Obese Spouse

My husband is obese and it's killing our sex life.

Question

When we married, my husband was a little heavy and I stressed to him at that time how important it was to me that he lose weight. Intercourse had always been very painful for me because I was diagnosed with endometriosis, and I thought his being heavy made it worse. Well, fifteen years later he is at least 100 pounds overweight. Now sex is painful for a whole different reason—  I’m getting crushed! Even when he rests his arm on me, I feel the strain of it. Positions are getting very boring, foreplay is challenging, and the site of him at times is quite repulsive. I’ve tried gently encouraging different eating habits. I’ve tried talking to him, but I feel bad because he always looks so helpless and discouraged when I talk to him about it. We’ve been through so much with my endometriosis that I feel selfish to demand even more from him, but I’ve lost all desire for him. I want sex, but the thought of doing it with him discourages it. I feel so guilty about this I don’t know what to do. I’ve put on weight myself just because I have no desire to look too good—  I don’t want him to want me. I’ve tried to focus on other parts of our relationship that needed work and they are improving, but I feel there is no good way of handling this one.

Answer

Let us reword your last sentence. While there is no easy way of handling this problem there are several good solutions that can help you move in a new direction. Notice, we didn’t say easy. This situation gives you a unique opportunity to take your commitment to a new level and experience the difference that faith can make.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than half of Americans are overweight, and nearly 20 percent of these are severely obese. A number of extensive, reputable studies have shown that being significantly overweight is a precursor of diseases that account for over 100,000 deaths each year. In addition to the adverse effects on longevity, it will increase the risk of illness and death due to diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease, and kidney and gallbladder disorders. The more overweight a person is, the higher the risk becomes.

It has been implicated in increased incidences of some types of cancer. In fact, an American Cancer Society study found that being grossly overweight can more than double a man’s risk of death from colon cancer. Being overweight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S., second only to tobacco-related deaths. Overweight children are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease in later years.

In view of the excess mortality and morbidity associated with being overweight, professionals highly recommend weight reduction to persons with excess body weight of 20 percent or more above desirable weights in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tables. If your husband is 100 pounds overweight, odds are good he falls in that category.

From what you’ve told us, gentle encouragement hasn’t helped. Backing off from confrontation hasn’t helped. The time has come to get his attention. The lifestyle choices your husband is making is shortening his lifespan and compromised the quality of his life and the lives of these he loves. It is robbing him of health and hope and it is robbing you of a healthy marriage relationship.

First of all, involve your physician to rule out a medical cause to the problem. Let his physician know why you are coming in and how long the problem has existed. Encourage him to get a complete physical. If it’s not physiological, it is probably emotional, spiritual and psychological. In our experience, apart from a medical cause, emotionally and spiritually mature people don’t become obese. Overfeeding the body is often a sign of an attempt to numb emotional pain and nourish an insecure and hungry heart.

You need to talk with him to clearly communicate your concerns. You may find it easier to put it in writing. If you choose this option let him read the letter and then talk with him after he’s had some time to process it. Before you write the letter and before you talk with him, be sure to have a few trusted female friends who will be interceding for you in prayer. James 5:16 tells us that, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

When you do talk to him don’t let your interpretation of his response keep you from “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Of course he is going to look discouraged. He has good reason to be discouraged. He is probably also depressed, dejected, disappointed in himself and fearful that he may not be able to change. Let him know that you love him and that you want to desire him. Let him know that his health and longevity are important to you and the kids. Let him know his lifestyle is killing him and you can’t sit back and let that happen.

Here are a few more questions. Are there any men that he is close to? Is he part of a covenant group? Is he friends with your pastor? How do you both eat at home? What kinds of foods do you buy? Are there any unhealthy foods you bring home from the market that you could eliminate, even if he got mad about it? Are there any community health classes you could take? Would he be willing to go on walks with you? Finally, you may need to go to a licensed Christian counselor who is trained to work with these kinds of issues.

It’s not so much a matter of demanding a lot from him as it is your wanting the best for both of you. The best involves being as healthy as you can in spirit, soul and body. The Bible tells us that God delights in blessing his people. That includes you and your husband.

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