Monday, January 14, 2013

I work hard to stay sexy, shouldn't he (or she)?

photo from a site Belly Billboard, post called "extreme couch potatoing"
Over the holidays I was reading Elle magazine. My magazine reading is generally food-skewed with a little home design and beauty thrown in. Fashion magazines are usually waiting room or hair color reading for me but I enjoy Elle and their relationship column called Ask E. Jean.

One reader wrote:
Dear E. Jean: I adore my boyfriend of six years. He’s intelligent, emotionally mature, kind, loving, and funny. But: He’s fat. When we first started dating, he was a very hot, muscular mountaineering guide. Now he’s a lawyer, and most of the muscle has turned into fat. When he gets home from work, he sits on the couch, drinking beer and watching bad TV. He’ll do that for an entire weekend if I don’t persuade him to get out and do things. Our sex life has almost always been thrilling, but the laziness and fatness are enormous turnoffs. I’m an athlete and go to the gym at 5 A.M. Though I’m still madly in love with him, I find myself looking at in-shape men. Superficial, I realize! I drop hints, and it never goes well. Is there a way to tell him to shape up? I work hard to stay sexy; shouldn’t he? I don’t want to make him feel bad, but he can’t let himself go indefinitely! —My Sexy Man’s Gone to Seed

I’ve heard this sentiment from men and women, married and dating about their partner’s eating or weight. E.Jean (strange name now that I think of it) called the girlfriend out for being turned off by an intelligent, kind, loving “fat dude” telling her “God help you if you ever grow old, gain a pound, get a wrinkle or your bottom sags.” So she basically felt superficiality has no place in romantic relationships. Can I give advice to an advice columnist? 

You may say I play for team shallow but I disagree for a couple of reasons. First, "plump partner's" change in appearance isn't simply due to the passage of time. He went from being active and outdoorsy to "lazy". I also think "it's what's on the inside" counts when we're talking about friends or coworkers but physical attraction hinges on aesthetics. For some a little extra is fine, even preferred, but maybe not for 5am girlfriend.

Later in her reply E. Jean loses me completely when she advises the woman to hire a male trainer with "buttocks that look like they've been blown up by a bicycle pump" and schedule sessions in their living room. To me, this is even more superficial than the original question. You don't make someone jealous or guilt them into make changes. Sure, girlfriend may be looking at in-shapre men but her objections with her man aren't solely based on buttocks. She calls herself an athlete and him lazy. IF someone wants to watch TV all weekend, the real issue is compatibility and I don't think fitness is one of those minor relationship issues like toilet seat consciousness. The axiom that you can't change someone generally holds. But what about when you're trying to nudge them in a direction they once were? You know the possibility exists.


I'm not a fan of dropping hints of downloading "couch to 5K" on stout steady's phone. 5AM girlfriend said her guy was emotionally mature. That's great. She needs to sit on the couch with him and present her wish list. Is it more time outside and active together? Is it watching shows they both like? And his response and subsequent actions will speak volumes. This isn't a married couple and these two may have "grown" apart. It's also important to think about these differences should these two co-parent one day (and if boyfriend would be ok with couch potato jr too). E. Jean says girlfriend should "grant him the freedom to live as he wants" agreed but if that means being glued to the couch and that doesn't work for her, she may have her answer.

Do you and your partner have similar views on exercise and eating? Do you think that's important in a relationship? What do you think is the best way to point out "slippage"? And what about physical attraction is it honest to say you're less attracted to a partner based on appearance or is this crossing the shallow line?





22 comments:

  1. Wow, it sounds like that advice writer could stir up some much bigger problems. Studies show that post marriage weight gain is a common thing. And once non-college schedules happen, it's hard for people to transition (especially as the metabolism slows).

    ReplyDelete
  2. This post really hits close to home for me. This is exactly why I urge women (and my friends) to wait a few years to get married, rather than getting married right away. I mean...one of the many reasons. I dated Nick for 6 years before we got married, and during that time I sort of "felt out" how he was going to be as a husband and a father. He went through "lazy" stages, many times, but it always impressed me how driven he was to get out of those lazy times! I mean, everyone has their lazy moments, and they may even last a month or more...which is did once for Nick, but you need to figure out if your partner's tendencies are going to really have a negative effect on your relationship, or not. In this lady's case, it sounds like it will. Her BF went from having a job that kept him active and not quite as stressed, to a stressful job that pushes him to the couch when he comes home stressed and exhausted. That will likely never change. So.....she needs to get rid of him unless he truly starts to show signs that he cares about his OWN health, and their relationship (sex is important!).

