“My Wife Got Fat”

I’ve heard it as an excuse for cheating. I’ve read it as an excuse for divorce. I understand the peculiarities of sexual attraction, but “my wife got fat” is not a Get Out of Jail Free card. Nor is gaining weight after marriage a simple topic to discuss.

This morning I was flipping through an ELLE Magazine, and came across an advice column in which a young woman bemoans the fact that her guy has gotten fat. Worse, she refers to him as “lazy and fat.”

The response she’s given?

To “take him as he is” and more or less, be grateful he’s a good guy.

So why were none of the health issues raised in this scenario? And why do I think if the genders were reversed, this curt counsel would be very different?

It’s worth mentioning that the young woman specifies that she’s successful, fit, and when the couple got together, he was in excellent shape. Now he spends his weekends and nights on the sofa, “drinking beer and watching TV.”

Men Are Visual, Women Are… Accepting?

The sad gal in need nonetheless describes her man as follows:

… intelligent, accomplished, emotionally mature, kind, loving, and funny.

They both have equally demanding jobs; she keeps in shape, yet he doesn’t.

Cue her complaints about reduced desire, and the advice columnist’s response which includes:

… I’m sick, sick, sick of women beating up on tubby guys… Take him as he is! Love him for himself! Grant him the freedom to live as he wants.

There’s more, but you get the gist. I will add there’s a clever suggestion that might incite some jealousy, kicking him off the couch and back into the gym.

I’m reminded of the “conventional wisdom” that when it comes to chemistry, men are visual and women are not. I disagree. Men may be, on average, more visual than women in this regard, but to say that we aren’t visual is a crock. That said, I believe both sexes are capable of getting beyond externals to the beauty inside – which doesn’t mean we want to be lying in bed with someone we no longer recognize.

Woman + Fat = Bad; Man + Fat = Non-Event

What strikes me in the columnist’s  advice is what I perceive as a double standard. Granted, “fat” is in the eye of the beholder, but who hasn’t heard it uttered or muttered that so-and-so packed on the pounds, which explains why her spouse turned his attentions elsewhere? And what about the comments we’ve all heard or read – that marital fat is cause for infidelity and divorce?

As for the whys and wherefores of women gaining weight after marriage, can’t we enumerate them with relative ease?

There’s childbirth, there’s stress, there’s eating poorly or lack of exercise when overloaded (hello, kids?) or – for psychological reasons. (Alas, some of us are more “suggestible” and susceptible to emotional eating.)

We also have health conditions, hormones, medications, the natural effects of aging and yes, getting a little too “comfortable” in the love nest as factors. All of these (except pregnancy) are potentially applicable to both genders.

I’m not advocating that anyone be flippant or callous when it comes to this subject. Body shape and weight fluctuations are a matter of heredity, age, lifestyle and other circumstances, and impact our sense of self-esteem enormously.

Shouldn’t we be concerned with health and well-being for either sex? Yet we cut the guy slack, and point a judgmental finger at the Missus if she’s unhappy with Mr. Big Belly. So why do we feel sorry for the man, and chide the woman in this situation?

And were she to act on a wandering eye, would we be so understanding if we heard: “My husband got fat?”

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  1. says

    Great questions.

    I wonder, too, how much a partner’s decrease in desire (due a partner’s weight increase) is directly related to that partner’s decrease in their own self confidence?

  2. says

    To me the “lazy” characterization is *much* worse (tellin?) than the “fat”. A good relationship requires constant care and feeding to be worthwhile.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      It’s interesting, Gandalfe… The columnist ignored the “lazy” part altogether – the fact that he’s on the couch in front of the television when he isn’t working… Maybe lazy isn’t exactly right either? Maybe the couch potato act indicates something else going on?

  3. Madelia says

    My weight was one of the excuses my ex used to get out of the house. I was too fat, too old, too unattractive to be seen with him in public. We didn’t match anymore, according to him. At the time, I was about 30 lbs over the weight at which he married me, and I carried it well, frankly, I can see from photos of the time. He admitted after we divorced it was all untrue, just something he told me so that I would get mad and he would be able to go see other women with a clear conscience.

    Normal behavior? Don’t think so.

