DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m dealing with an issue with my partner that I’m not sure how to handle. I’m a 32 year old straight male who has recently come off a long single streak. I’m settling into a new relationship with younger woman which is going swimmingly with one glaring issue. My partner in the past year lost a good deal of weight, to the tune of over 70 lbs. At the moment I’d say she is still 10 - 20 lbs short of a truly attractive and healthy weight. When I got into our relationship I took this as a sign of someone who had decided to turn their life around and get healthy, something I can really respect. As our relationship has progressed however I have realized that she has decided that her current weight is perfect and ideal. This may have something to do with her friends and family who seem to delight in teasing her for being “so small”. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with this on several levels.
On a superficial level I just would love to see the woman I love looking as good as possible. More importantly however I have a personal hangup with false body positivity. I don’t mind people being overweight however I have a very hard time with people who glorify fat as “curvy” or simply deny the state of their bodies. I am a reasonably attractive individual but far from perfect and I constantly work to improve how I look and I’m very open about my continuing commitment to health. In contrast my partner seems to reflect the image of being tiny that her friends and family tease her about back without consideration of her actual weight. This is what I have the most trouble with as whenever she makes a comment glorifying something about her weight and how tiny she is I know I freeze up as it really rubs me the wrong way.
I’m aware that this is a personal issue with me, not necessarily her, but it is something that I know I need to deal with in order for us to continue to have a long term relationship. On the flip side however I’m unsure how to have the conversation in a way that doesn’t come off as “hey, I think you’re fat”.
Would love any suggestions you may have as to how I can deal with this!
Not Looking For A Little Extra
DEAR NOT LOOKING FOR A LITTLE EXTRA: I’m gonna be honest with you, my dude: I went through about three different drafts in my response to your letter because the first couple were just my biting your head clean off. Possibly entertaining for my readers, not quite so helpful for you. So I’m going to give you the advice you actually need, not just my knee-jerk response.
Here’s what you say NLFLE: “I think we should see other people. It’s not you, it’s me.”
Because it’s true. The problem isn’t her, it’s you. You’re not right for her, and she’s not what you’re looking for.
Here’s the thing: you are welcome to decide that you only want to date people of certain weights, body types or levels of activity and athletic ambition. If you want to date people who are within a certain weight range or body fat percentage, that’s valid. That’s legit. That makes you happy and so you do you, bro. You can even think that your partner might be more attractive if she lost a couple more pounds.
What isn’t legit is for you to s
t on somebody else’s progress and happiness because of your hangups. You don’t get to tell someone that she’s wrong to celebrate her achievements, that she shouldn’t revel in how happy it makes her or enjoy the support of her nearest and dearest. You don’t get to take something that clearly brings her pleasure and satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment because it doesn’t meet your sense of aesthetics.
What you’re asking me to do here is to harsh somebody else’s joy because it doesn’t make you happy, and frankly I’d rather jam my dick in a sack of angry badgers.
The problem here is that you’re making her achievements and her enjoyment of her body about you. Like I said in this week’s podcast: the female body positivity movement isn’t about getting male approval, fat people pretending that they’re not, or convincing men to be attracted to specific body types, it’s about women and femme-presenting folks learning to love themselves, no matter what shape their body is. It’s about recognizing that your value and validity isn’t based on meeting a specific hip-to-waist ratio or body-mass index. If you aren’t crazy about the body positivity movement, that’s your look-out. Trying to take it away from other people because you don’t like it is literally self-centered and that ain’t a good look on you chief.
You’re correct: this is something that you need to deal with in order for the two of you to have a long-term relationship. You’re also correct in assuming that there is no way of phrasing this as anything other than “I think you’re still fat” because… well, that’s pretty much what you’re saying. You’re just trying to avoid saying the word “fat”. And even if you try to frame it as “I think you’d be so much hotter if you lost 20 more pounds”, then all she’s going to hear is “well I don’t think you’re hot now“.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think telling a partner that something they’re doing is unattractive to you, especially if it’s a change over the course of the relationship, is off limits by definition. Time and gravity make fools of us all, but putting in the effort to be hot for our partners is part of what makes a relationship work. But telling someone who’s put in a lot of time and effort into not just changing her body but her lifestyle and is happy about it that she could still stand to lose more weight is telling her that she didn’t do enough and she shouldn’t be happy about what she’s achieved.
That ain’t cool dude. That ain’t even in the same hemisphere as cool.
(And all of this is without even getting into the very real difficulty of not just losing large amounts of weight but keeping it off.)
And while I agree that this is your problem, not hers, I’m forced to wonder if this is about her weight or what other people will think about you for dating her. I mean, she’s clearly someone you’re attracted to, otherwise you wouldn’t be dating her. After all, we don’t date someone purely on the potential of “well she’s not bad now but if I get her to lose 20 more lbs, she’d be sensational”. We don’t date people’s future selves, we date who they are now. But here you are, someone who tries to keep in shape, dating someone who is softer and less cut… what does that say about you?
Well, if you’re insecure, it says “I worry that other people will see her and assume that I am the kind of person who can only ‘get’ women like her.” If you’re not insecure it says “This is my girlfriend and isn’t she f
I think that you need to take some time and really interrogate your feelings about her, your attraction to her and just where these reactions to other people’s happiness are coming from. While you’re doing that, I think you need to work under the assumption that she’s happy at her current weight and won’t lose another pound, period. If she is absolutely going to stay at exactly the weight she’s at currently, are you going to be able to be happy and keep dating her? Because if your interest in her is predicated on who she could be 20 lbs from now, then you need to take this as a sign that you and she simply aren’t compatible and you’re better off letting her go so you can find someone else, while she finds somebody who can appreciate her for who she is.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)