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“My Wife Isn’t Sexy Anymore” and What You Can Do About It

Laurie and Debbie say:

Your cousin Vito nails the glaring flaw in Dan Savage’s latest column.

The poor gentleman who wrote in is “royally depressed” because his wife has gotten fat (“let herself go”) and is no longer attractive. Savage has a predictably straighforward answer:

… start with complete honesty. It’s not that hard to say, “You have gotten fat and unattractive and my sex drive is nil, so can we do something about it before I bail on you?” My goodness! Whatever happened to being honest? Sit your partner down and tell her you love her in every way but you are not attracted to her due to her appearance. “You are out of shape and it’s killing our relationship” is a good place to start! Stress how much you care, bring up the health thing, and tell her you want her to live a long, happy life, but impress upon her that this is a problem that might lead you to leave.

Vito’s parody makes the key point, using Savage’s language:

… start with complete honesty. It’s not that hard to say, “You have gotten old and unattractive and my sex drive is nil, so can we do something about it before I bail on you?” My goodness! Whatever happened to being honest? Open communication means revealing your thoughts so the other person can take action. Which sometimes means saying, “Unless you find a way to reverse time and be the twentysomething I fell in love with, sweetie, I’m going to have a hard time being sexually excited about you.” The partner either starts looking into botox and experimental surgery, or they pick up their walker and limp on with their life.

‘Nuff said.

But it got us to thinking, nonetheless.

The canonical answer to the problems of “Hawt and Royally Depressed” is, actually, a good one. Start paying attention to what you do like about your wife; think about what hasn’t changed in the years when she’s gained weight. Do you like her laugh? Her sarcasm? Her way of buying treats for you? (If the advice comes from a sex columnist, it will include think about what you really like with that person in bed; most likely, that hasn’t changed, or hasn’t changed much.) Focus on those things, and your attraction will come back. It’s good advice, and it can work.

But here’s the thing no one ever tells you: you are not a slave to your attraction patterns. They can be changed. They were programmed into you in the first place, and you can work to reprogram them to suit yourself. (Before you ask, we are not saying, for example, that you can make yourself be heterosexual if you’re not, or learn to love your biogender. This is something different.)

Virtually always, the person who “just isn’t attracted” any more has completely accepted the young/thin/pretty ideal as the only sexually attractive one. Now, let’s see why people do that. Could it be because that is force-fed to all of us from a very young age (and the younger you are, the more TV you probably watched as a child, and the earlier the force-feeding started). By the time we reach puberty, we’ve already been taught what we’re supposed to like and respond to and, surprise! Our genitals behave accordingly.

So here’s what Dan Savage would never say: if you want to have a good sexual relationship with someone as s/he ages and changes shape, there are some very specific things you can do:

1) Really think about why and how you like/love that person and want them in your life. The great laugh and the way of buying you treats are the superficial version of this–we’re talking about a much deeper thing. What’s special about them? What would you miss if you never had sex with them again?

2) Look at pictures of people who look like that person. If you can find them, nudes are good. (We’re a resource.) Look a lot. If the pictures bother you in some way, turn away and then turn back and keep looking. If you are a porn reader or watcher, porn is good here.

Laurie's portrait of April Miller

3) Look at people in real life who look like that person. Don’t just glance at them and glance away because they’re not in your playbook. Look at them the way you look at people you find attractive. Think about what clothes you like on them, what style of movements look better to you.

4) Try inhabiting the other person’s body now and then. What does it feel like to be them? Walk like them, move like them, laugh like them.

Nothing changes overnight. This is a process. The programming goes deep, and it’s constantly being reinforced. But these steps help. A lot.

And they change the “blame the victim” mindset of Dan Savage and the “such a pretty face” mindset of the conventional advice into an approach that can actually make you like yourself more.

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39 Responses to ““My Wife Isn’t Sexy Anymore” and What You Can Do About It”

  1. When you mentioned “reprogramming,” your analysis of how we are force-fed the pretty/young/thin ideal from Day One, is well-done and your advice is excellent. However, you neglect to mention the other kind of programming that happens, that shapes how we view ourselves and what we find attractive: our upbringing, our family dynamics. To deal effectively with unhappiness in a relationship, I would also suggest therapy, although this has as much of a stigma as being fat! Plus there is the time and financial investment. Nevertheless it is true that the early parental relationship has such an impact on the formation of self-image and on sexual attraction.

  2. Rachel says:

    I thought Dan’s advice was off-target, too. I wrote a Letter to Dan Savage entry about it, even. It really irks me that he regularly points out discrimination towards other groups, say gays, yet fails to see the correlation between gay-based and fat-based discriminations.

    A rereading of HARD’s letter, though, made me wonder if his wife wouldn’t be better off without him.

  3. Debbie says:

    Susan, you are (of course) completely right. I feel like what you’re saying is on a different axis than what we were saying, but we probably should have mentioned it, and we certainly both agree. (I don’t usually speak for Laurie, but in this case I’m confident.)

