His Wife Is Threatening to Lose the Weight He Loves

Comments

1

I think most women would be honestly amazed to know how many men feel this way. It's unpopular currently, but the renaissance body, with a full soft belly, is highly erotic to large swaths of the population.

2

I think it's reasonable to tell your partner "I love your soft belly" without emphasizing that you have a fetish for bellies, just like it's reasonable to admire your partner's breasts without identifying as a breast-fetishist, or to admire your partner's legs in heels without saying that's a fetish.

It can feel objectifying to hear one's body described in terms of matching a fetish, and it could create insecurity that one's partner might be less attracted, or leave, if the belly/breasts/legs change shape over the years/decades -- as they are likely to.

MA -- if your wife is going to lose weight, she'll probably be doing it for health or social vanity reasons, rather than to please you in particular. If you're going to stay with her either way, I would just keep telling her you love her and her beautiful body, and not give her the unsettling idea that you only like her body within a specific weight range.

3

This doesn't sound like a common sexual incompatibility problem or one of those "I'll never find someone to fulfill my fantasy!" problems. In fact, zooming out a bit, this doesn't look like too much of a problem at all. He says he'll still be attracted to her if she loses weight, in which case her diet doesn't sound much like a sexlife crisis.

I know we're not supposed to judge or compare preferences based on their rarity, but doesn't his preference stretch the definition of "fetish" a little bit? I know, "common" isn't the same as "normal" isn't the same as "healthy" isn't the same as "typical."

He prefers women with a little bit of belly, and assuming he's living around average people (especially average Americans!), he has all he wants to see all day every day. I would call that "a clear preference for something extremely common that takes no effort at all for most women to achieve," or just simply "I think women's bellies are sexy." I see the point in leveling the field by using things like "-philia" labels for all sexual preferences, but there comes a point at which, if everything is a fetish, then the word has lost all meaning.

You know what someone is going to say, though, right? Let me start the argument so we can get it over with:

If he wanted her NOT to gain weight, if he married a slim woman and wanted her to stay slim and not gain weight, would you have the same reaction to his letter? Why or why not?

4

wellokaythen @3 - the two aren't parallel because most humans gain weight as they age unless they work hard to prevent that. So liking someone's chubbiness (or their wrinkles) is different from liking someone's taut flawless young body and expecting them not to change.

5

Dan Savage said the LW's wife would have lifelong hunger all day every day if she changed her eating habits, but the second article he linked says:

"Although he's correct in that typical treatments (like short-term diets) for obesity and overweight do not tend to work, the situation is not as dire, impenetrable and biologically driven as he claims. According to Joseph Dixon, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University with expertise in metabolic processes, while our metabolisms do seem to work against us as we lose weight, the extent of this complex response varies among people. "Certainly, weight loss is not easy – people need to adapt to the truth that there are no short-term fixes for obesity," he says. "But a permanent state of hunger is far from inevitable – or even likely, if healthy habits are adopted.". "

So it is more possible for LW's wife to lose weight than that first article might imply.

6

Indeed @5, the "perpetual hunger" line is not accurate. Especially when one has healthy eating habits free of processed foods.

7

I'd suggest he use Dan's first sentence, "I love you at any weight—I found you attractive before you gained weight, I'll find you attractive if you lose weight." and ONLY add, "There's no need to lose any weight for me. Really there's not. But please let me know how I can be supportive of what you want to do."

Yeah, honesty is best, blah, blah, blah, but as Dan is always saying, a marriage isn't a deposition and I see so many potential downsides and head-trips the wife might do on herself with the knowledge of his kink. Here's one scenario: She wants to lose weight cause of society and fat-shaming. He discloses. She, no surprise, is unsuccessful, because dieting is always hard and usually fails. She feels bad about it, but that sense of failure gets shifted to him - that disclosing his preference was part of why she failed. How is that better for their relationship than non-disclosure?

8

Erica at 3 is right. While Dan’s comments about weight regain are funny and likely true, I think it’s better to approach this like it isn’t a fetish. Fetishes related to delicate things like woman’s weight fluctuations can be really dangerous. If my husband said this to me, it would probably result in me feeling more frustrated because I want to be thinner both for my health and how I feel about myself/my confidence—- so him saying he liked me better/fetishized a higher weight is just a dangerous foot-in-your-mouth territory, that frankly- while I NEVER pull this card with Dan- I think you need the feedback of a normal het middle aged woman who struggles with her weight rather than a fit gay advice columnist.

