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Is Your Weight Ruining Your Love Life?

Tue, 20 Oct 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

The aphorism that love is in the eyes of the beholder generally holds true, but what is debatable is whether the beholder will continue to put his or her partner on a pedestal even after unacceptable physical changes have taken place in the latter. For married couples, the exchange of vows of conjugality – “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” – provides a greater-than-average incentive to stay true to each other; but our daily experiences reveal that these sacred words mean very little to some, once problems arise in, and geniality disappears from, the relationship. In other words, the solemnity of a marital vow, forlornly, gets off-loaded into the rivulet of flippancy and frivolity by some people once there is a major illness, severe weight gain, unanticipated debt, or a completely different happiness-stultifying calamity. This article will focus primarily on the effects of weight gain on a relationship.

When a man meets a woman, even before he attempts to woo her, he would have concluded subconsciously that she has met the physical criteria of a lover or would-be spouse: an attractive face; a certain height; a dark or light skin color (this writer typically preferred curvaceous, dark-skinned dames in his dating days); plump calves and ankles, which signify fecundity in many cultures; bodily dimensions that are equivalent to the universal standard of 36-24-36 (bust-waist-hips, in inches); and other subjective traits that are typically associated with elegance and attractiveness.

Let us take, for instance, the story of James and Adeline. At 5 feet 10 inches and 155 pounds, James would be considered tall and thin, and at 5 feet 4 inches and 115 pounds, Adeline would be considered a woman of ideal height and weight, which were exactly the initial qualities that endeared her to James. After getting to know and becoming attracted to each other, the duo began dating exclusively in May 2001, culminating in marriage three years later.

But five years into their marriage, Adeline has ballooned to a staggering 210 pounds – to be fair to Adeline, she is now a mother of two, a major biological change that temporarily wrecks a woman’s physical attributes – a situation that is destroying the romance in the marriage, since James prefers a small woman to a large one. While James blames his wife’s surplus weight on her unwillingness to modify her diet and engage in regular exercise, she, conversely, denounces his “insensitivity” and blames her dawdling weight loss on age and a slow metabolism. In fact, the couple’s inability to resolve this conundrum poses a serious risk to the stability of their marriage.

Different people and different cultures hold subjective views about what is acceptable – and what is not – when it comes to beauty and attractiveness. For example, Mauritanian men prefer chubby women, which is why girls as young as 9 in Mauritanian society are force-fed by their mothers and grandmothers to gain weight. Interestingly, skinny women in Mauritania, unlike their counterparts in the Western world, are the ones who get ignored by men, so many women in the aforementioned African society have a “solemn” duty to gain weight, if they are to give themselves a chance to find lifelong partners. Compare this peculiar situation to what pertains in the West and one realizes that Western societies are not very kind to large people.

Most Ghanaians who immigrate to the West do not immediately comprehend the dangers of overeating, since food is both cheap and comes in many varieties. As such, there is a higher-than-normal temptation to revel in undisciplined eating, especially when one can easily concoct excuses – stress; long hours on the job; inadequate remuneration; problems with commuting; overt and covert racism, et cetera – to indulge in such self-destructive behavior. Adeline would become the newest victim of excessive eating after moving to the U.S.A. with James in 2005.

Adeline used to have taut arms and thighs; a washboard stomach; and a proportionate derriere – but the same cannot be said of her appearance today. Sadly, the previously attractive Adeline has now developed a mass of stodgy, pudgy, sagging biceps and triceps; has extensive belly fat, her waistline having increased from an alluring 25 inches to an alarming 36 inches; and has buttocks that carry so much excess weight, James worries that she would soon require specially tailored habiliments to "hide" them.

James may have cause to panic, as he does not want to be amorously involved with a woman whose triceps seem to swing like a pendulum with the slightest motion of the arms! With Adeline now out of shape, her husband no longer finds her attractive enough for intercourse – and the relationship is teetering on the verge of infidelity. Can we blame James, since he has kept his weight – via diet and exercise – over the years and thus believes Adeline could do more for herself – and the relationship – by shedding some pounds too? Of course, the same situation goes for men who have allowed an excessive indulgence in food and alcohol to increase their girths by an unhealthy margin. If only these men could grasp the fact that they look like inebriated hedgehogs on skateboards when they walk or jog and are thus no longer able to stir up those once-powerful sexual fantasies in their partners, they would make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve their looks!

While James still takes his conjugal vows seriously and does not intend to abandon the marriage, the desire to seek affection elsewhere continues to simmer in his heart, more so because younger and better-looking ladies have shown some interest in him – openly or otherwise. While I agree that James should do all within his power to avoid a tryst or dalliance, I equally believe that Adeline must respond to James’ plea for some serious soul-searching about her present weight gain: it will require both of them to work in reciprocity to restore the relationship to its once-blissful state.

Any follower of the fascinating NBC News program titled “The Biggest Loser” knows that it is possible for people to lose excess weight, no matter their circumstances. If, indeed, Adeline wants to keep her partner, then she has a duty to stay fit, which will keep him sexually interested in her; if she assumes that it is too hard a sacrifice to make, then she stands to lose everything, including her marriage. At least, the risk exists that the relationship might not last. So, is your weight ruining your love life?

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.