    Rachel, Savage is a known fat-baiter (and pretty unkind about bisexuality too). He’s good on the topics he cares about. As for HARD’s wife being better off, oh, probably. We consciously wanted the blog to be not directed at him personally but at people in comparable situations.

  4. Lynne Murray says:

    Applause to Cousin Vito for the on-point parody. This is what happens when we see people as products. Defective, damaged or broken product? Get it fixed or trade it in for a new one.

    The assumption that Mr. Wonderful is making about his marriage is that she is “no longer hot” while his shallow, superficial self is attractive. I have a friend who worked as a divorce attorney who said she was shocked to see how many men in mid-life crisis dumped their insufficiently hot wives, went off to explore the world of hotness and came back begging to reconcile. I didn’t realize that happened often, but she said usually by the time when the straying husband wanted to reconcile, the wife would have realized he wasn’t worth having back.

  5. littlem says:

    “This is what happens when we see people as products.”

    Got it in one, Lynne.

    OF COURSE she should leave him. Doesn’t he say something at the beginning of the article about the fact that she “supports me in all my endeavors, makes my life easier, all that stuff”?

    If he doesn’t value it over teh hawtness, he sure as s**t should enjoy the opportunity to get along without it. Especially since he hasn’t bothered to ask her whether he might be doing something/lots of things/nothing to help her manage the marriage that might just trigger her overeating as a stress response.

    Does she have time to go to the gym? Do they have punk rock kids? Does he help with the punk rock kids or the punk rock housework or managing the [expletive deleted] punk rock bills? Can she afford to eat food without excessive pesticides or simple starches on his punk rock salary???

    He’s inauthentic. One of my friends wrote for the Ramones. The closest this dude gets to punk rock is that he has ROCKs in his head and he is a PUNK.

  6. Laurie says:

    littlem,

    Rocks in his head indeed. Bravo!

  7. Stef says:

    An addition: Doing the work of broadening the range of people you are attracted to is not just something to do merely for the sake of your mate(s). It’s worthwhile for the joy it can bring to your everyday life.

  8. Chrys says:

    Hey, thanks for the great article and the great comments on this page – it gave me some perspective. My husband actually cut out the article from Dan and put it on my bedside table, which I guess means that he is no longer attracted to me.

    I decided that he is right, I do need to lose some weight. So, I went out and found the most expensive purse I could find. It makes me look thin. And now I am about $1000 lighter. The next time he mentions my weight, I am going to buy a new car.

  9. Kelly says:

    Chrys! Ha! That is the best response to a passive-aggressive husband’s action that I can think of!

    Oh Dan…while I like that he’s so sex-positive, I really can’t understand his aversion to fat & fatness. He mentions in his book, The Commitment, how terrified he is of becoming fat. I think that’s pretty funny, though I could understand in the gay community why that could be a concern (i.e. I’m familiar with men that spend more on their bodies than they do on their cars).

  10. grace says:

    One of the reasons I chose not to get back together with an old ex (there were a few reasons) was that I remember him as someone totally taken by the media ideal. He spent way to much time looking at women in Porn mags California and Vegas strip clubs to have a good feel for what is natural and over 25 yr.s old- like my aging body.

    A persons sexual preferences can be altered by what they are exposed to. Enough porn and media communication can make the most monogamous desire polyamory or at least increase the desire for threesome’s to the point of causing relationship problems (we aren’t all wired for that) …I don’t think it goes the other way so much. I am not sure desires can come back from way out there once they visit the twilight zone of sexual encounters.

  11. To Grace: I’m not so sure that “a person’s sexual preferences can be altered by what they are exposed to.” It may actually be that these were the sexual preferences, only latently, and that seeing it brought it out more. Or, isn’t it also possible that preferences evolve as you grow and become exposed to other things? Your comment seems to imply that that’s an undesirable thing, when maybe it’s a sign of growth. And though I don’t think it’s a positive thing that men like your ex lose their desire for normally aging over 25-year-olds. But if it is happening, maybe people like him can look into the deeper reasons for this. But no, I don’t think that porn alone alters people’s sexual preferences or desires. They must have had them to begin with, or were open to change in the first place.

  12. Anne says:

    Size doesnt matter- its personality! I don’t have any preferences for fat, slim or skinny. There are plenty of people who like overweight girls. They think overweight women are womanly with curves. My friend David is mad for plus size woman and is dating on pluscupid.com.

  13. Ricardo says:

    I am a gay male. You ladies remind me of a woman friend from my college days who shifted from being a lesbian to being straight — for me at least. And then she obliged that I do the same. When I would remind her that I was still gay, she would become furious, insisting that a person’s sexuality is malleable, and that it was my obligation to “change” for her, since she “changed” for me.

    Alas, these comments smack of the same sentiment. As far as I am concerned, if a partner of any gender likes their partner slim and fit, they need not have to adjust their sexual preferences in order to accommodate the choices the now-fat partner has made to become fat. Enjoying your partner’s “wit” and “sarcasm” is not going to compensate for their voluntarily-changed body. Your boyfriend or husband may pretend to because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but he will simply close his eyes while attempting to make love to you and fantasize about Carmen Electra, his old girlfriends, and what you used to look like.