Do not fetishize. Tell her as Erica said that you find her softer belly ravishing. Maybe make mention of those different beauty standards of different ages and how she looks like a classical painting of the ideal woman. Lay it on thick- but don’t fetishize her body. Tell her you’ll support her goals for her healths sake but make loving comments supporting her current figure. This isn’t being dishonest about your own preferences and fetishes. You’re going to worship her and love her and find her sexy. She just doesn’t need to know it’s because of this reason. It’s because of HER. She’ll be happier if you don’t make her feel like a thing- which fetishes can do if they are only about your partners body. I just see no reason to be that specific. It’s not like Dan takes the be-entirely-honest about everything perspectives normally in relationship advice.

9

What a load of crap people peddle and believe about weight loss. Yes, the set point is real. No, this does not mean you can never lose weight. It means you can't lose weight quickly and think it'll last. And if you do actually change your lifestyle and lose weight (that part's true), no you aren't going to be hungry for the rest of your life. Wtf? Your body accepts new set points. It's easier to move it up than down, but your body will normalize to your new lower weight if you keep yourself there. A lot of garbage sold to people who want a quick out.

10

Could he get his kink on, even if she is successful (for a while)? It wouldn't be hard to pivot to "I'm going to fuck my lovely wife and her sexy belly now while I can" and then, "She's lost weight but so I'm really going to enjoy these extra 20 pounds she still has", and even on to, "Oh, that flappy skin and larger wrinkles on her belly now are sexy reminders of the belly she once had and probably will again."

He sounds like me in that, although I have preferences for some body types and looks, I consciously and unconsciously tweak and steer that towards what the body the woman I love actually has and has aged into. That less hard-wired, more malleable preference is sure helpful in a very LTR.

11

@1/MercyMe: I googled "renaissance body" after reading your comment. I had known about it as an interesting historical fact, but I had never made a connection between MY current body and the "renaissance body" ideal. Feeling very body positive after that google search!! So thank you :)

12

I like plump women too. So round, so full, so fully packed. Yeah }:>

13

I feel like Dan, as a gay man with little experience dating women, may be underestimating the sensitivity many (but certainly not all) women have about their weight and suggestions that they may be fat. There's a reason why there are jokes about men being terrified by women ask them if something makes them look fat.

So, I recommend against an out-of-the-blue declaration that the LW has a fetish for fat bellies and is turned on by her soft, round stomach. If I were in his shoes, I might start with something like: "You should do whatever you think is right for you and your health, but I want to be sure that you know that I think your body is incredibly hot the way it is. I will continue to feel that way if you lose weight, but I cannot imagine you being any hotter if you do."

Then he'd have to judge her response to assess whether a suggestion that he might be less attracted if she lost weight might offend her as a suggestion that she's fat or make her feel pressured.

If she seems comfortable with all of that, he could admit that his ideal body type is more paleolithic (think: Venus of Willendorf) than mainstream (think: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition) and maybe even that he fetishizes plump bellies.

14

Honesty is always the best. Period. I have been with the same woman for 28 years now. We didn’t get that far by keeping secrets. I happen to have a fetish of my own. I have a foot fetish. My wife knows all about it and indulges me with pleasure. I know what her fetish is as well. She enjoys seeing men masturbate and climax. So sometimes our sexual sessions involve me worshiping her feet while masturbating. She watches the show and masturbates herself. Without open and honest communication we would’ve never gotten to the place where we could truly be safe and free to explore everything we enjoy with each other. I think the way Dan worded his suggestion is pretty damn good. Plus I also think you should trust your partner enough to be honest with her.

15

@8 I agree. Losing the weight, which is what she expressed she wanted to do, will be trying enough without what feels like a partner subconsciously rooting against you. Fortunately for LW's fetish, people that say things like "I'm thinking about trying to lose this weight" aren't likely to do so anytime soon. That's not a judgement, we all know how hard changing your habits can be.

@14 I think in your case that was the best approach, but I'm not sure how comparable your situation is with LW since having feet isn't an unfortunately by-product of aging.

