Sexless wife feels fat.
September 14, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Should I be worried if my husband refuses to have sex? Or is it just me?

Let me get into the detailed background because it is very important to the issue.

I have a disabling injury that occurred shortly after I married my husband. I have moderate to severe back and neck pain 24/7, which causes several issues.

1. I cannot work at all.
2. I cannot keep house the way I once did.
3. I cannot exercise the way I used to.
4. I'm in my 40s and am not happy about it at all.

Because of all of this, I've gained quite a bit of weight and feel disgusting about myself.

Now about the time that I injured myself, we stopped having sex. It's not me, it's him entirely and trust me, our relationship started because of his incredible sex drive. I love sex and quite frankly, I seriously need it. Heaviness, pain, whatever... it won't stop me.

When I say we stopped having sex, I mean we went from 100 mph down to 1 or 2 mph. I think we've had sex maybe three times since the injury nearly two years ago.

He says he's worried about my pain, but I find that doubtful since I've repeatedly told him that this is the one thing that means everything to me and he knows it. I have quite a good sex drive for a woman, and always have.

Also early in our relationship, he made a few not-so-flattering remarks about heavy people, which I quickly put a stop to. I had to fight tooth and nail to keep myself thin (pre-injury) and so that was not going to wash with me. I told him that too, and he did stop. Still though, perhaps he is completely turned off by it, despite my admonishments? When he is asked directly about it, he says it does not matter to him. I find that doubtful.

So you see now I think it's more about me gaining weight and I've felt this for a long time now.

I had a dream just last night. It was this handsome (and young, must add that too) man who said that he loved me no matter how I looked. Naturally at first I didn't believe him, but somehow I came to trust him. Afterward, I was elated and incredibly happy. It was just simply amazing.

I would never, (well I normally say in my wildest dreams, but that's not going to work any more), ever have an affair, but in the dream I did and I did so without guilt. In fact, I did so with relief. I was just so happy that someone actually cared about me.

So now, what do I do? Every single time I bring it up, he manages to sidestep the issue. He tells me everything is fine and he's just worried about my pain. He comforts me, tells me he loves me, showers me with attention and then the whole thing starts all over again. His attention is very affectionate, just not sex.

What do I do? Please don't tell me to see a counselor. I don't have insurance (job loss) and I don't have money (job loss). We missed the enrollment date for his insurance, so I have to wait on that. (Mine stopped earlier this year).

I'm just so upset over all of this. I still have my sense of humor and such, so I'm not dysfunctional, overly depressed or anything. It's just very upsetting and my self-esteem is dropping fast. Couple that with a verbally abusive ex-husband and now I'm feeling everything he said was right about me (e.g., laziness, etc.)

Am I worried about nothing? Do I have a reason to be worried? Is there a way to help myself? What?

Any advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The answer to almost every relationship question is talk it out. Always. The key here is you don't believe his answer. You don't believe that he's "just worried about you". Sit down with him and tell him that you don't believe him. Don't allow him to brush it off.

Don't assume how he is feeling. Don't project what he might be thinking. Ask him. When he says he's "worried about your pain" tell him that you don't think that is the case.

Talk it out.. and then decide your next move.
posted by lakerk at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]

I've gained quite a bit of weight and feel disgusting about myself.

If you don't like yourself I don't think you should expect him to.

To me, I think there is some reason for him avoiding sex other than worrying about you being in pain. It's impossible for us to know what the reason is though. So yeah, talk and don't stop talking or allow the issue to be skirted until you have a real discussion.

And if you want to lose fat that's 90% diet anyway. It'll be a slower road than someone who could lift\do cardio but it will still happen. If you had to try so hard before maybe you should get you thyroid checked out or really look at what you're eating.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:33 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yes, you need to talk to him. It might take several sit-down-and-chat sessions before he opens up, so be patient. Also, you might want to consider professional counseling - especially if it happens that he DOES have issues with your injury or weight.