    Sorry gals, but that is what guys are like. That is what people are like.

  14. A. says:

    What do you suggest for a man whose wife gets a sex change procedure? The person “on the inside” is presumably the same, so should the husband buck up and accept that vaginal intercourse is a thing of the past, that his spouse has changed with the years, and anyway, that he should focus on “why and how [he] like[s]/love[s] that person and want[s] them in [his] life?” Do you really suggest that he ask himself “[what he would] miss if [he] never had sex with them again?

    Or is one kind of never-have-sex-again different from the other?
    If so, why?

  15. Em says:

    To Chrys, no.8; so in response to your husbands refusal to change his socially programmed behaviour, you are getting back at him by indulging in socially pre-programmed behaviour?

    We are all programmed in every aspect of our lives, by social and cultural expectations. This does not make them bad, just like it is not bad to expect people to use the toilet instead of shitting in the living room, or using a bowl instead of a trough when eating soup. Everything is socially programmed, and *IF* both parties are able to rewrite their programming enough to make a particular deviation acceptable, great, everybody wins. But this should not be the *a priori* expectation of the deviant; they should not expect the normal person to *have* to change their expectations to suit them.

  16. rick says:

    I dont think the guy is a bad guy because he doesnt find his wife attractive anymore. She probably cut him off years ago, because of her feelings about herself. I guarantee their sex life has diminished to nothing. This feeling of not being attracted to her is probably his way of protecting his feelings of feeling like hes not wanted or needed. The wieght doesnt make her ugly, a bigger woman can be very sexy and great in bed. But most feel unsexy and its easier to avoid sex altogether than try to be a good wife. He should leave her if she cant get her self together.

  17. rick says:

    Its amazes me that you ladies fail to realize how a persons weight effects everything. For me my wife doesnt feel sexy anymore so guess what im cut off. A woman doesnt (or man) have to look perfect. Of course with age, everyone gains weight and wrinkles etc. But you should try to look your best for the other person in the relationship as well as yourself. My wife is obese and Its makes me feel bad when I introduce her to my friends and I know that they are wondering how I ever hooked up with her. Just because your married doesnt mean you should sit on your ass and eat junkfood and no shower or look good anymore. I agree if the spouse isnt trying then its time to look for a new one.

  18. Lynne Murray says:

    I agree with rick that his wife could do much better and should look for a new, less shallow spouse.

  19. Mari says:

    I don’t understand why SOME men have such a problem with a fat acceptance blog that they have to come on here and justify their own preferences.

    I really wish Kate Harding or someone else would send these men a copy of her wonderful essay, The Fantasy of Being Thin.

    Because let’s face it, Carmen Electra, Pamela Anderson, Halle Berry, etc. maybe beautiful but all of them have been divorced at least twice. Particularly Pamela. I mean, she’s got a friggin’ grocery list of men that she’s gone through. So, if being thin and “fit” were the cure-all for relationships, and if being fat is in the “minority” why then
    is there such a high divorce rate?

    As far as Ricardo is concerned, it sounds like he fell victim to the heteronormative mystique with his friend but to try to turn around and use the same logic on being fat is totally wrong and here’s why:

    His friend is obviously bisexual and Sigmund Freud says that 70% of
    humans have the POTENTIAL to be bisexual. We all know that gay people don’t have a choice but then he turns around and uses the same experiences for him for fat people, particularly women.

    Problem is, if genetics were as easy to control as he assumes, then he would be able to switch on-and-off his sexual preferences. The fat woman in Dan’s letter cannot do the same. Her husband has taken a blameless position in the relationship. Rather than look at what he might have done himself to cause the demise of the relationship, he blames her weight. Men that do this are insecure.

    If a woman’s worth is measured based on her weight, than that suggests that the man is not looking for a whole woman but only part of a woman. I suspect that for this fat woman’s husband and a lot of other men like him, he may feel threatened by her seemingly “indifference” to the lack of “self-care.” Not in her, but him.

    That she is content with herself is the real problem. As long as she’s working on something that makes her seem insecure or needy, then his anxiety level drops and when his anxiety level drops, then the shift of the relationships’ dynamics trade from her to him. This is the sign of an unhealthy, me-oriented relationship.

    His letter to Dan Savage, a known fat-phobe and a gay man,also signifies his own need for reaffirmation of his beliefs and a cry for help. I mean, why write a letter to a GAY man in the first place.
    (I’m not knocking gay people but when a heterosexual man writes a letter to a gay man, this may signify some repressed sexual tendencies. After all, most fat women have real breasts, hips, bellies, etc. They have softness that some (not all) thin women don’t. Thin women are less likely to have shapely features, are more likely to have masculine features.

    This man doesn’t want a woman. He wants a man but for a variety of reasons, can’t go that route so therefore he needs to be with a woman with a shape that is more masculine than feminine. His letter to Dan Savage is his subconscious way of telling himself that it’s okay to harbor these feelings. A good sex therapist would tell him
    that he needs to decide if his sexual preferences are like Johnny Depp or if they are more like Martin Willett.