16

I’ve gained 15 pounds from the medication I’m on and it’s all gone to my belly. I hate it and I’m so self-conscious about it.It would be heaven to have a partner tell me that it’s sexy and it turns him on. I agree with previous posters however that it should not be presented as a fetish ... that’s objectifying. It’s really just a preference.

17

This from dcp is gold and LW should steal it: "You should do whatever you think is right for you and your health, but I want to be sure that you know that I think your body is incredibly hot the way it is. I will continue to feel that way if you lose weight." Period. Stop there. That's all you need to say - love and lust and support at any size. My partner would ideally love me to be about 10-15 lbs heavier than I am, but that's not what I want for myself, and it's fantastic to feel his desire for me however I am.

Also, I agree with the previous commenters that Dan's description of failed weight loss is overblown. Maybe those stats hold true for "diets" that are designed to be temporary? Finding the diet and exercise lifestyle that works for you for the long haul is like creating a sustainable romantic partnership. Whatever you're doing to get your dream body, you need to be willing to do forever to keep your dream body.

18

Yeah, I'd say just tell her "I dunno, I think you're pretty sexy as-is - I always thought those women in renaissance paintings were hot," and then let it go. Maybe she'll lose it, maybe she won't, but she's 40, so it's running towards 'won't' I'd say. Enjoy the bomb-ass booty you got now and don't worry too much about the future.

19

Is it a fetish LW, or a preference? I love a bit of belly on a man, and a thin line of hair running from their belly button to under their board shorts.
Haven’t you put your arms around her belly, and let her know how much you desire her fleshy body?
Yes it’s her body, and if she’s keen to drop a few pounds good on her. Still, let her know how a belly one can mush a bit is attractive to you. She deserves to know this.

20

EricaP @2, exactly. He should not describe his attraction to her as a fetish. That may make her feel objectified. He should tell her "I think your belly is sexy" and "I think you're hot just the way you are." I also don't think Dan should be assuming she's "found his porn stash." Porn is all online these days, isn't it? If she didn't go looking, and why would she, she has no idea what he wanks to. And many men, believe it or not, don't go around ogling women in their partner's presence. If he does and she's noticed, it's unlikely she's identified the belly as the area of interest. Anyway, Dan is right -- it's unlikely she'll be able to lose the weight, and even if she does, he was attracted enough to her at her original weight to marry her, right? This problem is not a problem.

21

Rob @14, um, you can't see how a foot fetish is somewhat different from a belly fetish in a society where weight -- particularly women's weight -- is such a minefield? MA should listen to the women of the thread on this topic.

Traffic @18, he never gave her age. But yeah, married 10 years = middle-age spread territory, and he's probably sporting a belly of his own.

22

As for fetish versus preference, it depends on the strength of the preference. If one prefers blondes but also finds brunettes attractive, it's a preference. If this guy gravitates to the belly at all times and could never find a woman with a flat stomach attractive, it may well be a fetish. We shouldn't second guess him if he says that for him this is a fetish.

23

I almost wonder if she senses on some level she's much closer to his ideal than he is to hers, but that's a very random Stray Thought.

24

LW reminds me of my parents, who always enjoyed the old “Too Fat Polka.” My dad would sing along with the little guy at the end “she’s just right for me!” With such glee and enthusiasm that I never even noticed the horribleness of the main lyrics. (I don’t think this is a fetish; I think of it as having a type, which many or most people do, e.g. the classic TDH which Dan fits.) a fetish is a sexual attraction to something that’s not sexual. It is not possible to have a “boob fetish” for example. I don’t know where bellies are on the scale of sexual parts but it’s just a preference in this case.

25

I'm also especially attracted to women's stomachs, but unlike luckier MA, I have a preference for the "slender, muscular" ones. While mine is just a preference, having learned the word for the fetish I have some googling to do! Thank you, Savage Love.

26

Hey, I was that woman -- for once, my experience is relevant!

@22, I really think this is a preference and not a fetish. A fetish is something that really NEEDS to be present for you to experience sexual gratification. It's both more urgent and more rigid than this, and if he reads this column that's a conversation he encounters frequently. I think he's using the language that is available to him and rounding up. He starts off saying he married a woman with a smaller belly, and it was fine, and that it will still be fine if she goes back to the size she was. That seems a reasonable assertion.