    I think this guy sounds unattractive simply because it doesn't sound like he cares about his health and well-being. He could stay "fat" or heavier than before, that wouldn't bother me, but he would need to be active and outgoing and motivated too!! That's the key.

    Am I rambling?!

    ReplyDelete
  3. love the ramble. I agree, need to know someone's habits. I think most people care deep down but maybe this is a reaction to a job that's not to his liking...who knows but more complicated than seems.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I do think transition to work life can affect weight/activity etc. This doesn't sound solely due to schedules.

    ReplyDelete
  5. People like this who give advice seem to enjoy stirring the pot more than helping. The advice given is poor. As you pointed out, this isn't age-related weight gain (as one example), so it doesn't come into play that one day it may happen to her.


    If a new job is making him unhappy and his unhappiness results in his withdrawal to the couch and the television, this may even be a sign of immaturity or inability to process disappointment or stress in a healthy manner.


    I'm not sure it is proper to point out slippage. Everyone has a mirror and an ego. I think having the same mindset is important. I got on the bandwagon and my husband didn't and it created problems for a couple years although it is OK now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This reminds me of one of your Jen Linn posts, it changed the way I think about vanity. Similar eating and exercise habits are a absolutely non-negotiable with my non-existent (or ever changing) significant other. Exercise and eating well help with libido and mood - superficial super-benefits.

    ReplyDelete
  7. love the libido/wellness connection sort of a vicious cycle though many couch potato guys don't complain libido goes...And yes, though there are more important things in life than fitness, if it's important to you better when you can share it with a partner (or changing partner). Ha.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hmn, as usual great insight. Even with a mirror, perhaps everyone doesn't know how their slippage affects others. Rather than being passive aggressive, I think a pow wow can "flesh" out whether there's more to it (depression, inadequate stress management etc) or whether bf knows how 5am gf feels. Agree though "you have let yourself go" isn't a good opener or info someone needs. I do see that one on the bandwagon, the other with zero interest in the bandwagon can be tricky. Glad it's OK now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love your blog.


    FIrstly, my husband and I have been opposites in the health and fitness category going on our entire relationship. It worked for us, especially in the beginning because I needed someone who wasn't as obsessed as I was with health, fitness, and wellness. I had issues and his lack of issues, normalcy around food, and lack of physical activity (minus rec league pick up games) was what I needed to bring myself into a healthy state of mind.


    Now that I'm in a healthy state though, I have tried FOREVER to get him to exercise. He will start a program for awhile but ultimately it's just not his thing. He's not lazy though. He'll work in the yard, we take active vacations, he gets stuff done...he's just never going to have the build of an athlete. I've accepted it. Food-wise, he has learned from me over the years and definitely appreciates and has grown to love my value in quality food. (phew)


    Do I look at other guys with awesome builds? OF COURSE. It's human nature. Would I LOVE it if my hubby had that kind of build...sure I would. Would I say something if my husband suddenly gained a ton of weight? YES! And I would try to help him lose it. Do I sometimes get frustrated that I work so hard to have a good body and he could care less about his? Yes but I still think we have a good balance.


    With this person, I think she has every right to say something. It's a matter of compatability (like you said). I'm attracted to my husband, even though he has a small build. If he gained 40 pounds...I might not feel the same way...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Such a good point Erin. Yes, wouldn't be the best if 2 people obsessed or nuts about eating and exercise. I too have a "norma" husband in that he loves the food we make at home but will eat the popover at a restaurant (were just at a restaurant who served them, I know random) and sometimes it's good. After all, if I don't do the gluten he can "take one for the team". He is, however, very athletic. We love to ski and go on active vacations...that's important. As you said, your man may not be the super athlete but he isn't "couchy". So there's physique, there's support, there's active versus inactive and I think the gf above was upset because no fitness, no outdoor activities so probably multiple things they were on opposite sides of the map with. The key is even if a partner doesn't want to eat like the other, you can support what they do.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This hits close to home to me too--similar story in my own marriage! Husband is a lawyer and had previously been super active (Ironman, triathlons, etc. before we met) but started putting work/beer/etc first and gained about 40 pounds over about two years. As a result of him becoming increasingly unhappy he quit his job and we moved! He worked really hard to get the weight off and is now back to being really active and eating healthy, in a semi-veg way (since I eat veg.) I love that we share similar tastes and priorities in food--to me that is essential.
    It is a fine balance though, I love him active and healthy but I don't think I'd be as happy if he was super intense about it and didn't still love beer and chips every once in a while. I have a big appetite so maybe that is just my own insecurity!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Appearances aside, sometimes I think the "why" of someone's change in habits is important. For example, the last person I was seriously involved with stopped exercising when he got depressed. Naturally, this effected his appearance, but the conversation hinged on, "So how are you feeling? I know you love working out, but you haven't been going recently. What's up?"

