner who had untreated anxiety and depression and, towards the last few years of our relationship, roughly 95% of our conversations were him complaining about it while at the same time refusing to actually do anything (find a therapist, consider meds, etc.) about it.

      We are no longer together. There is only so long I can listen to someone complain about something, offer suggestions, and have them be ignored. I do not handle endless complaining without any action very well. The Captain does have some great scripts about this dynamic that I think could apply to weight just as well as they do to endless complaining about a job, etc.

  31. First off, YES to the doing away with negative body speech. I try very hard to do this myself, though I’ve had issues with body image for as long as I can remember.

    I don’t think LW is a jerk, but I do think if she plans to continue urging her BF to lose weight, she needs to approach it in a more loving and sensitive way. Bodies change with age, and weight loss/fitness/body composition differs for everybody. 30-Year-Old Me has a much MUCH harder time losing a few pounds than 20-Year-Old Me did. Also, if the fit life isn’t your cup of tea to start with, the whole process can seem daunting, especially if you don’t see the results you want. Based on BF’s reactions, it seems like this strikes a nerve for him. Rather than ask him about his diet the way a parent asks their kid “Did you finish your homework yet?!”, have a conversation about how you both handle diet and exercise and your body image. Perhaps he is fine with his body as is, or it could be he isn’t and is struggling.

    Maybe you two could work together to make the mental, dietary and exercise adjustments you need to compete with aging metabolisms and life’s delicious temptations. My husband was in an accident last year and gained weight while he couldn’t walk. He can’t work out the way I do, but we found activities that we can do together, like going to the community pool and hiking a local mountain trail. It’s so fun! We also try to make good choices together when it comes to food and drinks…try…we do love grabbing a couple beers together, but I think those are calories well spent because we are spending quality time together. 🙂 Anyways, try to find that happy place, where you and yours can strive to be your best, come to terms with the realities of your bodies, and love yourselves and each other deeply.

    • Urging people to lose weight is not, in my opinion, body-positive speech, and I have a hard time imagining how one would torture the idea of loving and sensitive speech such that the statement “you need to lose weight because you are ugly to me” would qualify.

    • athenastory said:

      I want to question connecting “good choices” to “calories well spent”, or even just the phrase “calories well spent”. I’m sorry if this is just a personal button for me, but the word calories at all in a thread where we aren’t talking about ways to lose weight sort of sends a shiver up my spine.

      I understand that you’re commenting from personal experience here, but part of my personal household commitment to no negative body talk is that we don’t discuss calories as good or bad.

      • You are not the only one. I too think that talking about food, calories, etc as “good” or “bad” is not the best idea.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        It winds up at those ads describing, oh, some type of yogurt, which dwell on the many and various ways in which the yogurt does not actually contain much if any ability to sate hunger or fuel effort (= calories) and that’s why people should eat it. And satisfying hunger or a craving is decadent, guilty, transgressive, etc., etc., etc.

    • slfisher said:

      “Rather than ask him about his diet the way a parent asks their kid “Did you finish your homework yet?!”, have a conversation about how you both handle diet and exercise and your body image. Perhaps he is fine with his body as is, or it could be he isn’t and is struggling. Maybe you two could work together to make the mental, dietary and exercise adjustments you need to compete with aging metabolisms and life’s delicious temptations. My husband was in an accident last year and gained weight while he couldn’t walk. He can’t work out the way I do, but we found activities that we can do together, like going to the community pool and hiking a local mountain trail. It’s so fun! We also try to make good choices together when it comes to food and drinks.”

      Thanks for saying better what I said badly.

  32. CommanderBanana said:

    I really think reading some HAES and fat activist/fat acceptance blogs would be helpful to the LW to understand why this is such a fraught subject. The only ones I really know well are written by and primarily for women but they do have links to blogs written by men.

    I really like Jen Baker’s The Militant Baker, Virgie Tovar’s writing, and articles on Shakesville that deal with weight/obesity/fat acceptance. The Militant Baker in particular does a great job of deconstructing society’s attitudes towards weight and fat that might help the LW deconstruct some of her attitudes towards her partner and weight in general. A lot of the things that we accept as truth about weight and attractiveness are really the result of some complicated and very ingrained societal factors and these blogs have helped me reframe the way I think about weight.

    I am not faulting the LW for having preferences. I would like to say that expecting your partner to look the way they did when you met them is an impossibility, unless they are Han Solo and you are cool with encasing them in carbonite. Bodies change, especially post-pregnancy, because of illness or injury, and of course age does wonky and unexpected things to us all. Ultimately your boyfriend has a responsibility only to himself and his body, and he may be totally ok with being heavier (and being heavier does not mean less healthy. I am at my lightest when I am weakest because hello, zero muscle tone!).