They've been together a long time, we have no reason to think it's not a happy marriage, and I'm hoping they know each other pretty well. If her relationship with her weight or body were truly a minefield, I think he might would have some sense of it. I don't get the sense that he's concerned is quite that specific.

So the real question isn't whether he should try to impact what she does with her body, it's whether he can comfortably share his feelings about her body with her, without giving her a burden or making her uncomfortable. That's exactly the type of kind, candid communication Dan generally recommends. In my own life, it was sweet -- and incredibly positive for my relationship with my own soft belly -- to realize how much my partner liked it. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't wildly invested in looking different, but that part of my body was something I dealt with rather than embraced. To stop automatically trying to minimize it in intimate situations was really wonderful. Everyone should have the experience of realizing they have a formerly unsuspected sexual draw! If she actually wants to be different for herself, the right statement of appreciation isn't going to interfere with that -- at least, it didn't for me. I felt confident my partner would still love me and be attracted to me, and it was a nice feeling to know that he supported my goals and found me attractive but might still miss my tummy. I think it's a lot easier to make changes from a position of self-appreciation than it is from a position of dissatisfaction, and the positive regard of your partner can only help.

LW, if you're reading, here is roughly what my partner said to me which felt like exactly the right thing: "I just love your belly. It's so feminine, it's so sexy, and I want to touch it all the time. I would love you and find you hot any shape you ever were. But while it's here, I'm enjoying it!"

And one last thing: the partneted middle-aged women I know who ooze a certain kind of well-being, are also the ones I happen to know have partners who are still really sexually into them. And their distance from the cultural ideal for either attractiveness or health, doesn't come into it at all. So good luck!

27

Checking in to say the diet thing is total and complete B.S. and dangerous. Now, anyone that tells you diets are easy or there is an easy way to lose weight and keep it off is feeding you wrong information. But diets (I have used Keto/Atkins very successfully, sometimes off and on) can and do work if you stick to them and don't try to convince yourself it can or should be easy.

28

3 decades as a trainer, here -
Agree with, and thankful there are here, posters saying, "Damn hard work to lose weight? Yeah. Impossible and a life sentence? Fuck No."
This particular topic, like a number of others, tends to come around SL every year or so, like a comet. Everyone seems well-behaved here in the comments so far, which is nice. Hope it'll last.
And yeah, that 'you'll be starving all day, every day, rest of your life' is SUCH a sacka bullshit, but you'd better believe it sells. You think drop-tons-of-weight-easily plans are a scam? They are, but you ain't seen nothin' till you see the people ready, eager and willing to take your money to tell you that being fat is
1. Irreversible, so don't even try
2. Not your fault.
...and there are quite a few of them.
Always nice when Ricardo stops by in these discussions, as he's both a self-described 'chubby chaser' and a guy originally from another country, who was also ready to recount how American levels of obesity are far from the global norm, except for places like Tonga that adapted a US-style diet.
Try Googlng Tonga then and now, for the fairly straighforward reasons their population are in their current straights.

29

Will men ever get it that women do not exist for them? For their pleasure? Ever? Whatever the woman wants to do or not do with her body is none of your business! Even if you're fucking her! You have no right to dictate any terms. Period. K? Thanks. Bye.

30

Don’t agree completely Xina @29 with your comment. Yes, a woman has complete agency over her body and we don’t exist for men’s pleasure. However, in a sexual relationship enjoying how one’s lover’s body looks is important because it’s part of being sexually attracted to them.
I think this LW is being sensitive to his wife and her wishes, and he married her when she was more slender, and says he will continue to once she loses any weight. His question is should he tell her he desires her fleshy belly.. and the answer is yes he should, imo.

31

@29 No reason to put a gender qualifier on this. Whatever anyone wants to do with their body is their business. Of course, sometimes in a relationship you do things for someone else for their benefit and they do things for you for your benefit. You can choose to never, ever do something for someone else (including someone you are in a relationship with) - and it may or may not mean that making that choice is one that means you will be alone for the rest of your life. Once again, no gender qualifier necessary.