    Gay men are not attracted to women, therefore they cannot the female form. Don’t expect Ricardo, Dan Savage or the fat woman’s closeted husband to appreciate her. Thank you Beth Ditto for inspiring this post.

  20. Mari says:

    I don’t understand why SOME men have such a problem with a fat acceptance blog that they have to come on here and justify their own preferences.

    I really wish Kate Harding or someone else would send these men a copy of her wonderful essay, The Fantasy of Being Thin.

    Because let’s face it, Carmen Electra, Pamela Anderson, Halle Berry, etc. maybe beautiful but all of them have been divorced at least twice. Particularly Pamela. I mean, she’s got a friggin’ grocery list of men that she’s gone through. So, if being thin and “fit” were the cure-all for relationships, and if being fat is in the “minority” why then
    is there such a high divorce rate?

    As far as Ricardo is concerned, it sounds like he fell victim to the heteronormative mystique with his friend but to try to turn around and use the same logic on being fat is totally wrong and here’s why:

    His friend is obviously bisexual and Sigmund Freud says that 70% of
    humans have the POTENTIAL to be bisexual. We all know that gay people don’t have a choice but then he turns around and uses the same experiences for him for fat people, particularly women.

    Problem is, if genetics were as easy to control as he assumes, then he would be able to switch on-and-off his sexual preferences. The fat woman in Dan’s letter cannot do the same. Her husband has taken a blameless position in the relationship. Rather than look at what he might have done himself to cause the demise of the relationship, he blames her weight. Men that do this are insecure.

    If a woman’s worth is measured based on her weight, than that suggests that the man is not looking for a whole woman but only part of a woman. I suspect that for this fat woman’s husband and a lot of other men like him, he may feel threatened by her seemingly “indifference” to the lack of “self-care.” Not in her, but him.

    That she is content with herself is the real problem. As long as she’s working on something that makes her seem insecure or needy, then his anxiety level drops and when his anxiety level drops, then the shift of the relationships’ dynamics trade from her to him. This is the sign of an unhealthy, me-oriented relationship.

    His letter to Dan Savage, a known fat-phobe and a gay man,also signifies his own need for reaffirmation of his beliefs and a cry for help. I mean, why write a letter to a GAY man in the first place.
    (I’m not knocking gay people but when a heterosexual man writes a letter to a gay man, this may signify some repressed sexual tendencies. Why not write to a heterosexual male sex therapist or even a woman, as most sex therapists are?) After all, most fat women have real breasts, hips, bellies, etc. They have softness that some (not all) thin women don’t. Thin women are less likely to have shapely features, are more likely to have masculine features.

    This man doesn’t want a woman. He wants a man but for a variety of reasons, can’t go that route so therefore he needs to be with a woman with a shape that is more masculine than feminine. His letter to Dan Savage is his subconscious way of telling himself that it’s okay to harbor these feelings. A good sex therapist would tell him
    that he needs to decide if his sexual preferences are like Johnny Depp or if they are more like Martin Willett.

    Gay men are not attracted to women, therefore they cannot appreciate the female form. Don’t expect Ricardo, Dan Savage or the fat woman’s closeted husband to appreciate her. She needs to move on. Thank you Beth Ditto for inspiring this post.

  21. Mari says:

    I mean, why wouldn’t a heterosexual man turn to his male friends for advice? I mean, as well meaning as Dan Savage is, he really doesn’t understand.

    As a black woman, if I was having trouble taming my nappy hair, would I go to a white hairstylist for advice? As well meaning as the woman is, it would be like shooting darts into a bucket of water. She may be nice and this and that but she doesn’t understand because she doesn’t have the same hair texture as me.

  22. Femi Aabye says:

    I want to put in a dissenting opinion on the matter.
    No, I do not want to reprogram.
    No, I don’t want to say, “Yes dear, it’s OK.”
    I have been with my wife for 22 years now, and maybe this is stereotypical.
    However, what is not is that when we wed, we were explicit what would not work. Infidelity, obesity (I was abused by classmates and sexually abused because of medically induced obesity, which later created a fight with bulemia), smoking, financial irresponsibility.

    This was a sort of a prenup, and I have been faithful despite battles with her bipolar syndrome, abuse, and being forced to be apart professionally half our married life. We’ve both been backbreakingly strong, and on the eve of one of her breakdowns, I changed careers in order to support her possible collapse of hers.

    However, I have found that in waiting for the life we were building, I found that much of it has passed away, marred by a life pockmarked by triennial cataclysmic breakdowns and now the fact that she refuses to care for her appearance at all, taking showers every 3-5 days in S. California and putting on nearly 100 lbs.

    I love her, but I’m exhausted, and heartbroken by her collapse despite my best efforts. One could say that I may have made mistakes, but I’m just human. One could say the bar was set too high, but we weren’t that hard and fast all the time.