    I am currently dating someone I met at their heaviest body weight. They are not cool with it and want to lose weight, mostly because they don’t want to have to buy a new wardrobe. I am 100% ok with how they look now, and the extent of me “helping” them WRT their diet is just cooking stuff that fits within the parameters of what they can eat right now, which is what they have asked me to do to make it easier for them to stick with their meal plan. Totally ok! I am not policing what they eat, I am not bugging them about working out, I am not giving them side-eye when they go off their diet.

    I would like to point out that BF put this weight on seven months into your 3 year relationship. This weight has been his weight for basically the entire time you’ve known him. This probably IS his weight. He has told you he is unhappy with you asking about weight and diets. I kind of think this might be less about the weight and more about you feeling like you have an obligation to stay a certain way to remain attractive to him and that it is kind of a double standard. I know I would be super annoyed if I felt like I had to maintain a certain appearance in order to keep someone attracted to me.

    I think expressing a preference for someone’s appearance is pretty fraught – for example, I have long hair, my boyfriend likes long hair, I’m happy to keep my long hair, but if I had a tragic bubblegum accident (or lost my hair to disease) and had to cut it short, I really don’t think he’d be packing his bags because he was unable to remain attracted to me if I cut my hair off. Sure, he has a preference, but if I really wanted to try a pixie cut 1. I don’t think he’d care that much and 2. I’m the boss of the hair on my head.

    I think this is less about the weight and more about you feeling that your boyfriend doesn’t care if you’re attracted to him. If that’s the actual issue, maybe have a conversation about that and leave weight out of it entirely?

    • Yes to this being less about weight and more about the other things that LW is sort of folding in with weight and bringing to the table as though it were a single thing. Probably unpacking some of that could only help the LW, even if they ultimately decide that this relationship has run its course and they need to get out.

    • The Militant Baker is great! I’m excited to read her new book.

      Adding to the FA/HAES blog recommendations: The Fat Nutritionist, Lesley Kinzel and Marianne Kirby’s posts on XOJane (although fat stuff is a fairly small percentage of what they write about nowawadays), and Dances With Fat.

      Also, books: The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos, Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, Two Whole Cakes by Lesley Kinzel, Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon, and Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Great recs all. I follow Jess on IG and am looking forward to reading her book. I am not fat but have a somewhat complicated relationship with weight and reading FA blogs has been super helpful in forcing me to re-examine my own internalized prejudices and assumptions, look more critically at my language, and be a better, more understanding ally to my friends who are fat. Similar to the way that reading feminist publications is helpful to those who do not experience gender-based discrimination on a regular basis, HAES and FA publications have helped me be more aware of messages that I am getting from advertising, etc., and to also stop policing my own weight in an unhealthy way.

        Weight’s just that: weight. I think the LW’s boyfriend’s weight is a symbol of something bigger. But we DO have this really gross cultural narrative around weight that is also a part of this whole conversation in a way that, say, maybe haircuts or clothing or tattoos or whatever might not be. I know if someone didn’t like my haircut I wouldn’t much care, but getting a negative reaction re: my weight from someone I think would be more upsetting to me (YMMV).

  33. Maria said:

    I had a very similar experience as the LW. Except, perhaps, I already had a lot of friends who were fat activists. And I’ve been attracted to a pretty wide variety of body shapes/types and genders. When my girlfriend (at the time) started to rapidly gain weight (and become more butch), this was fine by me–at first.

    Eventually, her weight gain started to bother me and I found her less and less attractive. It surprised the heck out of me. Apparently, I was one of those jerks. Then I noticed something: she still acted like a skinny, femme, conventionally-attractive person. Which is totally fine, except that now the way she did it implied that to be conventionally attractive was to be better than other people. (To my continuing chagrin, I never noticed this before her outward appearance changed.)

    She never spoke negatively about her body or other people’s bodies, but there are ways of speaking that sound positive that actually aren’t. “How does it feel to be the prettiest girl in the room?” “The photographer has taken so many pictures of our group because we’re so good looking, and he would know.” “Everyone is so jealous of us when we walk down the street holding hands.” “My sorority sisters always date the sexiest guys–good for them.” “I love that you’re more than just armcandy, but you really are a great trophy girlfriend.” “I’m so glad we’re not one of those typical lesbian couples.” It’s all so flattering until you think about it.

    At first, I thought I wanted that skinny blonde girl back, or at least for her to shut up about how great she/me/we/our friends looked. As it turns out, I never wanted her to “act fat,” have less confidence, stop flattering me, or even to lose weight. I never cared she was an asshole sometimes; I cared that she was a hypocrite. (I stopped dating her and eventually stopped dating assholes altogether.)

