What to Do When Your Spouse Is Overweight but You’re Not
Having an overweight spouse when you’re not is a tricky situation. While you want to be there for your spouse and support them, you don’t want to come across as being too controlling or “holier than thou.” Whether they want to shed the pounds or don’t plan on making changes anytime soon, here are 7 ways to be your spouse’s support system without overstepping any boundaries.
1. Ask how you can help
Don’t take it upon yourself to do what you think is right. Every person is different, and what works for you might not work for them. Hiding snacks from your spouse or nagging at them to work out more will inevitably result in failure. Karen R. Koenig, an expert on the psychology of eating, suggests, “tell [your spouse] that you want to make sure you’re being helpful and ask [them] to alert you if you’re not.”
Regular communication and check-ins are definitely key in making sure your help is on both of your terms.
2. Reach for your own goals
Even if your partner has no interest in living a healthier lifestyle, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Koenig advises against eating badly out of guilt, which is a situation she’s seen before. She explained, “I’ve known of cases where a partner is at a healthy weight, but feels so uncomfortable about it that she ends up eating more like her unhealthy spouse and packing on pounds.”
You can have your own goals, and they may even inspire your partner to focus more on their health. However, Koenig also advises not to deem yourself a role model for your spouse. This could come across as you thinking you’re better than your spouse, and might result in resentment.
3. Keep an eye out for underlying problems
Unhealthy habits could be the result of underlying problems. Depression or anxiety are common links to people who are overweight, as food is often used as a coping mechanism. Koenig suggests keeping an eye out for signs of depression, such as “isolation, irritability, poor daily living habits, sleep difficulties, hopelessness, [or] lack of interest in activities that previously sparked interest.”
If you do recognize any of these symptoms, Koenig advises “[approaching] the subject gently and compassionately.”
4. Practice patience and positivity
No matter how motivated your partner may be to lose weight, it takes serious time to shed those pounds. They might feel like giving up or only focusing on the negatives (such as a “food failure” or if their weight loss stalls). Your patience and positivity could be their guiding light, so Koenig suggests celebrating their successes but empathizing with their frustrations.
5. Address any insecurities you may have
According to Koenig, “Many husbands and wives end up sabotaging the weight loss efforts of their spouses because it triggers their own unconscious issues.” Maybe they think their spouse could become more desirable to others once they’re in better shape, and wonder if their spouse would act on that attention.
If you feel threatened or personally insecure in anyway about your spouse losing weight, it’s better to address those feelings yourself before they damage your relationship.
6. Maintain intimacy
Communication is key in making sure to keep your intimacy alive, but Koenig suggests treading lightly. It’s possible that your spouse who is overweight may not feel completely comfortable with themselves during sex, so having a conversation about both of your needs or preferences will likely ensure a better experience.
Koenig thinks the best way to go about intimacy is trying to “understand how your partner feels about [their] body and how [their] attitude may be affecting sexual dynamics between you.”
7. Remind your spouse of all the reasons you love them
With so much focus on weight in today’s society, it’s easy to make it feel like the only important factor in life. If your spouse seems to be focusing too much on the way they look, remind them of all the reasons you married them in the first place — such as their talents, sense of humor, or drive.
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