  4. says

    Interesting comment above – I somehow thought ‘normal’ and ‘common’ were largely overlapping territory. Maybe men who do what Madelia’s ex did are a subset where it does? My first husband got fairly heavy during our marriage. I cooked regular meals! I stayed pretty slim mainly because my Mom was on my case if I wasn’t; she had standards for me, which I do appreciate. I internalized her standards for many years and I’ve been trying to remember how that all worked for a while now. (I remembered today, when offered a cookie with coffee – turn it down, you want to be thinner. Oh yeah, that’s how that worked.) My second husband was quite thin – for him – when we were married; he lost weight. Again, because I cooked regular meals and didn’t buy a lot of snack food. He probably looked as good as he ever had (and he was very proud of it) during our time together. Bill runs and cycles and walks long-distance. He can eat anything he wants (and does). I struggle with my weight now, not being prepared to work as hard as he does, but he enjoys all that stuff. In your first example where the man had all those lovely attributes but was heavier than when he married, personally I think his wife needs to grow up.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      The struggling with weight is common at this age, Shelley – which is something that I find I struggle with, as much as the ongoing battle. It isn’t about being thin so much as it is feeling comfortable/confident, and of course, healthy. But your point about your mother – and hearing our mothers’ voices in our heads (our entire lives?) is such a critical point. And critical, for all its meanings.

      I agree with you on your last remark, frankly – as long as he’s healthy, and there isn’t some other reason for the change in behavior (rather than weight) which needs discussing. But the drama is, some don’t see it the same way for a woman. How do we fix that, or will it not be fixable? The expectations on women that are unreasonable?

      So glad you stopped by… (Loving those posts with pics of Charlotte.)

  5. says

    All of my life I’ve struggled with this word. Seriously. Fatt is what it should be because then it would be a 4-letter word. I’ve never been fat, but I always thought I was, and it colored my entire life. I think it all began when an uncle called me something in jest, but it wasn’t a joke to me & it caused serious injury to my confidence. The striving for perfection has been a relentless quest for me because of this. If I had a husband I truly loved, aside from the health issues, I don’t think I would ever refer to his porking-out problem. Place more emphasis on getting out of the house together, doing active things, etc. Great perspectives here, BLW.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      If you haven’t already, Marsha, pop by this article. I think you’ll get it.

      You sure said it. Fat(t) should indeed be a four-letter word. We seem to torture our women, still, over appearance, shape, and concepts of perfection that are untenable for anyone. (I wonder what we’re torturing our men over, that we don’t fully realize?)

  6. says

    This is a verrrry charged subject for me. And Denise’s comment and your response hit the nail on the head. Thank you, as always, for bringing up subjects that are not always the easiest or most comfortable to deal with but yet are important to some of us…

  7. Curtis says

    Males and Females are tortured over appearance. I think the difference is the extent of the treatment and that men tend not to do this to other men (unlike women who can be quite hard on each other).

  8. says

    What is important is definitely the underlying cause in a partner’s drastically changed appearance, and we should care, whether our partner is a man or woman. I haven’t gotten fat (yet?), but it bothers my husband a great deal that I don’t do more to be and stay healthy. He wants me to be around for him and our son, to enjoy life, to travel together. I’m on my laptop a lot, whether it’s on my bed or on the couch (I don’t even work at a desk anymore!). I’m naturally thin but my body type belies a less healthy life style, and behind that, a lifetime of bad habits and negative emotions. I realized how much of a burden I created when I broke my leg last summer, and I think I owe it to my family if not to myself to care about my health.

  9. Darren says

    I think the reason behind people gaining weight when married is down to being over relaxed with that partner. I think we all should keep our weight down, marriage is long term not short term, if keeping our weight down means living long, then it also means being married longer. Sounds fair to me. Darren.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Darren, Thanks for joining the conversation. If I understand you correctly, you believe we should all focus on the long term health of the marriage as well as each other. Both partners. A matter of health and well-being. Is that it?

  10. Harry Minot says

    My own experience of fatness has been a useful thing. And I am a sort of metabolic parable. To remain thin, as a naturally-fat person, requires an extraordinary curtailment of intake. It’s not reasonable to expect that of a naturally-fat person. And there are those who remain thin, by a supreme effort and in opposition to their genetic destiny, but then gain weight later. So, everyone is different. And that should be just fine.
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