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, we all really want it all. Be healthy...but splurge when I want you too. I'm the same way/totally get it jessica. Glad you're both on similar pages, sounds like a "happy ending".

    ReplyDelete
  14. 100% "how are you feeling" is a great question in general. It's never just about the food or couch etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think we need to compare magazine collections~Sounds like we have similar collections, although I never did get E. Jean's advice...super sarcastic or real advice ? For me, & I know my husband feels the same way, it's important we both share similar fitness philosophies, but we both knew this going in to our relationship since we started out playing softball together. Naturally, for both of us our activity level (and weight) has gone up or down a little bit here and there, but overall, we're both pretty similar to when we married 13 years ago. I think it's definitely fair for the woman to talk to her boyfriend along with suggesting healthy activities they can do together, but if he doesn't change and it really bothers her, best not to stay together in the long run!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I sort of think she should leave at 5am for a run and just keep running. It this is the "courtship" god help her.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I agree that it's an issue of compatibility. At the end of the day, it seems (if we can pretend for a moment that we know all there is to know about their lives) that she spends much of her free time exercising and doing active things, and he spends most of his on the couch with a beer bottle. My husband and I have a similar problem - I prefer to exercise regularly and he'd rather not do any. But he has some desire to get in shape and I can get him off the couch some of the time (we compromise and sometimes he and our 6 yr old will come run at the track with me, and sometimes I go to the gym alone). That works fine for us, but if he just kept sitting on the couch gaining weight (and shortening his life), I don't think that would work. Also, he used to be an athlete in college but that was definitely not the case by the time we got married so it's not like I had different expectations. I'm the one who has become more active - I'm more fit now at 35 than I was at 20. I think it sounds like these two have grown apart and either one of them has to change, or they have to meet in the middle, or they should probably split up. It's not a matter of being too superficial, it's a matter of being practical.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I agree Jen and I think differences are fine but that their has to be some overlap as it sounds you and your husband have. I think the columnist's response to this woman was so critical that I felt "shallow" pointing out that this was important.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Andrea@WellnessNotesJanuary 15, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I think similar lifestyle choices are very important for a relationship. I need someone who loves to be active and will go on hikes with me and to the gym (I of course also go hiking and to the gym on my own or with friends, but I wouldn't want to do it always on my own; it's important for me that my husband does active things with me). My husband's eating habits have changed a lot over the years, and he now actually enjoys the foods I eat (I think he pretend to like what I ate for along time...). Having said that, it's of course totally okay for him to sometimes eat some of his "old" foods like ribs and burgers and (at times a bit too much) chocolate.

    Ultimately, for me it's not so much about how he looks, but that he cares about his health. Also, as we are getting older, we can really tell a difference in our energy level if we don't work out consistently and don't eat right. Luckily, we are on the same page.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think it is important that the interests are the same. For example, weight aside, he used to like to be outdoors. It would be hard for a significant other who loves to be outdoors to now date someone who is difficult to get outside.
    My boyfriend have similar interests along with similar interests in food. He is open to anything I make and is not picky. It helps a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  21. that's an important one Kristen, cooking. I can't imagine having to cook separate things for partner (or kids). The openness is the key, who know what we'll like, right?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I didn't think about that Andrea, if unhealthy now...the whole aging process and health complications isn't going to present some ugly stuff later on. Of course I've thought about healthy aging but not the discrepancy if one partner is healthy and the other is not.

    ReplyDelete