Critical Mass

Posted on August 6, 2020


One of the tricky points of conflict to handle is when one partner is distressed about the other’s weight (that is, when one is critical of the other’s mass).  It is even a thorny issue to write about.  I will try to do it justice in 1000 words or less.

First, you can’t control your partner.  If you try to control your partner, you will just make yourself crazy and your partner resentful.

Second, hopefully you fell in love with your partner and not just his/her body.  Your protests about your partner’s weight is likely to land as “I only love you if your weight is less than or equal to…”

Third, no matter how well you maintain yourselves, eventually time will take its toll anyway.  You might look like Barbie and Ken when you get married, but 30 years later you won’t.  Fortunately, great sex is actually about intimacy, connection, and mutual pleasure which means you don’t have to look like Barbie and Ken to have a great sex life.

Fourth, your protests may have the opposite result you were hoping for.  If your partner uses food for comfort for feelings of not being loved or good enough, your protests will only increase that need for comfort.

Fifth, there is a sense in which we are all doing the best we can.  Exercise and diet play a big role here, but so do genetics.  It’s not an even playing field.  Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s easy for your mate.

My colleague, Trina Nash, used to talk about us each having a metaphoric hula hoop surrrounding us with all of the things we control within our hula hoop.  You have control of and responsibility for the things within your hula hoop.  Your partner also has their own hula hoop with the things they control and for which they are responsible.  You can’t control what’s in someone else’s hula hoop.  In fact, you can only speak into someone else’s hula hoop to the extent the relationship will bear it.  Your partner’s weight, exercise, and eating habits are not within your hula hoop.  At most you can make requests or suggestions or express concerns if it is at the point of having health implications.

Having said all of that, there are several arguments in favor of taking care of one’s appearance (part of that being watching one’s weight) after you are married.

First, maintaining your appearance (with watching your weight being part of that) may be one of the ways you show love and appreciation for your partner.  Essentially, wanting to send the message that “I still want to look good for you.”

Second, it can have a positive impact on how you see yourself.  It’s nice to feel like “you’ve still got it.”

Third, it really is better for your health.  If part of self-care is carving out some time for regular exercise, it has positive impact on brain chemistry, energy when you are awake, and better rest when you sleep.

Fourth, it feels good to feel attractive to your partner.  There is also something attractive about a partner who feels good about himself/herself.

The bottom line is that if you are concerned about your partner’s weight gain, it probably falls under “God grant me the serenity to accept with grace the things I can’t control.”  When you took your wedding vows, there probably wasn’t an escape clause regarding your partner’s mass.  The job you signed on for was to love your partner.