I know we just talked about this, but this showed up in the box this morning and I want to show side-by-side how PREDICTABLE and DELIBERATE this kind of emotional abuse is. A partner who harps on you about your appearance is not a good partner. In other news, it’s about to get very crowded in the center of the sun.
Dear Captain Awkward,
My partner is worried about my overweight. It’s their most important issue, to the extent of regular arguments. One sided arguments, since they are right. I am overweight, and should be thinner. All our friends are thinner, so my partner is less attracted to me. My partner will not know what to do without me when I die early because of my overweight, so is only arguing for my benefit. Anything I could say is just an excuse. Including that I am the one with a job. That my partner isn’t any thinner. That I get up every day an hour and a half earlier to play with our 3 year old, quietly, so as not to wake my partner, until day care opens and I bring them there, so my partner can sleep late. That when I come home from work, my partner hands over the kid, while they rest by watching television. That after I put the kid to bed, I am asked to bring my partner food in bed, usually sweets, or fats which I am asked to fry. Those are just excuses, because my partner is unique in wanting to sleep late, and the kid is charming so playing shouldn’t make me tired, and my partner’s eating shouldn’t make me eat, and a few times in the past when my partner did let me go to the gym some mornings or evenings or weekends it didn’t have a major effect, and I should be able to get my exercise when playing with the kid anyway, and weight loss really is more about not overeating than about exercising. And anyway I shouldn’t be be blaming everyone else in the world for my problems instead of taking responsibility for them myself. So I don’t say any of that (which is a problem in itself, because then I am either behaving like a wall, or just agreeing to make the argument stop, but not getting any thinner). I do occasionally ask my partner to exercise with me, but they had a hard day, so I shouldn’t nag, and it’s not their job to fix my overweight. And since I know how important my weight is to my partner, whenever I overeat or eat sweets or carbs I must do it for spite, not because I need comfort for myself.
My dear, your weight is a trap that your partner is using to distract you and abuse you. If they can make it so that constantly worried about and ashamed of your weight, you might not realize that you can leave them and do 1,000 times better by yourself or with someone who doesn’t yell at you and insult you. You might not notice that a partnership where you are doing 100% of the work and getting yelled at all the time while doing it is not a real partnership. If you could stop worrying about your weight and their opinion of you for a second, you might start using the word “No,” like, “No, I don’t want to cook anything for you tonight – make it yourself.” “No, I don’t want to listen to anything you have to say about my weight. If you’re so attracted to other people, go find one.” Your partner can’t let that happen, because, who would earn the money and fry the donuts and do all the childcare? So they abuse you and use fat hatred and our messed-up culture to do it, so that you’ll feel like crap and like you have to earn their (shitty, too small, sour) love and affection.
I think the people you could use in your life right now are a counselor, a lawyer, and a good loyal friend who is your friend (someone who dates from the time before Partner in your life, someone you can trust to be good to you always).
The counselor is for helping you rebuild your sense of self and what is normal. You need a person who can give you real time, ongoing reality checks. You might try calling a domestic violence hotline* where you live for a referral, or ask your primary care doc, or see if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). You might also try not telling your partner that you’re going to a counselor and cast it as a “doctor visit” for now.
The lawyer is for helping you figure out what to do about money, housing & child custody when you LEAVE THIS SELFISH HORRIBLE TWIT. Do not tell partner you saw a lawyer, just see the lawyer and then listen to the lawyer.
The friend is for safe harbor – occasional babysitting, commiseration, wine & reminding you of who you used to be and still are. This person can hold copies of your identity and financial documents for you.
You also need a bank account of your very own that they don’t know about where you start squirreling money away.
Let’s call this Team You. Your partner is not on the team anymore, if they ever were. For now, at home, continue being a stone wall. Do not reveal your plans or your thinking until you can get safely away. If you want to try scripts for mitigating the tirades, you could go with “Please do not comment on my body; I do not like it” or “I don’t want to discuss weight or weight loss with you anymore – I’m going to keep those discussions between me and my doctor” or “I hate fighting with you, so let’s change the subject please.” I’m pessimistic that any of those will work to change the behavior, but if you think it will be good *for you* to say something back, try repeating them like a broken record when they gets going.
I’m pessimistic, my dear sweet lovely Letter Writer, because there is no way to make this better once someone treats you the way your partner treats you. They are displaying contempt. They are trying to make you hate your body. They are sabotaging your efforts to take care of your body. If you lost weight and looked like the cultural ideal, they would still find a way to treat you badly (to expect you to wait on them hand and foot, to make you feel bad about yourself) because none of this is about your weight and all of it is about control.
When you have lost ### of entitled, abusive, misogynist asshole from your life, it will be much easier to rebuild a good relationship with your body – to eat what feels good, to move it in a way that feels good, to look at yourself with love and compassion, and to model healthy attitudes about body image for your child. You can work on that later when you’re not contending with a stressful & abusive torrent of body hatred from your partner. For now, try saying to yourself, “My body is a good body” whenever you start to hear your partner’s voice in your head. Your body IS a good body because it contains YOU. It’s gonna be a great body and do its best job ever when it carries you away from this mean person.
*This might seem like a big step. But I think it’s a good idea for you to treat your partner like something very toxic and dangerous that must be handled with great care until you can get safely away. For example, imagine yourself saying “No, I don’t want to cook anything right now, but you can make your own” when they request late night fried snacks. Do you feel like you can say no? Was your first reaction “Oh no, they’d never let me do that” or some kind of nameless dread? If you can’t say “no” to someone without dreading the consequences, things have already gotten bad enough to be afraid.
Closing comments 6/2/2016. Thanks for a great discussion.