Savage Love Re-Answer: My Wife Got Fat!

This question was originally answered by Dan Savage on November 22, 2007. It’s not particularly special as questions go, Dan Savage always answers questions like this the same: tell your partner to lose weight because you think they are ugly. What a load of crap. Content note for fat-shaming, cancer and surgery. Also, there may be some cussing.

Question: I love my wife. We’ve been married 10 years. Young punk-rock love turned into adult debt-ridden love. She’s been there for me, helps me achieve my goals, all that. But she’s let herself go, while I’ve gotten myself into better shape.

I pride myself on being a good husband. I’ve been 100 percent faithful, I clean, I tell her I love her. I don’t want to hurt her. I love her. I just don’t lust for her anymore. My wife’s skin is a mess, she has dietary issues that cause gnarly gas, she eats bad food that causes her to gain weight. I always thought I was against the society-imposed, magazine-model, porn-star look girls are supposed to have. So it’s hard for me to admit that I’m not cool enough to think my wife is hot the way she is.

I’ve started stoning to dull the fact that I’m hating on myself for not being hot for my wife. She’s picking up on all of this, which is affecting her mood, self-esteem, and energy levels. And since she tends to eat more when things aren’t going well for us, this is creating a hugely negative feedback loop on the weight-and-lust fronts.

When almost any girl you see is hotter to you than your wife… what the fuck do you do? When the desire to be with someone who actually turns you on is overwhelming… what the fuck do you do? When people you find attractive, women and men, hit on you all the time… what the fuck do you do?

Hawt And Royally Depressed

HARD, you knew what Dan was going to say when you wrote him, didn’t you? You knew that he would validate your disinterest in your wife, didn’t you?
You’re both assholes.

You claim to love your wife, and you claim to be a good husband. And yet, you say terrible things about your wife and expect her to change for you so you can get laid. That’s not a good husband, and that’s not love.

I mean, do you really expect her not to fart? Or to somehow be able to change the smell of her gas to make her more attractive to you? That’s incredible, and completely unrealistic.

What’s also unrealistic? Expecting your partner’s body to never change in the course of your relationship. Every one of us goes through physical changes in our life, many having nothing to do with our level of fitness or what we eat. Most of them are about getting old, which is better than the alternative.

Or, maybe we change because of illness.  If your wife suddenly became ill with breast cancer, and she lost her hair from chemo and had mastectomy, would she be unattractive to you then, and would you feel comfortable making demands on her about her appearance? If the answer is yes, you are a shallow dipshit.

I don’t want to imply that being physically attracted to our partners doesn’t matter, I know that it does for most folks. But, we don’t fall in love with a body. We fall in love with a person.

Dan Savage gives the same advice to questions like this over and over: tell your partner you aren’t attracted to her/him anymore because s/he is fat now, and unless they lose weight, the sexytimes are over for good, and maybe the relationship too. He focuses on the weight gain as the problem, rather than the inability of the partner to continue to find her/his partner attractive, which is likely as the result of diminished connection. He tries to cushion his fat hate by saying things like, “Of course fat people deserve love and sex, but that doesn’t mean we’re all required to be attracted to them!” Which, ostensibly, is true. We’re not required to be attracted to anyone, but when we’re talking long term relationships, advice like “Don’t ever let your body be different from the day you fell in love” is ridiculous.

That’s just shitty advice, and Dan Savage is also a shallow dipshit.

The problem is not your wife’s, HARD, it’s yours. Lots, and I mean lots, of relationships lose the sexual spark as time passes. And that’s true even if everyone stays at the same weight, shape and size as the day they met.It happens for a lot of reasons, some of them natural and some of them situational. Some of them can be worked out, and some of them can’t. Most of the time though, it has more to do with the connection the people feel toward each other rather than physical changes. Do you feel connected to your wife? Does she feel connected to you?

You are looking for excuses, and it just so happens your wife has gained weight and farts sometimes. Give yourself a break, but more importantly, give your wife a break. It’s good that you love her. Love her enough to evaluate what you’re bringing to the table in your relationship. Love her enough to understand that she is more than her body, but that her body is beautiful just as it is. Maybe you aren’t putting yourself out there in a way that’s attractive to her, pal. Maybe you need to put the toilet seat down, pick up your own dirty socks and stop wearing tightie whities. Show her some respect, and let her know you love her.

Work on feeling connected. Earlier this week, at work, we did the an exercise to establish connection with each other. It takes about 30 minutes, and is fairly intense.  Start out by sitting across from each other, and with eyes closed, focus on breathing. Eventually, you’ll work into having steady eye contact and  visualizing your partner’s life-beginning to end. Visualize her struggles, her triumphs, her birth, her childhood, her adolescence, falling in love with you, being with you, growing older, changing, dying. All of it. Ask her to do the same with your life. Then talk about how it felt, and be honest. The whole exercise can be found here, and if you can, ask someone to guide you by reading it as you go through it together.

Cardinal Rule: Don’t be a shallow dipshit, and work on being connected to your partner. If you aren’t feeling attracted to your wife, maybe it’s you that needs to do some work. Love is a verb, after all.

 

6 responses to “Savage Love Re-Answer: My Wife Got Fat!

  1. Urgh, I can imagine exactly what DS said. You hit the nail on the head though! Also: Any dude who considers ‘I sometimes contribute to cleaning our shared space, thus I am a good husband’ is almost certainly a turdbagel.

  2. “Don’t be a shallow dipshit” is solid advice that can be used for a variety of problems!

  3. Great post. One of the many problems with Dan Savage is he wrongly applies the arguments used against homophobia to other sexual issues. He tries to make it sound as if expecting people to act like grownups about sex and relationships can somehow be equated with bigots who expect gay people to stop being gay. He uses that false equivalency to justify his support of turd-like behavior as in the letter above and countless other letters he answers. Thank you for cutting through his brand of BS.

  4. Thank you for this post, and especially thank you for linking to the shared mindfulness exercise. I’ve been trying to meditate regularly this year, and this seems like the sort of exercise that could really help The Partner and me foster patience with and compassion for each other at moments when we’re frustrated.

  5. The original Dan Savage letter appears here: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=442309

    If you scroll down to the end of the comments, you find out that DS was trolling everyone. I’m not entirely sure *why* he was trolling everyone, but he e-mailed the LW privately with better advice and told him to ignore what he said in the column.

    Just FYI. If you want to be pissed off by his attitude about weight, there are plenty of other examples to choose from.

  6. I disagree. He doubles down on his “she should lose weight, she owes it to you to stay sexy!”, and doesn’t really change his tune other than to say he was too crass. I’d also say that his integrity is in question if he’s answering questions in his column, then contacting the letter writer and saying, “Don’t listen to what I said in the column.” That’s bullshit.

    It’s also bullshit to assume that I didn’t read the whole thing, btw.

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