I finally laid all the cards on the table with my wife
I wanted you to know that I did it – I finally laid all the cards on the table with my wife. It was a hard conversation to have, but it was also well worth it. I’m happy to report that she’s willing to lose weight to help get our relationship back on track. I did exactly what I promised myself that I’d do – I tried to be as nice as I could while making it perfectly clear that I wasn’t going to survive this marriage if things didn’t change. We’ve been together long enough for her to know that I wasn’t just “crying wolf.” I was sick to my stomach having this conversation, and I think she knew that. The clearest message that I gave her was that it was mandatory for me to be attracted to the person I married. Maybe it’s not for everyone in the world, but it is for me. Even more importantly, I’ve learned that my actions toward her are based on the anger I’ve been experiencing. For example, I know she has a few mandatory needs as well, such as affection, warmth, etc. But I’ve been withholding those things from her as my way of punishing her or “getting even” since my mindset was that she’s been doing this to me deliberately. I think that means whether some of this was subconscious or not, we’ve been both been disrespectful toward one another to a degree. The dynamic has been something like, “Fine, you won’t do this for me, then I won’t do that for you.” It’s totally unproductive and stupid, and I’ve known that all along, but I couldn’t help myself since I never saw any improvements on her end (and vice versa). With that in mind, I was sure to tell her that we can take this type of dynamic and make it work for us rather than against us. In other words, if you lose weight and give me the things that I want, I’ll give you the affection and warmth and anything else you want too. For me, all of those things will very easily fall into place if I’m attracted to her. So everybody wins.
I learned a few things from her during this conversation as well, and I’d like to share them here. I’ve been so caught up in my own head about how I feel that I’ve rarely explored it from her side. A lot of that was also due to the hostility, but also because I was making a lot of assumptions about her strictly because we stopped communicating about this subject a long time ago. Here they are: 1) She told me that food is not more important than me. It might appear that way from where I stand, but she said it’s untrue. 2) She doesn’t enjoy overeating as much as I thought she did. Her exact words were, “It’s not very fun for me if that makes you feel any better.” Deep down I knew that, but day-to-day, on the surface, I chose to believe that she was enjoying the hell out of it since she never stopped doing it. 3) She enjoyed being thin, having muscles, being strong, and being able to shop in any store she wanted for cute clothes. She enjoyed the compliments from everyone, most especially from me. 4) Here’s the most important thing she said about overeating: she’s doing it most of the time because she’s sad. She’s trying to fill a hole with food when what she really wants is my attention. The irony here is that I succeeded in my attempts to punish her by not providing any attention. She felt punished, alright, but the reality is that her reaction to my punishments was not what I hoped. Instead, I just gave her more incentive to keep it up and make things worse. 5) She did admit that a smaller part of it is that it’s easier to just maintain a status quo attitude because we’re so busy with little kids and two jobs. But it sounded to me that this was a much lesser cause of the problem. She totally understands that attitude is everything. After all, she used to be thin, so she knows what it takes. She even said that when she was thin before that it was actually somewhat “easy” because her mind was made up to be that way. I promised that I would hold up my end of the bargain as long as she held up hers. This means that even right now, despite the weight, I need to show her affection and look past it. We’re probably looking at a minimum of 90 days before any real improvements are seen, and a good 3 or 4 months after that before she’s actually looking like a new person. And fair is fair – I’m willing to do anything and provide any incentive. She’s already more attractive to me simply because she’s willing to make the effort. We’ve already discussed several fun ideas for us to do each week once the kids are in bed. We haven’t been a “couple” for SO long, and for the first time in years, I’m actually excited about spending alone time with her. Even just small things like reading a book together (books are her favorite thing in the world) and discussing it. I’m not a fan of literature for the most part and she knows that, so that’s my way of proving that I’m more than willing to do whatever it takes. It’s stuff like this that’s going to fill the void she’s experiencing. She said that she would never think that I wasn’t worth it, but understood that I was prepared for the worst and willing to follow through had she not felt that way. Here’s something else interesting that may be helpful: all of my attempts to punish her with my moody behavior, etc. – she didn’t make the connection that this was all being done because of her weight. She thought it was for various other reasons like work, or just because I’m in a bad mood a lot of the time. I don’t think she would lie to me about this. Now that she knows that my lack of affection and moodiness toward her are a direct result of her weight, it’s even more incentive for her to turn this around because she knows why I’m doing it. And she knows that if she wants those things from me, there’s a way to get them. I told her that there’s so little I’d change about her, but this one thing is unfortunately a deal breaker for me because it’s ruining everything else. She finally understands that this is not just a minor annoyance for me. I said something like, “I’m not trying to control you. You’re free to do whatever you want – just know that one of those choices will cost you this relationship.” She said she would never have told me that I wasn’t worth it, and I believe her. She’s looking into several options for getting back into shape – she even brought home an exercise DVD last night. I told her it was up to her how she wants to do this. She knows what it takes, so she doesn’t need me telling her how to approach it. This also includes me not monitoring her food intake, or giving her disapproving looks if she chooses to eat a certain meal or snack. I trust her to know that she knows what to do, and for all I know, maybe she chose a candy bar instead of eating dinner that night or whatever. Sure, not the healthiest thing a person could do, but the point is that she needs to do this however it works best for HER. I feel so much better (already!) and for the first time in years (YEARS!!) I’m not sitting here angry wanting to beat my head against the wall. I’m really excited about being back in a real relationship with no disconnects. And a relationship that exists outside of our children, no less! It really makes me feel that communication is the key more than any other factor. Of all the posts I’ve read on this site and others, the biggest problem seems to be that there needs to be a major reality check. And I mean major – not nagging, not gentle reminders, not even simple talking – it needs to be do or die, essentially. Easier said than done, believe me. I lingered in this limbo area for a long time, and now I know why – I was afraid I wasn’t going to get the answer I wanted. Many of us, whether the problem is an overweight spouse, or an alcoholic, or someone suffering from depression, etc. feel it’s easier to coast along rather than take the biggest risk of all, and that’s be true to your feelings and lay your cards on the table. One final note: I can’t stress enough how crucial it is for you to determine how destructive you think overeating and having a fat spouse is in your relationship. Like I said, it took me a while to honestly know that it was too much for me to bear. It was only then that I felt prepared for the worst if she decided that I was asking too much of her. All I’m saying is that if you know deep down you can’t live with it, then you need to get this over with one way or another. It’s either meant to be or it’s not, but either way, you’ll have your answer. I also want to thank everyone I’ve shared thoughts and ideas with because every little bit helped me to get to this point. I plan to share my wife’s progress (and my own emotional progress!) with you as things move forward. It would be great to be a success story, and I hope we will be. Mike