Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s Gotten Fat”

I have been dating my first serious boyfriend for five months now. He has always been a bit on the chubby side, but in no way overweight. At first it bothered me a little bit but I didn’t make a big deal about it, but he gained even more weight since we started dating, in part because his gym membership expired and then he was so busy he stopped going for a while. I am starting to lose my sexual attraction to him, and I almost never orgasm (which might be normal because he is my first?). He started to go to the gym again and is being careful with what he eats, but he eats out a lot and drinks a lot of beer when we go out. I have talked to him about his weight, but mostly by joking around about it. I know that his weight bothers him, and he knows that it bothers me. I love my boyfriend to death and would not trade him for Tom Brady, but this situation is really starting to affect me. I tried to subtly tell him that it affects my sexual attraction to him, but whenever I try to bring up the subject I can see that it really hurts him, and hurting him is the last thing I want to do. Our relationship is perfect in every way, except for this. What should I do? — Weight-Watcher

I’m going to get grief for this advice and surely someone will call it a sexist double standard, but the truth is I’d be telling you the same thing regardless of your gender: Subtlety obviously isn’t working and neither is “joking around” about it, so confront your boyfriend directly and tell him that although you love him, his recent weight gain is turning you off sexually and if he wants to commit to a long-term relationship with you, he needs to commit to caring for his body. A happy, healthy relationship includes a good sex life and if your sex life has been dwindling since your boyfriend put on weight, it’s fair to ask him to work at keeping in shape so you can be turned on and satisfied in the sack. Yeah, it’s going to hurt him hearing what you have to say, but isn’t it hurtful to you that he doesn’t seem to care enough about your sexual satisfaction to make staying in shape a priority?

He presented himself one way when you met and just five months later, he looks different. Yes, we’re all going to age eventually and you can’t expect him to stay in shape and look the same forever, but you don’t have to accept that he’s in such a mad rush to let himself go. If, however, you were never really attracted to him in the first place — you say he was chubby when you first met and it “bothered you a little” — it’s not really fair to suddenly put expectations on him he never gave you reason to have. Encourage a healthy lifestyle: work out and cook together. But if your boyfriend continues to let himself go and you remain sexually unattracted to and unfulfilled by him, it might be time to let yourself go … away from him.

I have been married for two and a half years, during which we have had a huge struggle with all the bad luck that has been forced on us (no jobs, money woes, etc.), but we still love each other. Here’s the thing: My husband never wants to have sex. We fall into a pattern of where we have sex, we enjoy it — or at least he tells me he does — and he says we should do it more often. Then a week passes. Then two. Then I start to complain that we haven’t had sex, and he says that if I didn’t whine we would. But if I don’t say anything, we won’t do it! He has said on several occasions that he doesn’t want to be married — not just to me, but to anybody. I have started to suspect that he might be asexual, as he has said that in previous relationships he never really had a desire to have sex. But when we were dating and first married, we had such a great sex life, and this was my expectation. He’s in therapy, but if this continues, I’m not even sure that staying married is an option for me, as I feel that sex is an important part of marriage. What should I do? — Wants to be Wanted

If you once had a great and active sex life, it’s unlikely your husband is “asexual.” The lack of desire both now and in his previous relationship is probably a result of stress and depression. I don’t know the details of his last relationship, but if he’s out of work now and you have “money woes,” he’s probably depressed he’s not providing for you. Being able to provide for a family is a big part of a man’s confidence and if his confidence is affected, you better believe he’s not feeling terribly sexy. On top of that, he has you complaining every week about how he’s letting you down in the bedroom too, so it’s no wonder he’s saying he doesn’t want to be married. For him, being married means constantly disappointing someone else.

So, here’s what you do: Instead of focusing on what he’s doing wrong — not screwing you enough — focus on what he’s doing right. Help build up his confidence. Remind him of why you fell for him in the first place and what you continue to love about him. As women, we take men’s interest in sex for granted. And when that interest slows down or stops completely, we blame ourselves.

Try not to take his lack of desire for sex personally. It’s not that he doesn’t want to have sex with you; it’s that HE doesn’t feel terribly desirable. Focus on ways you can help him with that (hint: complaining and whining don’t work, but a sensual massage or strip-tease might). It’s great that he’s already in therapy, but have you considered couples therapy, too? It would really help you get to the real issues. The lack of sex is a symptom of something else and I don’t believe for a minute that something else is as simple — or as irrevocable — as “asexuality.” There’s something else going on and it’s going to take both of you committing to saving your marriage to fix it.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]