    My problem is that her obesity reminds me of a post-pubescent rape by my classmates, and although I have come far, I want a woman with the tiniest concavity in her waist; I don’t mind a few pounds, no cosmetic surgery, none of that. And do I miss having missed ten years of intimacy? YES. And given my experience, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

    To all the women out there, I’m sorry, but some of us have been through hell, and we’re honestly trying to get through issues that weren’t our fault. We’re devoted, but sometimes there are traumas that people _just have_, and it isn’t because they had a crush of Calista Flockhart.

    She offered to try to take some off (I would kiss the ground for even HALF of it), and I’m doing the same.

    We’re both working on it, but if it does not work out, it might be a “Problem”, and I may look to that 20-something someday, and vice versa. It’s a two way street.

  23. Femi Aabye says:

    One more thing.
    It isn’t because we got fat. That’s not it at all. It’s only a symptom of the larger problem. I married this person because she was a bright, ambitious woman with high aspirations, and over time, she has not been able to maintain her bravery against corporate politics. What was once a proud, sharp, young woman is now someone who hides in her work because she is almost no longer able to deal with people because she is almost unable to accept any criticism at all.

    I have been very supportive for many years, but I also wonder if, having given up many of the things I wanted for this relationship (location, children, even choice of career), whether I want to retire with someone who has lost their nerve, and now asks for constant accomodation that asks me for 110% of my emotional and physical resources.

    This is not a case of saying “Sorry dear, you didn’t live up to my expectations, gotta go…”, it is a case of living with someone who has had profound problems for decades and whether I can continue to carry that load as the death of my parents approaches, and she either refuses to or cannot find the way out of her pit. As you can see, I have mine, but I really, really fight and carry on, but she has given up, for now.

    It’s a question as to whether she will ever get up and fight again, or whether I will have to endure a life of long term, low level misery that hurts my career, when I know there are better lives out there.

    However, I still made a promise for better or worse, and that’s what keeps me here. Had i to do it again, I would never have married her, but now that I did, I’m trying all i can to stay at my post.

  24. Lynne Murray says:

    Femi Aabye, I was struck by your last two comments at how much your “problem with wife’s fat” is really about wanting control over the bad stuff, compromises, surrendered dreams that happen to us all as we get older. I understand the kind of “behavioral prenup agreement” you made with your wife to be a sort of hedge against being hurt again the way you were hurt before.

    I could give examples from my own life of making a list of everything I wanted in a man (attractive to me and finding me attractive, faithful, etc.), marrying someone who fulfilled all of that, and yet was unknown to both of us, terminally ill even as we married. It’s a cliche to say you can’t order life from a menu, but it’s a plain hard truth that we don’t have conscious control over what our lives bring us. I can, however, testify that a much more effective way to improve our lives is to not blame other people for ruining our lives. It’s just a total waste of everyone’s time and energy.

    I personally think that one reason fat is so demonized in our culture is that it’s an easy and highly visible target. There are so many uncontrollable awful things that every human being must endure, that some people take comfort in picking one thing and indulging in the fantasy that “just losing weight” will resolve issues such as–
    –Low self-esteem
    –fear of asserting oneself
    –fear of losing control
    –fear of disease or death, & etc. & etc.

    I could write a book about this, maybe I have, maybe I will again–but I will just say one more thing for the record: We were all once young and shiny, as we get older the challenge is not to return to the hormone-hyper days of youth and infinite possibility. We have got to get over that delusion if we want to build a better life from here.

    There’s a Buddhist saying that you have to stand up from where you fell down. For a long time I had a Jesse Jackson quote on my wall to the same effect, “You may not be responsible for being down. But you must be responsible for standing up.”

    The challenge is to live THE BEST LIFE WE CAN, AS WE ARE! Sorry, I have to go full caps, I feel so passionate about this. Just for one day stop blaming your wife, yourself, her fat or yours for the problems and ask, “What can I do to make this better in this moment?” As a card-carrying, recovering co-dependent, I gotta say that stopping trying to fix other people or myself and concentrating on the causes I can make in the moment each day has made a powerful difference in my own life.

    Wishing you and all of us the best!
    Lynne

  25. Femi Aabye says:

    Thanks, Lynne. Good points.

    But I think that saying that it’s about my wife getting fat is being tragically myopic. That’s just the standard reponse of self-esteem coaches, and honestly, I’m tired of it. It’s like being an alcoholic, but saying that you really need to just get over the fact that you and your wife have Jim Beam in the house because that’s just where you are and that you just can’t ask someone to have liquor in the house or not. You can’t create a toxic environment and expect people to accept it.

    Also, as I said, it isn’t about her fat, it’s about a much larger syndrome that the fat is a byproduct of.

    I’m just as much to blame as she is, that’s for sure, and to hear the standard stop blaming her, it’s your failult, we should just love ourselves as we are something I just don’t believe. Not anymore. We have been led into this world of American mediocrity where just feeling comfortable with ourselves is enough as our weights ballon and our IQ’s plummet and the pharmaeutical companies making Zyprexa, et al skyrocket their profits.

