“My husband is of a stocky build which I thought was okay when we married. However, after 17 years and another 50-60 pounds, I find him totally unattractive,” writes Sharon R. of Denver. “I still love him, but the feelings seem purely platonic. This problem has progressed to the point that in order to enjoy love making I have to direct my total concentration to recalling sexually explicit magazine images. I feel guilty about doing this. I should add that I have never had a high libido and I sometimes wonder if I am just using his fat as an excuse to be disinterested. I have grown cold to [my husband].”
Question: How important is physical or sexual attraction, and even lust, to ongoing romance and intimacy?
Answer: A lot. A whole lot. Somebody you find pleasing to look at you will value more, desire more, you will do more to protect the relationship, and you will be less inclined to wander. People who are attracted to their mates will tend to put up with more and try harder to preserve their relationships.
So what can you do, short of leaving, when you’re not feeling very attracted to your intimate partner?
Basically, you need to communicate to him or her how you are feeling. Something like: “I am finding that your appearance is affecting my sex drive and my sexual appetite, so I thought I’d bring the conversation up in order to ask for your assistance, because I want to want you, and I want to look forward to making love to you.”
Then tell your partner exactly what it is that you need in order for you to feel more turned on (I’d like for you to lose weight, dress nicer, or whatever).
You might try going on a diet together, joining a health club together, or going for walks together. Doing things together can be more enjoyable, and implies a real commitment to solve rather than just to complain about the problem.
What level of enjoyment do the two of you have in the relationship overall? Do you like each other, have fun together, enjoy each other’s company, parent well together, or are you feeling distant and turned off from each other across the board? Your relationship will be easier to save if the two of you are still feeling close to each other, even if you’re not sexually close.
Sexually withdrawing may work, although it is both punitive and provoking, and it can deadlock the two of you in a negative power struggle. I only recommend this tactic, therefore, as a last resort.
Make sure to compliment him when you can, especially if you see him honestly trying. Losing weight is hard to do. It takes long term persistence and perseverance, and it’s easier to do it when someone is noticing and encouraging our efforts.
If your husband refuses to cooperate, then you have to decide how important appearance and sexual attractiveness is to you, and how far you are willing to take this battle. The fact that you mention that your own libido has been low, may be cause for the two of you to explore how to stimulate sexual excitement together. There are many sexually explicit books and movies that may aid you. A marriage therapist or sex therapist may also be of help.