My boyfriend's getting fat, and it's ruining our sex life — but I can't bring myself to tell him.
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Dear Miss Information,
My live-in boyfriend and I have a wonderful relationship. I love him so much. He's the first person I've felt I could stay with indefinitely and be truly happy. Here's the problem: since we moved in together five months ago, he's put on quite a bit of weight. And really rapidly. At first I encouraged him to exercise — with and without me — and tried to cook us healthier foods. I encouraged him to eat healthier. Nothing happened. He put on about fifteen pounds in four weeks. So we had a relaxed, open talk about his eating habits and he made an effort to stop eating the nastiest junk food from the bodega. Another ten pounds later, we talked again, because he kept going on about how the washing machine shrunk his jeans. I tried to be as delicate as possible, because I can't imagine how these conversations could go well, but I explained to him that the jeans weren't shrinking and he needed to be aware of what was actually happening with his body. He said he was aware. He said he felt self-conscious and wanted to try to lose weight. He talked about running and yoga and goals. Nothing ever happened.
I don't want to nag him about any of this — I don't want to talk about it at all! But now when I look at his body I see someone who's too lazy or indifferent to take care of himself. I try to keep him attracted to me — I wear nice lingerie, take care of my figure, dress nicely. I still want him to find me attractive. But it feels like he doesn't even think about looking attractive to me. Is this part of a double standard? I'm supposed to stay on top of my looks but he lets himself go one year into a relationship?
I love him so much, but it's warping into something platonic because my lust is really dying hard. We stopped having sex. I told him I didn't know what was wrong. We tried to talk about it. But since I don't think people can recover from hearing, "I'm less attracted to you because you've really let yourself go," I told him I was having a difficult time getting turned on recently. He pressed for details, but all I could say was "I don't know what's wrong." But I do know — I just have no idea how to deal with this. I want to tell him that I miss grabbing the muscles in his arms and feeling his strong chest. But I don't want to hurt him and I don't want to keep harping on this issue.
I couldn't sleep. I've felt like shit all day today. Am I an awful, shallow person? If I loved him "enough," would this not be an issue? The thought of reconciling myself to never seeing my boyfriend look the way he did for the first year I loved him makes me want to cry. I don't want another man, but sex was such a huge part of our relationship and I was always so attracted to him. Now I feel guilty and frustrated and anything but sexual. I don't know what to do.
— Through Thick and Thin
Dear Thick and Thin,
Food and body image are acutely intimate — and thus pretty tough — topics. There's a whole range of baggage that virtually everyone ascribes to eating, and talking to another person about his or her relationship to food is bound to bring up fairly immediate defensiveness. That's to be expected, and I think you have a good sense of that. But you have rights here, too, and everyone deserves to have a partner who listens and works with them.
The biggest flash point I see here is that the weight gain was rapid. If there's a big and sudden shift in his dietary choices, I'd wager there's something deeper going on to drive it. If this is the case, attacking the symptoms ("get your ass to the gym, darling!") won't do a thing to touch the real issue ("You're depressed that Party Down was canceled, aren't you?"). Put on your detective hat and see if you can shake out a deeper culprit. If you find one, address that issue first and foremost. The weight is probably a red herring.
Assuming it's just "laziness" and "a double standard" at work, though, you've done your due diligence by trying to be delicate. But there's a limit to the usefulness of delicacy, and lying about why you're avoiding him counts as "the limit." As hard as it is, you need to tell him.
Sit him down and tell him that his body change feels like a reflection on his relationship with you. Tell him that you have a hard time being drawn to him in quite the same way you used to. Tell him you love him and that that hasn't changed. Then sit back and listen. He will probably be upset and defensive at first. Stick to your guns. Let him know that "I'm not as attracted to you as I used to be" is not the same as "I don't love you anymore." Ask him what you can do to support him; after all, it's his body, so he calls the shots. Then expect — and support — a follow-through.
All of this is how to discuss the issue with him, but what about you? This issue is clearly doing a number on your self-esteem, stability, and happiness. He owes it to you to pay attention. You're half of this relationship, and it's not your job to make him do things he's not willing or prepared to do — especially at the cost of your sanity. If he won't listen or meet you halfway, you may need to evaluate whether he's really the ideal partner you paint him to be.
Dear Miss Information,
I read your letter a few weeks ago about the girl who's really into tentacle porn, and I was fascinated. I'm twenty-four, sexually liberated, well-adjusted, normal, blah blah blah. I've had a handful of boyfriends and flings in my time, and am no more fucked-up than any of my peers. (Whatever that means.) Like Zombie Lovin' Chick, I'm really into fantasy porn, especially tentacle-rape type situations. The more I think about it, the more freaked out I get. What does it say about me that I get off on young schoolgirls being felt up by monsters?
— Creeped Out by Love of Monsters
Dear Love of Monsters,
What does it say about you? Probably not much.
Porn in general is cartoonish. Pizza delivery guy gets paid in blowjobs? Uh huh. High-school cheerleading practice dissolves into sapphic jamboree? Right, got it. All porn is a burlesque of reality. Throw in actual cartoons, and it's even one more step removed. Think about what, exactly, you're responding to in these scenes, and weigh that against your ethical code. Are you still creeped out? Then reconsider. But if not, you're probably fine.
Dissect the messages of this porn all you want (a worthwhile endeavor, if a huge boner-killer), and I commend you for being aware. At the same time, porn is a cheap medium designed to push as many buttons in as little time as possible. It gets murkier when actual humans are involved, but in this case they're not; this is strictly the stuff of fantasy. The minute you put on stilletos and start loitering by the reptile pit at the zoo, you should pull the plug. But until then, watch what you want to watch.