Friday, April 9, 2010

Guest Post: Danny from Fit by 41, Maybe 42

I am delighted to present my second guest post, written by Danny, Gina's husband, of Fit by 41, Maybe 42. This is one husband's perspective on a wife's weight gain. It is a rare man who will open up on this minefield topic, and I offer Danny a warm virtual shake of the hand not just for contributing, but for raising so many great subjects for discussion. And I have to add, both of these guests posts are so well-written, they are raising the literary bar around here at Am I Really That Fat? Not that I'm intimidated or anything :)

A Torrid Affair
by Danny, Gina's husband

I told my best friend when I was in high school that I never wanted to get married. I wanted to follow my dreams, roam the world, and live in a foreign country. He, on the other hand, pictured himself hitched, not hitch-hiking. He wanted kids and a mini-van. He wanted to settle somewhere quiet.

My best friend ended up being the one traveling the world. He built water wells in Bangladesh, taught in the Netherlands, and is currently doing a PhD in Australia. Oh, and he's still dating. While he did all this, I slipped a wedding band on Gina's finger at the tender age of 21, took out a loan to buy a minivan at 25, and after becoming a father of three at 31, I needed to find some place quiet.

So I couldn't believe when last year I decided to turn to my friend for marriage advice. Through a weak Skype connection from my home to Australia late one night, I managed to summarize my wife's struggle with weight, the fights it ensued because I was confronting her like she had a drinking problem, and the jealousy I surprisingly felt when she kept choosing food over our relationship —over me. She wouldn't always binge, but she would do it behind my back. Gina would wait until I was gone on business trips to partake of chocolate cakes like it was the pool boy. She knew it wouldn't help things between us, but she still chose food. Was my wife having a torrid affair with Messrs. Ghirardelli, Lindt, and Ms. Godiva?

What he said next completely changed my life. I couldn't believe such counsels came from a guy who was never engaged, someone whose idea of fun is to dig holes in a third-world country and then finish a PhD down under. After his words of advice, I felt a changed man.

My friend said that Gina's weight gain wasn't due because she loved me less, but rather because she felt comfortable around me, something I should cherish. That was a gutsy assumption from someone who had only met my wife once over a decade ago. But I bought it and enjoyed the fact Gina was comfortable with me.

He also said that in a relationship, we tend to obsess on a partner's major weakness. But if that weakness magically disappeared, our focus would shift to another one, always keeping us from truly being happy. Again, I felt he was right. He was either a genius, or I should send my kids to Australia—or drink water from his wells.

But I also wondered whether women completely grasp the level of pain a husband feels when he sees his young wife, whose physique was the major source of attraction, neglect her body and morph into something unfamiliar. If I tried to describe it, it would be akin to seeing your full-of-potential husband suddenly quit Harvard Law, move the entire family and his Xbox 360 to a dilapidated shack, and live off welfare for the rest of his life—and yours. Worse still, if you need an extreme example, the fellow decides to go work for an airline.

I've also discovered that we men don't realize how much we can hurt our wives, no strike that, how much we crucify our wives when we bring up their weight. Unless you want to be an actor, a gigolo, or the next Bachelor, appearance has never truly defined a man's success. But for a woman, it's huge. For thousands of years, the survival of women has depended on mostly looks and reputation, characteristics that have worked their ways through the evolutionary process. Subconsciously, males associate beauty with health to bear and care for their offspring. From the size of the breasts to the shape of the hips, the selection process is brutal but hardwired to an instant physiological reaction.

Men, if your wives tell you that you're terrible in bed or a loser who will probably never amount to anything, you might catch a glimpse of the pain you inflict when you mutter the three-letter F-word that rhymes with hat. When you criticize her looks, you do more than just plant a scimitar sword into her tender heart, you're destroying one of the most attractive features in a woman: her self-confidence.

Since skyping with my globe-trotting friend, I've managed to cut the string that tied my level of resentment to the pointing arrow of a weighing scale. But occasionally, I think about those who are married to alcoholics or drug addicts and wonder if they would agree with my now complete laissez-faire in my partner's diet. When does overeating become a deadly addiction that one shouldn't accept for a spouse? When does a husband who loves his wife becomes nothing less than an enabler? What would my friend in Australia do? Would he put his head in the sand... or dig his own hole?

14 comments:

  1. This is really good. I'm glad that Danny finally "saw the light" as to what his words were doing to Gina.

    My husband made a point about my hips a few months after our first child was born. It was 13 years ago, and I still remember very clearly how his words made me feel (all he said, was that I needed to work on slimming them down - nothing terrible, but it made me FEEL terrible, as if I had failed him). That's really the only time I can remember him saying something like that, but that one time was enough.

    Thanks for sharing - these posts were very good!

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  2. Wowza. Interesting read, but I have to admit I'm very thankful my husband doesn't feel that my "physique" is "the major source of attraction" to me. I was a lot thinner when we met (though I still thought I was "fat") and have gained a fair bit of weight and changed shape over the 12 years we've known each other (from 17 and freshmen in college to 29 and now carrying our first child). I've struggled with my weight, but never on his advice/concern... I don't know if I could deal with how hurtful it would be to feel like he values my primarily for my body and not for my personality/self/soul/whatever you want to call the non-physical "me." Skinny or fat, I don't want my "major attraction" to be my physical form.

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  3. Wow, this is a great post. But you are right in one sense, overeating is an addiction which can undermine one's health just as abuse of drugs or alchohol can.

    Love your wife for what she is, no matter what her weight, but encourage her to eat a healthier diet just because you want her around a long, long time.

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  5. When I started to read your post I just wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. As a wife who has gained a significant amount of weight since our marriage I thought I would maybe be offended, hurt, or downright mad at what you had to say--what I ended up experiencing was the exact opposite. Thank you for your sharing and honesty, it has given me some much needed insight.

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  6. Jill - "as if I failed him" - Yes! I like the way you put that into words; I really get that.

    Bri - Thanks for sharing, and I'm glad you are in a warm, caring relationship. I think what Danny meant is when a person typically first meets someone, the physical appearance is the major INITIAL source of attraction (the first time you see each other across the room and do a double-take type thing). There definitely has to be substance beneath the physical looks. And we do love each other's "substance." :) But, yes, it did hurt when he mentioned my weight.

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  7. LW After 45 - Thank you. Your advice is kind and wise.

    Forgettable - Wow. I'm so glad it had a positive affect for you. It makes this all worthwhile. He's used to me being "offended, hurt, or downright mad." lol Time is a wonderful teacher, and we've both grown so much through the years but not without growing pains.

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  8. Very interesting; lots of insight; and well-written. Appreciate the candor.

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  9. I remember seeing this post alluded to several weeks back, and after reading it am very happy that Gina and/or Danny agreed to re-post it here. Wow, what an incredible story...thank you for sharing your perspective. I want to just go hug my husband now.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this -- I love that the two of you can discuss this issue and deal with it with honesty and compassion.

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  11. I read this before. Thanks for sharing - Gina and her hubby are brave to share this with the world.

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  12. Thank you for posting this. Reading both sides has been very interesting. I'm dealing with something like this with my fiance right now, although on the other side of things (he wants to lose weight, I want to support him but not nag or upset him). So this is very timely.

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  13. This post, and especially the last one by Gina herself, make me really appreciate having a guy in the same weight position as me. Used to weigh 60 pounds more, now slides in just below overweight, could lose 10 or 20 more. He enjoys eating my strange veggie heavy food, and is always up for exercise. Makes it easier than the last bf, who whined about "health food" (hardly!) and unnecessary exercise.

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