Love dilemmas abound, and here, in our second installment of a weekly advice column, a TODAY.com panel answers questions from a reader dealing with a weighy relationship issue. Have your own question? Submit it here.
First, let’s introduce our panelists:
The wise grandma: Kitty Schindler
At age 87, retired nurse Kitty Schindler is TODAY.com’s oldest regular contributor. One of 10 children raised by a Pennsylvania coal miner during the Depression, she offers advice from the perspective of a successful long-term relationship — a 61-year marriage.
The relationship expert: Dr. Gilda Carle
Dr. Gilda Carle at is an internationally known psychotherapist and relationship expert. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist. She is also author of 15 books, including "Don't Bet on the Prince!"
The sex therapist: Ian Kerner
Ian Kerner, Ph.D, is a reknown sex therapist and author of "She Comes First" and "Love in the Time of Colic." Ian's journey to counseling grew out of his own personal battle with sexual dysfunction and his desire to help others.
Q: When I first met my husband we were both fit and active. Since then marriage and kids have taken a toll on both of our bodies. I have maintained a slightly overweight body weight for over five years now (since the birth of our daughter), but my husband has been steadily gaining weight for the last five years as well. He is now well over 300 pounds on a 6-foot frame. Aside from the health problems, it has also taken a huge toll on our sex life. I find that I am just not attracted to his current body type. Even though I am slightly overweight, is it fair for me to hold his weight against our sex life? He says that he loves me the way that I am, and wished I did the same for him. I am also concerned about the example we are setting for our daughter. We both have a desire to lose weight and get healthier, but have no idea where to begin. — Rachelle
Kitty says: Good health is necessary for good sex and obesity can be a real turn-off. Face the fact that inactivity and dangerous weight gain (especially your husband's) are your main problem. On TV, in magazines and online, we're bombarded with good information about how to get and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Pay attention and decide which kind of program is for you. Once you make the decision to do something, I'm betting your husband will be inspired too. The bottom line is that losing weight and getting more active require determination and will power. It helps if you have a partner on that journey, so why not enlist your husband?
Put your health (and your husband's) first: That's setting a great example for your children. And when you and your husband share this challenge — and its rewards — that will lead to greater intimacy between you. And to great sex!
More about relationships
Dr. Gilda says: As is the case of many long marrieds, the two of you have gotten into some sloppy physical habits. When you were singles seeking a mate, you knew you needed to maintain your appeal. But after marriage, your “I do” was followed by “I don’t”, as in “I don’t have to care for my looks anymore because I already snatched my catch.” Girlfriend, this is skewed thinking. Caring about yourself has to be a selfish act. Yes, it’s selfish because it necessitates self-love. Unfortunately, when you look at your 300-pounder, you’re turned off not so much because you’re not attracted to his “current body type,” but because his current body type reflects your own out-of-condition sex appeal. And this reminder is painful.
But there’s good news! As my Gilda-Gram says, “If you had the heat once, you can always get it back.” Since you say the two of you were “fit and active” when you met, let’s return you to that point in time. Join a gym together, become each other’s supportive coaches, and make your workouts part of new and exciting marital goals.
Ian says: First of all, it’s really normal for married couples to gain weight together. This phenomenon is known as “synchronous eating” and in a recent study of 2,000 people aged between 16 and 55, a direct correlation was found between marriage and weight gain, whereas single people were likely to be slimmer. In terms of your sex life, I would encourage you to still make an effort to be intimate. In my experience, sex ruts can quickly undermine a marriage. Of course, you still need to feel a level of attraction, but sexual desire is about more than just the physical connection – it’s about an emotional connection, and having the sort of overall relationship that makes you want to have sex. Don’t let the emotional connection fall to the wayside. Know that the brain is the biggest sex organ and there are all sorts of ways to stimulate desire: you can share fantasies with each other, enjoy erotic materials together, even look through old photos that remind you of your former attraction. Also, it’s okay to turn off the lights and have sex in the dark. Once you get your fingers walking, your hands groping and your lips touching, I’ll wager that desire, gratification and a loving connection will soon follow.
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