Whether or not you choose couples counseling, a therapist might be a good idea for YOU because being injured and unable to work or keep house or do much that is active, in one's 40's - one's prime - is a serious issue, and your self-esteem is bound to take a big hit. There is a forum - But You Don't LOOK Sick! for those who have invisible disabilities and face many of the same issues you do. It might be good for you to take a look at their forums and articles, and know that you are not the only one out there and maybe chat with others in your boat.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:34 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Come to him with what you need, meaning that regardless of why he's doing what he's doing, and I wouldn't press him on it, it's a problem that you need to solve together. And take it very seriously from a practical, moving forward standpoint. From now on, what do you want?
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's possible that he has a lowered sex drive for a physical reason: depression, illness, etc and may not even know it.

Outside of that, I would guess that it is mental. I don't want to sound cliched but guys will have sex given the chance, whether we want to or not. And a partner's weight doesn't matter, because physically it is just as good, or a reasonable facsimile of good. :) However, men can't fake the intimacy part of sex that well.

It could be that he is really having a hard time dealing with your injury and all the changes it brought. He may be uncomfortable talking about the fact that it really affects his sex drive. It's a double whammy: the fallout from injury AND figuring out the feelings about the fallout.

So my advice is to make it as easy for him to talk about as possible. The more he can talk about it in a totally selfish way, the less freaky it will seem to him over time. The "over time" part is very important. I suspect that guys need to think aloud with their words a lot more than they actually do. I would say that it is important for you not to freak out about what he says at first. It will be a jumble of weird beliefs and ideas that have been bouncing around his head for two years.

So why hasn't he talked about it more? My guess would be that he feels like it will harm the relationship if he opens up about this particular issue, that it will hurt you in some way, that it will seem like he is judging you, that it is selfish to feel the way he does when you are the one in pain.
posted by acheekymonkey at 10:49 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think your husband is going to do what he is going to do. Sometimes people don't step up as they should. That said, it would be good if you could get him to open up about what the problem really is, from his side.

In the meantime, if I were you I'd look for some excitement elsewhere. Not sex outside the marriage, but I think that dream was telling you something. Ypou say you are not depressed, but maybe you are bored. It's not just your sex life that's fallen off, it's work, exercise and everything that goes with those. That would bother anyone. Maybe something as simple as a new creative project would help.
posted by BibiRose at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, regarding your weight gain:

I have met a couple of people in your situation who do aquaerobics at the local YMCA. I think it would help you feel better if you take care of yourself, specially since you were so active before. the YMCA has graded fees for lower incomes.

I think aquaerobics are pefect for cases like yours, because even though you move and burn calories, there isn;t such a strain in the body. Of course, consult the people there to see if it;s advisable. I hope you can do it.

Really, learn to love yourself and take care of yourself, inside and out.

About your husband..yes, tell him. And you can start with less hardcore stuff like kissing, touching, talking, flirting, oral, etc. Does he reject your hints?
posted by Tarumba at 10:51 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's possible that he has a lowered sex drive for a physical reason

I don't mean to be unhelpful to the OP, but it's also possible that he doesn't have a lowered sex drive at all and his solution to the problem is to still love his wife and to satisfy his sexual needs either on his own or with someone else. Men are, IMHO, more able to differentiate between sex and sex and sex as emotional engagement ,and he may see satisfying his sexual appetite somewhere else as a trade off for making his marriage work.

In summary, OP: yes, I think you have some justification for being worried. Nice though he undoubtedly is, your hubby also probably feels bad that what was fun and frivolous has become emotional and painful. He may not bring the issue up because it doesn't make him feel good that sex has become an issue

I think you have the option of trying to have a heart to heart and establish what's on his mind - although I would caution that it is a possibility that you may not like the answer - and the option of not making a big deal about your feelings and insecurities and trying to make it fun for him to have sex with you again. These two options are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:03 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have a couple of questions:

1) Is it out of the question for you to exercise in some way and limit your caloric intake in order to rein in your weight problem? I totally understand where you are at the moment, and you have my sympathy, but are you a total prisoner of your injury? (If you are, fair enough. If not, this needs to be addressed.)

2) OK, what about your husband? Sex three times in two years? Does he have a diminished sex drive? If not, is he masturbating? Seeking sex elsewhere?