    I’ve told her that she can do as she needs to do, but I’m going to take care of myself. and I’ve devoted myself to my own well-being, and if I have to do something else, then so be it.

  26. I don’t see what the correlation is between loving (or caring) for someone and finding them sexually attractive. Fat (to me) has always been gross. I don’t find fat women sexually attractive. End of story.

    If people stop looking like animals (or morph species to look more like a walrus) they stop being sexy to me and no amount of sugar-coating will change that.

    Andrew Goulding

  27. e says:

    The idea that you can “re-program” yourself to find any arbitrary standard attractive I think is somewhat ridiculous. Yes, our preferences are somewhat dictated by our environment, but that isnt’ the only varialbe. Indeed, it’s a very mysterious equation indeed. Not to mention, people have had 30 years of “brainwashing”, as you put it, so it could take quite a while to reprogram yourself. How about things like preferences for chocolate ice cream or broccoli though? Society doesn’t give us any message about them. You either like em or you don’t. I happen to like both. Regardless, should we use behavioral therapy to change our preferences, even if we could?

    Lastly, there is a difference between someone who has been with their mate for 40 years and naturally grows old with them, and someone who is in their 20’s and their partner puts on 40 or 50 lbs. While virtually anyone would agree it would be shallow to leave someone in the former situation, it’s much less clear cut in the second scenario. Indeed, what if they are not even married yet? What if they have just been dating 3 years?

    I kind of sounds like you are suggesting that we are not allowed to determine the things that are important to us in a relationship. You seem to be supported the idea that only one standard of criteria be used, and you accuse people of being shallow if they don’t use it.

    Kind of narrow minded, isn’t it?

  28. e says:

    PS

    I had no idea this was a fat acceptance blog.

    I agree whole heartedly that our culture puts way too much emphasis on thinness. I’m also in agreement that universal self acceptance (an idea advocated by Albert Ellis) is vitally important. I accept myself fully, even though there are some things about myself I would like to change. Accepting myself doesn’t mean I’m not going to work on changing them.

    I just object to this idea that we should all be forced to live our life according to the same set of values. A persons values and preferences are to be determined by them alone. It’s not right to insist on one set of universal values for all of us. That would make the world a boring place.

    Fortunately there are lots of people with lots of different values, though admittedly society does it’s best to provide us with some (money, looks, etc…). It’s good to question societies values (some of us will find them to our liking, and others won’t), but let people decide for themselves.

  29. Gerardo says:

    hi, very interesting articles, because I am living some similar.
    My wife is getting fat, she does not dress nice.
    When we go to a social meeting, she is the ugliest,
    even her mother, which is 60 year plus, looks more attractive than her.
    My wife does not dress like a woman, she does not fix herself properly. When we are at a family meeting,
    I am attracted more to my mother in law, or my syster in law than her. I am even considering to have sex with somebody else.
    I am getting crazy, because she is a quite person, she suffers bipolar disorder.
    We almost do not have sex at all, and since I am a ship’s captain, I do not mind very much, I can find my way when I am on board.
    It is very sad, because I am very home oriented person, but I feel she does not care about health or appearance.
    I am very fit, i exercise regularly, I maintain my weight,
    I do everyting I can to stay fit and healthy.
    What can I do about it?
    I have spoken to her, and she does not mind, she kept eating only fast unhealthy food.
    She think that sexual intercourse is about love, and we all know for the man is mostly about pysical attraction.,
    Does anybody live similar situtation?

  30. Evan says:

    I read most of the blogs here and no one mentioned the following: when someone meets someone the first thing they see is the persons looks. Then they see their personality. If a man or woman is attracted to a certain body type, that is the type of person they will most likely marry because this is the person they are going to be having sex with the rest of their lives. If you marry a fat person because its one of the qualities that attracts you sexually To that person then you have nothing to complain about if they get fatter people who see attracted to thin and or physically fit people see going to marry someone with that appearance because that is what turns them on Obviously if that person gains s weight that they no longer resemble they person they married how see they supposed to be physically attracted to them?

  31. Evan says:

    Wow sorry about the typos. I was on a hurry. Basically I was saying that people are attracted to certain body types. Some don’t care. Sexual attraction is separate from other attractions like personality or humor or kindness. We are also attracted to our spouses for those reasons, just not sexually. Although it adds to the sexuality. If I like big fat woman I would have married one. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with big blobs of fat hanging off of a persons body. It just doesn’t do anything for me sexually. All these commentaries failed to bring up this one simple point.

  32. Vince Cullen says:

    Think the ladies are mixing up love and lust (sex). It is not necessary for example to be in love with someone to have “good” sex. Being in love might though make that “good” sex even better. I am sure that many of the ladies who are commenting here have infact experienced “good” sex with someone that they didn’t actually love. I am one of those men that are currently experiencing the same thing with my own wife. I do kiss, cuddle and hold hands – but the sexual attraction thing just ain’t there. I do love here and would die for her – but when it comes to sex I am afraid she does nothing for me. Why? Because like Evan says I am not attracted nor have I ever been attracted sexually to obese women. I do feel for her and wish that I could do something about it.

