How do I deal with the reality of having lost all physical attraction for my severely overweight husband? I've tried to be encouraging and understanding. I've made healthy meals for us, offered to exercise with him, and listened empathetically to his frustrations for years, but he hasn't shown interest in doing anything to change his situation. I don't think he's depressed, but all he wants to do is eat and sit around and and watch TV. It's gotten to where sexual intimacy is just a loving act of service on my part – there's no pleasure.
We want to suggest that there's likely something going on deep down inside your husband, and you need to find out what it is. We think there's a very real possibility that he is seriously depressed. Some of the details you shared – "he hasn't shown interest in doing anything to change his situation," and "all he wants to do is eat and sit around and watch TV" – sound like classic indicators of depression.
Depression shows up in different ways in different people, and gender can be one of the most important factors. Women are more likely to vent their emotions by crying, complaining, depriving themselves of food or sleep, or withdrawing from social involvement.
Men, on the other hand, often redirect their feelings. When a man experiences a loss of interest in things that used to be important to him – things like his relationship with his wife or the quality of their sex life – it's usually a pretty good sign that he's suffering from some form of clinical depression.
First things first.
Your husband needs to be evaluated by a physician, a psychiatrist, or a trained counselor. It would also be a good idea for the two of you to seek counseling together. That's the best way to get a complete picture of what's happening inside your husband's mind and in your marriage.
If your husband refuses the idea of counseling, we'd urge you to see a therapist on your own. Just be sure to let him know you'd prefer to have him come along. You might even ask him if he'd be willing to compromise by meeting with a pastor, a mentor, or trusted Christian friend before thinking about professional assistance. Tell him, "You may not have a problem, but I do, and I need your help to sort it out." This would be a great way of affirming him as a person and letting him know how much you care.
Express your feelings carefully.
You're going to have to walk a fine line between straightforward honesty and hurtful insensitivity if you want to preserve open communication and strengthen your marriage. Above all, keep in mind that there's nothing you can do to change your husband – that can't become your goal.
To a certain extent you need to accept the situation as it is and choose happiness in spite of your circumstances. Stay involved in activities that you enjoy. Don't let your husband's mood and behavior define the quality of your life.
Still, it's more than appropriate to tell your husband that you see a lot of room for change in his attitude. It wouldn't be helpful to come right out and say, "I'm no longer attracted to you." But you could come up with a word picture or analogy to help him realize how he might feel if something he deeply loved and cherished were neglected to the point of losing its former beauty and appeal. A good therapist can help you frame your thoughts along these lines.
Focus on the positive.
Find ways to affirm your husband in true and authentic ways. Simply mentioning a kindness or thoughtful gesture on his part will reinforce any positive steps he's taking.
If you'd like to discuss your concerns at greater length, call our Counseling department for a free consultation. Our licensed counselors would be glad to help in any way they can.
Unmasking Male Depression
Learning to Communicate