I sorta feel like these issues have two sides -- the surface, politically correct one and then the truth (at least for men).

It sounds to me like he doesn't want to sleep with you because he isn't as attracted to you as he once was. The excuse of not causing you pain is him just being kind. If a man wants sex, and can get it, he will go for it.

If so, can you sort out what is causing your weight gain and lower self-esteem? Yes? Great -- do that, and see if any improvements make your partner want to jump your bones again.

If not, then talk to him with complete honesty. Find out his state of sexual satisfaction. If he's happy, then great. If he isn't, you need either talk frankly about what might get him off OR be open to allowing other outlets for your husband. I have a hard time believing that he is just going to accept a sexless life. Fact is, most guys will eventually fool around on the side. A life without sex is not fair or acceptable.

That said, you don't have to accept your situation. Fix it as best you can within your means. If you can get up and move, do that. Stop eating so much. Baby steps. If you can't, then accept the consequences. I mean, what is the alternative? Unconditional acceptance of your situation by both of you? It's a recipe for disaster.
posted by teedee2000 at 11:04 AM on September 14, 2010

Are you initiating sex, or are you too afraid of rejection? If he's otherwise physically affectionate, try to take that further. Yes, it will be scary. If he follows your lead, great, my work here is done. If he says no, DO NOT POUT, because it will lead to him feeling guilty and telling you whatever he thinks you want to hear. Seriously, you need to get to a place in your head where either reaction is OK, or this approach will be fruitless.

If he says no, then wait until he's affectionate again (the next day, next week, whatever) and try again. After several unsuccessful attempts, talk to him when you are not attempting. Not before, not after, and definitely not during. Again, no pouting, no acting disappointed, even if you are, because it will just lead to him lying. He really sounds like he suffers from Nice Guy™ syndrome, and you want to avoid that at all costs.

Be as neutral and open as possible, and ask him what's going on. Tell him that you love him. Assure him that you can handle the truth, whatever it is. Do not pressure, do not raise your voice, and if you can help it, don't cry. Be sincere. Don't go into it assuming it's a lack of attraction, because your body language and tone of voice will be defensive and hesitant.

But be prepared for an answer you really don't like. What if your husband says "yes, it's because you've gained weight and I'm no longer attracted to you"? What are you going to say? What are you going to do? Who can you call for support? The better you're prepared for this worst-case scenario, the calmer you will be. And being calm and confident is the best way to get past the Nice Guy™ facade.
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2010

What would happen if you surprised him wearing something extra-sexy?
posted by callmejay at 11:20 AM on September 14, 2010

His Thoughts On Weight: Your husband's comments about heavy people stopped because you asked him to stop. That doesn't necessarily equate to a change in feelings about heavy people, which it sounds like you had previously assumed. He says he doesn't care about weight now, but you're right to be at least a little skeptical of that because you've made it clear that there is only one right answer to that question. He knows that he loses unless he says what you want to hear. That's good because he cares enough to not want to hurt your feelings or esteem, but it's bad because he could very easily feel just as he always did, which isn't an unusual feeling unfortunately. Maybe the perspective you gave him on the issue early on helped him learn and grow and change on that issue and maybe it didn't. But you'll only ever get one answer on it now. I'm not saying you did anything wrong. On the contrary, what else could one say? It's the right thing. But I still think that's how it shakes out.

What To Do: Your weight might be an issue for him on some level but he's not going to say it for the same reason most people wouldn't - he wouldn't want to hurt you. While we can guess, we can't know for sure whether that's all of the issue, a large or small part of the issue, or not really the issue in terms of the no-sex. It's natural to worry about the worst possibility, but it doesn't make any of us mind readers. Regardless, if you're feeling unloved and starting to fantasize about affairs, I don't see how you can do other than have The Talk, in which you make it clear how you are feeling and why (when you X, I feel Y), what sex means to you, what it does for you, what you need out of the relationship in terms of sex and love, that the same explanations and sidestepping and reset-buttoning aren't doing it for you, and that something has to change. That may or may not lead things in the direction you want, but you can't stay where you are now, feeling hurt and rejected and ashamed and unfulfilled. It will hurt, because growth is pain and vice versa, but you're going to have to get right with yourself first, and that may mean letting go of him a bit as a source of validation. You'll have to convince yourself first that you're worth it whether he thinks so or not. Often that internal change of stance leads to a change in the relationship dynamic, which can in turn lead to different behavior. But at a minimum it puts you in a healthier place.

