Q. I have a sexual problem that has to do with my boyfriend. Over the last few months, he hasn't really been in the mood to have sex. It took a while to figure out what was bothering him, but it became clear (after having a few discussions) that it's his weight. This was not what I was expecting! I thought it had to do with work and stress, but he really does seem sensitive about his body image. I mean, he's grown a bit of a belly over the last while, but it's not like it makes me any less into having sex with him - all I want is for him to want me back!! How do I help him get over it?
A. The connection between weight and sex has a lot more to do with self-esteem than the actual numbers on a scale. When you live a healthy lifestyle and take good care of yourself it’s easy to feel energized, positive and virile. And having a healthy desire sex is an important aspect of maintaining a functional relationship with a sexual partner.
In your boyfriend's case, he's chosen to physically isolate himself by withdrawing sexually, which is a common behavior among people who feel down about their bodies. However, it's one thing to want to shed a few extra pounds, but it's another to feel so fat that it impacts your activities and close relationships.
So how to do you two get past this? Well, first you need to decide whether this is a short term funk or a regular part of his personality. If you notice this behavior of physical withdrawal becoming a habit, you may need to reassess whether or not his behavior is conducive to a well-rounded relationship. If you are going to stick around for a while, here are some ways to deal with the situation.
You didn't mention how deeply you discussed the impact of his self-image on your sex life. Speaking about this issue can be very touchy, and openly addressing it might seem like it makes matters worse; but don't ignore it either. Pointing out how his behavior impacts you might be just the impetus he needs to snap out of it. Even if it isn't, at least he knows that it's not something he can ignore without consequences.
If he's committed to changing his lifestyle for the better, the best thing you can do is participate. Choose activities that promote physical activity that you guys can do together. Create a fitness oriented goal that the two of you can work towards like running a fun-run or taking a backpacking trip. Once you've got the ball rolling, suggest sex as a form of physical activity that the two of you can enjoy.
Be patient and stay positive. Losing weight is a learning process. It takes time for healthy habits to kick in and even more time to establish and maintain a positive self-image. It will happen if your boyfriend stays willing - and even more so if you support him.
Remember, you can influence his decisions by making healthy choices of your own, but the second you start nagging or counting his calories, its game over. Cross his boundaries by poking at insecurities and your relationship will be tinged with resentment and unnecessary squabbles. To avoid coming across as patronizing, don't pick on what he's doing right or wrong; just let him do his thing; just be quietly supportive and encouraging. Otherwise, he's likely to withdraw physically and emotionally.
Ultimately, your boyfriend has to come to terms with living life at whatever weight he is, and he needs find a way to deal with his self-esteem issues that doesn't involve isolation. Check out Don't Want Sex Because I Gained Weight for more on this topic.