  34. Seconding recommendations to read up on HAES and FA. Also recommending what is a root text for many FA blogs: Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight, specifically the chapter “Reading the Slender Body,” which puts the contemporary emphasis on bulge-less bodies in historical context, and breaks down the capitalist implications of constantly striving for control over the body. Here’s a .pdf of that chapter.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Also worth noting: a blog I won’t name because the last time I did somebody had it TOSsed within a day what is wrong with people–anyway, this blog pointed out that stereotypically sexy women in comics and other mass-market art are often drawn squatting, standing hipshot, presenting like mandrills, etc., in situations that don’t call for it because if the artist poses the character just standing there it becomes clear that she is shaped like a tube sock with breasts. Curves are wanted but the body fat necessary to produce those curves is not.

      See also the recent fufarrah over a Victoria’s Secret retoucher accidentally erasing a model’s left buttock.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        Sorry, didn’t mean to imply skinny shaming. Not just the body fat is missing: the women in these pictures often have no pelvis!

  35. Courtney said:

    LW, the captain didn’t say it, but I will. Yes, you are being a jerk about your partner’s weight.

    Per your letter, you have been bugging him about it, despite him showing clear signs that said bugging made him unhappy. Per your letter, he has explicitly asked you to stop asking him about it, and you have written to an advice column asking in part whether you should stop asking or if there is a “better way” to approach the issue he asked you directly to stop bringing up.

    Both of those are total jerk moves. Your partner, whom you claim to care about, has specifically stated a boundary about something you are doing that is hurting him, and you are still centering your feelings on the issue and looking for a way around that boundary. You are headed into Vader territory.

    • Twitchy said:

      Seconded. LW, if you’re not attracted to your partner anymore, and that’s a dealbreaker, leave him. It’s kinder than trying to pressure him into being something he’s not.

  36. Captain, your description of Vertigo is so fucken awesome! I haven’t seen it in decades, but now PhysioWife and I are going to this weekend!

  37. Charmed.Omega said:

    You’re getting a lot of responses essentially telling you that yes, it is unreasonable for you to be disappointed by this. But I’m going to disagree. If you plan to date someone long term their appearance will definitely change, but 3 years is not a very long time (nor is 7 months). You are allowed to be disappointed when you start dating someone and their appearance changes dramatically right away.

    There is also no should in attraction. You don’t have to stay with him because the internet thinks this shouldn’t be a big deal. If it matters to you, it matters.

    Like most situations, I think you should apply the Sheelzebub principle. He’s made it clear this isn’t going to change. And you should stop nagging him about this because it’s ultimately not a decision you get to make. The decision you get to make is whether this is a price of admission you’re willing to accept.

    One more thing, I think you should bring up this feeling you have that he would mind if you gained weight but you’re not allowed to mind that he gained weight. It’s possible that you are holding yourself to some standard that doesn’t exist and since you’ve made a sacrifice to meet that standard you expect the same from others. It’s also possible (and I admit I am suspicious) that your partner made an effort to be attractive to you when there was a risk of your disinterest and that now, you are correct, he doesn’t really care if you find him attractive because it’s your social role to provide beauty and emotional comfort and his to consume it.

    • JenniferP said:

      Probably 400+ of the nearly 800 posts on the site are “it’s ok to break up if you are unsatisfied/unhappy/no longer attracted/incompatible.” Leaving is always an option, and you are right, there is no ‘should’ in attraction! It is okay to be picky about who you date, it is okay for women to prioritize desire. The good news is that nothing the internet says can preserve a relationship that is making the parties unhappy, and nothing we say can separate people who really want to be together. “Love people or leave them, don’t try to change them” is a pretty good principle.

      However, the LW didn’t mention looking for advice on leaving and she didn’t even say she wasn’t attracted to her boyfriend anymore.”When I first met him, I thought he was very attractive, and I still do.” She mentioned being bummed out by a noticeable but not drastic or dramatic (15-20 lbs) weight gain that’s been in place for almost 2.5 of the 3 years they’ve been together and realizing that her hopes that it would change are not panning out and the the conversations they were having about it are painful and ineffective. She’s also grappling with her own history as a pusher/coach/fixer. There are ways to address the potential double-standard and negative body image stuff that’s going on short of blowing up the relationship, if both parties want to try it out, and some of those ways involve being kinder, gentler, and more accepting about people’s bodies in general and their own and each other’s bodies in particular. I think that body acceptance is a new approach for the LW and for the boyfriend. The radical notion of “Hey, maybe we’d both be happier if we stopped policing each other’s and our own bodies, wanna try it, person I love?” is not the same discussion as “but you can’t make someone be attracted to someone who (ugh) gained weight.” The derails are piling up faster than I can knock them down, so, comments closed.

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