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David Eddie
David Eddie

DAMAGE CONTROL

My wife has gained weight, and if things don't change I'll want a divorce Add to ...

The question

I’ve been together with my wife for nine years, married just over three. She was a soccer player, very fit, and exactly what I wanted from a wife so I stuck with her. But she gained 80 pounds about two years into our relationship. I always saw her working it out and getting back to her old self. Instead, she has regressed further, both physically and personality-wise, whereas I am very driven and active and want to experience all I can in life. I’m at the point where if she doesn’t take things seriously soon, I’ll want a divorce. Is this wrong of me to want a deeper connection and attraction? I’ve given so much time to waiting without result.

The answer

It’s funny: We live in a culture where this is a taboo topic. It’s “fat shaming,” we should all be happy with our bodies the way they are, and so on.

And to be honest, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with this question if the sexes were reversed and it was a wife complaining about a husband.

Also, I’d love to drop bromides like: These considerations shouldn’t matter, it’s the love and spiritual connection that counts, the main thing is communication and whether you’re soulmates.

But I just can’t. Time and experience and everyone I talk to and everything I’ve read indicate otherwise.

Google “my spouse got fat.” Hundreds of online forums pop up. You tend to hear more from the women, and the common thread is along the lines of: “I love my husband, he has a great personality, but he’s become a tubby hubby and refuses to do anything about it. Now I’m finding I’m not attracted to him and thinking of leaving him. What do I do?”

It’s been a problem for me, too, I won’t lie. My wife loves me, we’re soulmates, but I’ve always wrestled with my weight. And I know my wife has wrestled with it (my weight) too.

Time passes and wrinkles and grey hair happen to everyone, but she has the right to a reasonable facsimile of the hot guy she married.

Or at least someone who’s trying. And I do: I go to the gym (I live across the street from one, so I really have no excuse), watch what I eat. I fight the fight. If I decided just to pull the ripcord and let myself go, I think you’d have to stick a fork in her, because she’d be done.

(Cyril Connolly famously said: “Imprisoned in every fat man, a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.” But Kingsley Amis was truer and funnier, I think: “Outside every fat man is an even fatter one trying to close in.”)

Which leads me to your question. Two words jump out: “regressed” and “divorced.”

Are you sure it’s not a medical or psychological issue? If so, she should see a shrink or a doctor prontissimo.

If not – well, it’s unclear if you’re communicating your concerns, or the gravity of your concerns, but if you aren’t you should start to do so immediately.

But you have to do it gently, tactfully. Gaining weight can be a vicious cycle: you get fatter, you get depressed about it, gain more weight, etc.

You have to help her, not hurt her. It’s a fine line between insulting and “fat shaming” a person and making them even more depressed and self-conscious, and encouraging and praising them into getting their old self/mojo back. It takes delicacy and diplomacy. Show her you care.

Meanwhile: Have you taken a long look at the man in the mirror and asked if he really loves his wife? It was interesting, I thought, you mentioned she was fit and a soccer player and “everything you wanted in a wife,” but not one word about her personality or loving her or being soulmates. Could you have gotten married for the wrong reasons? If so, the sooner you open the Yellow Pages to “Lawyers – Divorce” the better, so she’s still got time to find someone who really loves her.

If you can honestly say you love her, then realize: These things go in cycles. According to my calculations, in your eyes she’s been overweight for seven years – a long time, but not that long, really. If you love her, give her more time to get her old self/mojo back.

Encourage her. Praise her efforts. Maybe keep healthier food around the house, and suggest you exercise together – even if it’s just something mellow, especially at first, like going for a walk together.

But ultimately motivation has to come from within. She has to want it herself. No amount of hassling or browbeating or encouragement or praise is going to change that.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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