What to Do If You Think You Have a "Fat" Wife

Is it okay to want your wife to lose weight?

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Have you ever complained that you have a fat wife? Sadly, it's not unusual for a husband to complain about his wife's body. You may hear a husband say that his wife got fat after marriage and that he wishes she would slim down. Or that his wife is fat and there's nothing he can do about it.

Of course, husbands are not the only ones to comment. But it's a complaint that is more common among men than women.

So is it possible to help your wife lose weight?  Or is weight loss even a reasonable expectation? Before you decide what to do, consider your options and the different ways in which your wishes may affect your long-term commitment.

Should Your Wife Lose Weight for the Marriage?

There is a common belief that you should never lose weight (or make any physical change) to make other people happy. But that simple response may not tell the whole story in the case of a committed relationship. Husbands and wives often make changes for the sake of their marriage.

For example, your wife's weight gain might mean that you spend less time together or feel less connected. For example, if two people built a relationship around participation in physical activities and the husband or wife can no longer participate, the quality of the relationship may suffer. In that case, both partners may choose to find another bonding activity or the overweight partner could choose to trim down.

You might also be concerned about your husband or wife's medical health. A well-intentioned spouse may ask their partner to lose weight simply over concern for their longevity and well-being. If a spouse is willing to lose weight, it may be an opportunity for both partners to adopt new health, exercise and eating habits.

Is Your Husband or Overweight Wife Less Attractive?

You might feel that your wife has become less attractive because of her weight. Or maybe your husband doesn't look as fit as he did on his wedding day. So is it reasonable to ask them to change? You may be surprised to hear what some experts believe.

Dr. Mike Abrams, a board certified clinical psychologist and psychology professor at New York University says that it can be appropriate to lose weight when there is a significant disparity in the size of the spouses.

Dr. Abrams authored a book called The Art and Science of Rational Eating, which explores weight loss topics including body image and body acceptance. He says, “When one person becomes heavier, it changes the balance of relative attractiveness.” Relative attractiveness describes how partners feel they compare to each other in terms of physical appearance. Abrams says that all relationships are based on this measure to some extent.

The other sad truth, says Abrams, is that even when people are in committed relationships, they are “looking to upgrade.” It is part of our nature to see other potential mates and to imagine how we measure up or would pair up with different candidates.

Abrams discusses how this difficult truth can play out when there has been a significant change in one partner's appearance.

“When you change the attractiveneness balance in a relationship, you encourage your mate to look for that upgrade more zestfully, and at the same time you diminish your own ability to upgrade.”

Of course, just because your husband or wife is overweight does not mean that they are unattractive, nor does it justify an upgrade. But any change in appearance has the potential to change the way each partner views the other partner’s physical attractiveneness.

Should You Ask Your Wife to Lose Weight?

What do you do if you want your wife to lose weight and she is resistant? Or what if you are the wife and your husband wants you slim down? Abrams says that asking for a partner to lose weight is no different than asking them for any other significant physical change like a body piercing or plastic surgery. It adds conditionality to the relationship.

In a relationship, conditionality adds an implied "if" to the connection between partners. For example, if you want your partner to lose weight in order to be more attractive, the implied conditional statement is: I'll be more attracted to you if you lose weight. That kind of statement, implied or not, can add undue pressure to the overweight spouse.

Abrams suggests that if you are the overweight wife or husband and you don't want to lose weight, you can ask your spouse to wait until you are ready to make the change on your own. He also suggests that you offer an offset.

An offset may involve investigating whether or not the request for weight loss is really about weight. In some cases, it may be about something different, like your ability to participate in physical activities. Abrams suggests asking the following questions: Is this all you are really unhappy about? Are there other things we can work on in the relationship?

The Power of "Fat Wife" Complaints

When a friend or acquaintance makes a derogatory remark about your weight, it's bad enough. But when those comments come from a spouse, the harmful effects can be devastating. Even when the comments are framed as humor, remarks about body size cause shame and humiliation and they are never effective for getting someone to lose weight. For many women, and men, use of the word "fat" is demeaning.

Dr. Abrams suggests that both partners must explore the anger and hostility behind the comments. It is essential, he says, to find out why there is a desire to humiliate a loved one. In some cases, this conversation can happen with the help of a counselor or marriage therapist.

All marriages go through changes and struggles. If a change in your size or your wife's size has become the source of one of those struggles, communicate with your partner and take the time to make a decision that is right for you and right for your relationship. If your husband or wife chooses to slim down, support him or her by making healthy changes in the home and in your own life so that you can move into a healthier life together. 

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