By the way, it's one thing to understand this advice and to agree with it, but it's another thing to implement it. You say, "Well what if I just decide to say that I'm worth it and OK no matter how I look or what happens to me? What if I'm wrong and am just kidding myself and people reject me anyway because I'm not good enough? Isn't that really what determines my worth no matter what kind of self-cheerleading I do? What good am I if people don't want me?" It's hard to get started on it for that reason. But what you can see in that quandary is that it assumes an external or absolute judge of whether you're correct about yourself. The tough part is realizing that there is no such external or absolute judge. There's only you, but you and a lot of us abdicate that position and let others fill it. And so in a way this is about empowering yourself to be your own validator (bye bye, ex-husband's opinions). It feels like stepping out on wobbly Bambi legs initially, so you have to keep exercising them until they get stronger. That strength and the confidence it creates will put you in a better place to deal with this issue and all others. The hard thing to get used to is letting go of people and situations you're emotionally involved in when they "pay" you less than you know you're worth. Because 2/3 is better than zero, right? Well yeah, but as you're finding out, you still starve eventually.
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:29 AM on September 14, 2010 [10 favorites]

I'm thinking you need to figure out if he's not doing you because he no longer is attracted you or because he really is worried about hurting you.

The easiest and quickest way to figure this is for him to walk in you masturbating. Or masturbate as you leave a message on his voice mail. Or send him dirty pictures on his cellphone. You get the picture, something that'll clearly and unambiguously let him know you're ready and willing to go.

If he appears interested or wants to join in, well, that's your answer. If he's not interested and by not I mean, he's not asking for handjob, blowjob or just to frigging rub up against you, then yeah there's another issue.

Honestly, if Mr. Incredible Sex Drive isn't asking for you to do anything or trying to have sex with you in some way, even if it's just masturbating while he's looking at you, then yes, you should be worried. People with high sex drives usually don't just stop, they need to scratch that itch somehow.

Every single time I bring it up, he manages to sidestep the issue.

Uh uh, you can't let that happen. That fact that you are leads me to guess you're not really pushing it because you might be afraid of the answers. Either he wants to have sex or or he doesn't, it's that simple and cock doesn't lie. You're right there telling him you want sex to happen ASAP, so if not then and there, then when? Yeah, yeah, you're injured and in pain, so what, you still want sex, perhaps even need it because so much in your life has gotten messed up, at least you could have the joy of sex, right?

If he continues sidestepping, if he say what the hell is bothering him, despite your very eager and wiling desire to do the sexy deed, then perhaps you should discuss with him an open marriage or affair.

Also, can you let the mods know your general location? You can reach them via the contact link at the bottom of the page. If people know roughly where you're located, they can probably advise you about counselors who work on a sliding scale or something similar in your area.

Or maybe he's the one who needs counseling?
posted by nomadicink at 11:41 AM on September 14, 2010

Still though, perhaps he is completely turned off by it, despite my admonishments?

Maybe he is turned off by your excess weight. You can't admonish someone into finding something attractive.

How would you respond if his answer to you was this, "I love you deeply. I will always treat you with affection and respect. Unfortunately, at your current weight, I am not sexually attracted to you. I won't stray, but I don't see us having a sexual relationship."

What if he said that but the wasn't the weight, but it was the injury or your lower self esteem?

Both Mr. 26.2 and I struggle with our weight. I'm very sensitive to how hard it is to lose weight and maintain a weight loss. If you think the weight is the issue, then you need to think about your options. Is having a partner who finds you attractive at any weight is more important than having this partner.
posted by 26.2 at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

You keep pushing to find out why he doesn't want to have sex with you. He's being evasive. Here's something for you to think about - let's say he's honest and it turns out that the answer is that your weight makes you less attractive to him (and, sorry to say, but Occam's Razor suggest this as the best answer). So the real question is: what then? Is this something you can hear from him? I ask because whenever a guy comes in here to ask a question along the lines of: 'I'm attracted to my partner expect for X, how can I talk about it,' the answer from AskMe often seems to be that it is never acceptable for a man to tell his partner that something about her is unattractive.