32

Dieting forever would cause perpetual hunger. Lifestyle changes do not. You eat regular meals until you are full but you eat healthy foods and you take physical activity. This may / may not be possible for the LW's wife and it may / may not cause her weight loss (both things have too many variables to predict) but it's simply untrue that lifestyle changes like this cause perpetual hunger regardless. I wonder if it's a typo? Like if Dan meant to say her weight loss choices are perpetual lifestyle changes or perpetual hunger due to dieting?

If she's 5'5" with an average frame, wouldn't her idea weight be around 140 more or less? Is it really normal to put on 40 pounds in a decade? If she's around 180 now and she doesn't make lifestyle changes, doesn't that indicate she's going to be around 220 a decade from now? Or do most people gain a lot and then stop?

Honestly if she's interested in losing a few pounds, I'd be more concerned about talking to her about how to do it in a healthy way. Take walks together, plan meals. But yes there is nothing at all wrong with letting her know you think she's hot in her current form. And since you thought she was hot before too, then it's not a problem really is it?

33

Cat Brother,
I appreciate Dan's 2nd link, and you and other commenters debunking the idea that obesity is, as you put it 'irreversible,' while acknowledging that it is very hard to accomplish. I quibble with the idea that "it's not your fault" is inaccurate, and with your characterization that being told it is "not your fault" is harmful, ie: a convenient excuse. I've found "It's not your fault, it's very hard to do, but it /can/ be done" to be far and away the most helpful attitude. "It's not your fault" is a reason to dispense with wasting energy feeling shame and get on with it. Obviously, if you've been a trainer 3 decades and are making the statement that you did, you must have encountered people who did indeed accept "it's not your fault" as an excuse to ignore the problem, but in my experience, "it's not your fault" was uplifting and helpful in taking steps to combat the problem.

34

Emma @32, I'm going with gain weight and then stop. Let's say she is 40. It's quite common, I'd think, to not gain weight in one's 20s, gain it in one's 30s when one's metabolism slows, then stay the same weight through middle age and lose a bit when one is old. I'm not sure whether 40lbs is standard middle-age weight gain; it sounds a bit high to me, but I guess it depends on where she was to start with.

35

Married straight cis male commenter here with straight cis female partner. Just want to bump previous posters who have advocated for a more vague discussion. Emphasize how much more sexually attracted you are to her now without specific details. Highlighting specific physical details as a root cause for increased physical attraction can trigger body dysmorphia in a monogamous relationship fairly easily. What if she becomes ill and loses the weight unintentionally- now she's sick and ugly [in partner's head]. What if she gains another 20lbs- now her belly is too big or has striae or some other feature that renders it forever imperfect [in partner's head]. Dan's insights are upstanding and largely on point, but always uphold the central tenant of the straight American marriage: stay correct on the big stuff and lie you're fucking face off about the little stuff, especially the little stuff related to aging and physical appearance.

36

@2. Erica. Agree. MA's saying some version of 'I love your figure the way it is' might, in the event, just turn out to offer support however her weight loss goes--in the likely case that she doesn't succeed in taking it off.

/break/
I note that the passage on weight loss science that Dan quotes completely elides any sort of subjective agency. It says something like 'you are bombarded with hunger hormones so that your weight eventually rises to where you started'. It doesn't say, 'you are bombarded with hunger hormones so that [you eat too many double-chip chocolate cookies and] your weight rises to where you started'. This is bad. Really bad from an advice columnist. There is agency in everything. Even when agency is hard. An advice columnist may as well say, 'don't worry about it. What is going to happen will happen anyway'.

37

I agree with Dan here, and strongly disagree with those who are saying to be vague. You can be honest about your attractions without pressuring your partner.

The best thing a partner ever said to me was, "I really love your xyz, but your body is not a democracy, and I don't expect a vote." I felt completely loved and seen. He really meant that he'd support whatever choice I made. He was just giving me information to factor into my decision. I didn't end up keeping my "xyz", and he's into me as I am now, although if it was a strong kink of his, perhaps I would have kept it.

38

"Not obese, just your average 5’5” woman is carrying an extra forty pounds or so, that’s ideal."

This is a direct contradiction; 40 pounds above the "normal weight" range for a 5'5" woman is in the "obese" range.