  33. May says:

    I have never been “thin” but when I met my husband (who is thin and athletic) I was a size 8/10 US and fit, as I exercised regularly and ate healthy, organic, low-fat foods etc.

    About 6 months into our relationship I injured my back and was in such intense pain that exercise of any kind was impossible. It was hard just to get through a day at work, let alone do shopping and cooking…we started ordering take out a lot and by the time he and I married, I had gain close to 40 pounds.

    I *know* that he is more attracted to fit women, however, he never made me feel guilty for gaining weight. He was supportive with helping out at home and with cooking healthy meals and doing some of the shopping.

    Sex never tapered off for us but I didn’t enjoy it as much because I was always afraid he’d touch me in the wrong place and feel my flab and I never wanted him to see me naked. I basically let myself go in other ways too, like daily showers and dressing nicely. The clothes I had to wear as I gained weight were sack-ish and unflattering. I quit wearing make-up or doing my hair or wearing jewelry like I used to do when we were dating.

    At some point it occurred to me that if I expect my husband to not sleep with any other woman for the rest of his life, then I have some responsibility to make that woman (i.e. myself) as attractive as possible, starting with where I was at right then.

    I bought some nice plus-sized outfits, started wearing a body slimmer under my clothes, got some sexy plus sized lingerie and proceeded to fix my hair and make-up and wear jewelry and all of that again. Plus, I tried to act more confident and flirty with him again. Even though at that point I’d lost ZERO pounds, my husband responded very favorably to my efforts.

    That encouraged me to take more steps, to eat slightly less, to incorporate more gentle exercise into my day (after 2 1/2 years I still have a lot of back pain) and slowly I have lost about 25 pounds. My husband has been incredibly supportive. I wrote him a letter telling me how he could help me…things like “do compliment me when I make an effort to look nice” “don’t mention my weight loss in front of others” “don’t ask me if I should be eating something not on my plan” etc. I made it easy for him to know how to help me.

    I still have 30 pounds to lose to get to my ideal body weight but I’m not waiting for that magical date or number to start living my life. I try to enjoy everyday right now. I try to be the best wife and mom I can be. I love my husband enough to want him to have a wife he finds sexy and proud to have on his arm. I am losing this weight for me but also for him. I was on the wrong path and my habits were totally unhealthy and even selfish. My health and mobility as I age will affect his retirement options after all (we have a dream of sailing the world together after retirement)…that won’t happen if I’m suffering from diabetes or stroke!

    So, while I think there is no excuse for shaming a woman or man about their weight, I think it is realistic that a partner has a stake in the shape and physical well-being of their lifetime partner…at least if they plan to keep them as their lifetime partner.

  34. Lori says:

    May:
    That is a fantastic, inspiring post. You are a person that is self-aware and has the gumption to make difficult changes. What a lucky husband you have. If anyone had an excuse to not do anything it would be you (I sympathize with the chronic pain) and I love the fact that you’re not waiting for the magical number on the scale to start living your life. I hope you get everything you’re striving for!

  35. I have the same issue as the writer. I deeply love my wife with every fiber of my being…how ever men are not turned on by emotion and “feelings”. I have been honest about how her appearance affect me but she doesn’t think that she is out of shape (go figure).
    We’ve been married for 12yrs. and she has let her self go in the last 4 yrs. Sex has gone from at least once a day to maybe once every few months due to her appearance.
    It is obvious that the people who’s responses navigate around having the guy focus on the positives of his wife to get him sexually aroused are women.
    Plain and simple – men are visual creatures…if there’s nothing physically appealing to watch, we can’t/won’t get turned on.
    My love has kept me faithful over the years but it is becoming a harder battle daily.
    If anyone has a good answer…I’m all ears.

  36. P.S.
    have the ladies on this blog even taken the time to understand how men were created/designed ?
    Men and women are pre-programmed by genetics to serve different purposes.- Men to protect and women to reproduce (among other things). that’s y men have muscles and women maternal instincts.
    The male sexual organ is directly controlled by physical/visual stimulation, where as women are by physical/emotional.
    So regardless of how women “feel” about this topic, if you are not visually appealing to a man, sex is going to be a problem… regardless if he deeply loves you or how he feels about you.
    Different guys like different physical characteristics. So although a guy might flirt with you in your present appearance, that doesn’t mean your husband is mean or a pig or shallow or any other term you could conjure up to make you feel better about the situation and turn the attention away from your unwanted change in physical appearance.

  37. e-head says:

    I think the common cliche of “dark and mysterious” cultural forces shaping all our goals, values, and preferences is a bit overplayed nowadays. It’s one thing to use this theme to garnish sympathy and diffuse some of the particularly egregious hate speech, but it is another to demand universal adherence to some specific value scheme, or to try and coerce everyone’s preferences into a narrow box.

    Of course past experiences come into play, but they must wrestle with millions of years of evolution (we are definitely NOT blank slates, and I urge you to read Steven Pinker if you think otherwise), and they also must wrestle with that mysterious thing called free will (or at least however much of the concept can be salvaged and/or reinterpreted). Yes, we must ultimately concede this idea of the individual, even it’s a hard task detangling the ultimate source of our motivations and preferences.

    Perhaps cultural forces are at work, but who is to say they must be nefarious or misleading? After all, cultural forces were at work in bringing us ideas like democracy and writing. So, whether the source be biology or culture, the issue at hand must ultimately be analyzed on it’s own terms.

    I may have reasons for preferring fit, active women. Or intelligent women, or wealthy women, or skinny women. I am free to value the things I do, and have the preferences I have. Any attempt to wash out all my values and preferences in the cause of political correctness, and try and create an environment where everything is as good as everything else, would leave me completely unable to decide what to pursue, and what course of action to take. I would then act entirely on randomness, I suppose, or perhaps not act at all.

    Any universal value scale you come up with will suffer this problem, which is why there is no universal value scale. If you make intelligence or humor your scale, then you are marginalizing the less intelligent and the less clever, respectively.

    The answer isn’t to enforce your preferences on others, but to create an atmosphere where preferences are respected.

  38. Michael says:

    On the whole, the foregoing discussion has been intelligent and civil, which is both rare and encouraging. I’ve decided to contribute in the expectation that I might gain some valuable perspective and advice.
    1. I acknowledge that I have a strong preference for women whose figures reflect the prevailing cultural (and commercial) ideal in Western post-industrial societies. In part this owes to the relentless ‘selling’ of that ideal, in part to my need to compensate for my long-standing self-perception of unattractiveness. Since the time of my first girlfriend, when I was 16, I have not been attracted to women whose body-types might be described as ‘average’ or ‘normal’. I regret this, as I consider it a moral failing on my part.
    2. I have been married for almost 20 years. I am now nearly 60; my wife is in her early fifties. When I married, at the age of 39, I thought I had matured enough to be happy with a woman whose figure, though attractive, was not ‘model-like’. In truth, for a few years I enjoyed our physical relations.
    3. In retrospect, I believe that several factors contributed to my progressive loss of sexual interest in her:
    First, pregnancy was very hard on her, especially the second one, which occurred two years after the birth of our first child. Her weight grew from about 130 lbs to about 160. Twelve years later, she weighs nearly 190, in part because of a difficult case of hypothyroidism, in part because to the concomitant inability to exercise. Her weight is also mal-distributed, not evenly dispersed but concentrated heavily in her belly.
    Second, I realised some years ago that I had married her on the rebound from the break-up with the woman who I believe would have proved most compatible with me. Although I never lost my desire for that woman, I married my wife because I thought I had matured enough not to require an ideal body type, and also because I was getting older and feared missing out on the opportunity to start a family.
    Third, two sources of stress came to bear on our relationship. One was the struggle to maintain a standard of living we both believed essential for providing adequately for our children. The second was a profound difference in our approaches to raising children that stemmed from our own very different experiences as children. Despite much discussion, neither of us was willing to compromise our deepest convictions in this matter. The resulting stress widened the divide between us. It also added, I believe, to her gain in weight.
    Fourth, I did not realize how deeply-rooted was my tendency to ‘retreat into my cave’, to ‘go silent’ in the face of stressful problems. I failed to see the devastating effect on my wife of my ‘inward turn’. Like most women, she craved communication and reassurance, both verbal and non-verbal. My lack of self-knowledge and willpower wrought damage I came to see clearly far too late.
    Fifth, deepening regret over failures and missed opportunities in the years before I turned 50 has made it difficult to retain much hope for the future and has made me world-weary and sad. Only sexual love seems a palliative adequate to the task of reaffirming life and banishing, if only temporarily, the lengthening shadows.
    4. I feel I owe my wife much gratitude for our children. I owe her much appreciation for the ways in which and the degree to which she has been both a good mother and a good wife. And I owe her follow-through on the solemn promise I made to care for her ‘for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’; etc. I want to make good on these obligations.
    5. I know as well that ‘finding someone else’ is largely an illusion. I never was as attractive a man as she was a woman, and age has only made matters worse. Nor do I enjoy the prosperity or power that might render me attractive to a woman despite my lack of physical appeal. Simple self-interest tells me that I am unlikely to find anyone else who will stand by me and care for me in my (rapidly-advancing) old age.
    6. My wife does not believe that I love her, because I do not demonstrate it verbally and physically. It is true that I am not ‘in love’ with her, do not feel passion toward her. But I care for her deeply. She is my best friend, my constant companion, the mother of my children, my partner in life. But this is not enough, for either one of us.
    7. Clearly, the right thing to do, and the only feasible practical course, is to learn to be affectionate, and at least occasionally sexual, with my wife. Perhaps it is possible to learn this. If so, it will come against what seem great odds.
    8. I know what I must do. Perhaps I write for encouragement, perhaps for understanding—or maybe to solicit pity and excuses; most likely, out of a simple need to make the pain audible, and thereby more manageable.


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