Also, categorically declaring that "diets don't work" is simply wrong; or, it's only correct if you abuse the term "diet" to specifically exclude the diets of people who have lost lots of weight and not gained it back for years or decades. At age 21, I weighed over 210 pounds; I started biking everywhere for transportation, and without intentionally trying to restrict the amount I ate (or what I ate, other than not eating meat, which I had stopped at age 15), I lost 60 pounds by the time I was 26. At 34 now, my weight has stayed between about 145 and 155 since then, and it's not a struggle of constant hunger cravings at all. That's over a quarter of my body weight, and I haven't experienced any of the dire predictions I've seen, like those noted here; perhaps it helped that I did so without restricting my caloric intake and lost only about a pound a month, so I wasn't ever actually starving myself.

Technically, my case is a counterpoint to the "exercise doesn't work" line (often delivered by the same people), as I never intentionally restricted my diet and just started moving under my own power a lot more, but it (and thes case of anyone else who has ever lost weight and not gained it all back) does refute the claim that it's impossible or even a serious inherent struggle to maintain a lower body weight.

"Unless she were to make permanent changes to her diet and lifestyle, some argue," is a weird fucking caveat, because it equates to "unless you can't violate the First Law of Thermodynamics," which nobody can. Quite obviously you have to either permanently reduce your average daily caloric intake or increase your activity level (or both) to lose weight and keep it off - that's how matter and matter-energy conversion work, and something else would be literal physical-reality-violating magic. Do people actually think they can temporarily change their diets or activity levels and then go back to whatever they were doing before with the results of the temporary changes somehow staying in place despite no longer enacting the cause of that effect? Because that's completely fucking delusional. I mean, sure, I have to remind myself that people believe in literal gods, which is just as bizarrely delusional, but that requires massive social systems to reinforce the mythology. Which I suppose all of the fad diet bullshit constitutes, so never mind, it makes sense again; people are stupidly uncritical consumers of advertising copy.

But, yeah, your body composition will reflect whatever your activity levels and diet are on an ongoing basis, and there's no way to change it indefinitely without indefinitely changing the causitive factors. Which doesn't have to be a miserable prospect. I was unable to maintain a regimen of exercising for its own sake; I'd done it for months-to-years at a time, but I'd eventually get thrown by an injury or illness, get out of the habit, and stop. So I integrated exercise into how I get around, walking or biking every trip less than 20 miles that I take, which is almost all of them. Now I can't not exercise unless I literally don't leave the house, and I reduced my carbon footprint (also on an ongoing basis) at the same time. But it wasn't actually difficult once I decided to do it (it was initially intimidating, and building up my muscles for the first several months biking to work was a challenge, but it went from easy to actively pleasurable within six months of starting). The only trick is to find something you enjoy (so you look forward to exercise instead of dreading it) and that is necessarily routine (so it becomes habituated quickly).

Perhaps part of my confusion relates to the abuse of the term "diet" by yo-yo dieters to specifically describe their temporary dietary changes instead of the plain meaning of the term ("what an organism eats").

As for advice to MA, tell your wife you find her hot now, and that you're also happy to support her if she wants to lose weight (though I personally think that goal itself is a mistake unless one is an actor or model or some other profession that requires modifying one's body for practical purposes; it's easier to enjoy and stick with exercise if the focus is on strengthening one's capabilities or just for the enjoyment of the activity, as one's weight will always fluctuate somewhat, and the kind of weight loss results that are noticeable week-to-week are generally not healthy, so if that's your motivation, you're more likely to become discouraged or pursue unhealthy behaviors).

39

Sometimes we give off an energy and our partners can misinterpret our energy. My wife thought I was jealous of some guys who would flirt with her. We live a pretty direct/vulnerable life and are pretty overt about our feelings. So she asked if I was uncomfortable/jealous, etc. And that's when I shared my most deep shameful secret; I was beyond turned on by it and wanted/fantasized about a stag/vixen (hotwife) lifestyle. The conversation continued over weeks and even months and has now been almost 10 years of an open and VERY hot relationship. So I would suggest that he be completely transparent, open and direct. I love the statement that he has and will continued to love her regardless of her shape, so beautiful - and true! But at some point, we should also be advocating for each other to shake our guilt/shame and own and communite our sexuality.