So, I ask again: what then? If he is less attracted to you because of your weight do you want to change the way you're eating to try to lose some of it? Do you want to discuss opening up your relationship? Some other option? Because if that's what's going on, there's no way to make him be attracted to you, no matter how much he loves you. If it's not there for him physically, it's not there. In any event, he might be more willing to be honest with you if you can present him with the next step. If you say "if this is the case, I want to do x."

Guys with communication problems on AskMe are often told to stop trying to solve problems and just listen to how their partners feel. Strangely, nobody ever seems to give women the opposite advice. So here is is: most guys like to solve problems. Present this to him as a problem with a possible solution, and he might be more willing to discuss it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2010 [12 favorites]

Still though, perhaps he is completely turned off by it, despite my admonishments?
Why would your admonishments have any effect at all on what turns him on?

I'm going to ignore some parts of your question in order to focus on the physical attractiveness aspect (which may not even be the problem): If your husband wanted to have sex with an overweight woman, he would have married one. There is a difference in my mind between loving someone and wanting to have sex with them.

As a younger guy, sex was an expression of physical attraction. As I approach 40, it's an expression of physical AND emotional attraction. Maybe someday I'll be able to have sex with someone I love but don't find physically attractive, but I hope not. At this point, I can't imagine that being anything but a chore.

My gf occasionally says, "What are you going to do if I get fat? Cheat on me?" I answer, "No, I'll just lose interest in having sex with you." This is what I would expect from her if I got fat as well.

Also, given that weight is primarily a result of eating rather than activity/exercise, you don't necessarily need to become a gym rat in order to have a nice body.

But all of this aside, try some couples counseling and find out what the problem actually IS before you decide how you feel about it. Best of luck.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mean, but realistic view on what could be happening: How long did you know him before you were married? He might not have had enough time to bond strongly with you after marrying but before your accident - to the extent that he cannot see beyond your injuries and might now be depressed because it was not what he originally signed up for. Maybe he really wanted a more active life with you, and is trying his best to adapt now. I know I would be pretty gloomy if something like that happened to my partner of many years even though it is selfish and it might take me a very long time to adapt even with a strong foundation. I would probably also hide my emotions fairly well while I figured out if I could live with it or not, because it is not something within control of the person injured so I would not want to burden them any more than they already are.

I don't think weight is the issue here.
posted by meepmeow at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2010

I'll take a risk here and give you my take.

1. It sounds like your husband genuinely cares for you, FWIW.

2. 2 years is a long long time for him to avoid directly addressing this issue. You're right.

I disagree profoundly with someone a few comments up that states it's OK to become sexually turned off by your mate long-term due to aging, weight gain, etc. THIS IS LIKELY NOT WHAT IS GOING ON IN YOUR MARRIAGE. Someone that shallow would not be able to be loving and kind towards you (for two years!!) as your spouse obviously is.

I think the problem is the injury and pain. That probably lead to one thing, that lead to another... and now your husband probably thinks there is no way for him to be honest about the state of relations between you today. He loves you. And he doesn't know where to begin.

There are medical professionals who help couples understand sex and intimacy after injury and disability... I think you ultimately need one of those. Maybe start researching possibilities now, before your insurance kicks in?

I hope your husband comes around to realizing he may have the wrong idea, and that intimacy is safely possible now that you are recovering. Becoming more active on your own (swimming, regular walks, whatever you can handle) will go a long way towards showing him you are not so fragile anymore. Do That.

I might put off talking things through with him for the immediate future. I have no advice on how to approach the topic, other than I think you should get a little proactive and show yourself you can do physical activity regularly first. Then, when your confidence is up, it might be a good time to directly revisit the topic of physical intimacy with your spouse. You've brought it up a few times so far and gotten no where. I suggest you put a little positive energy into things on your end before attempting the dialogue again. You can't change him right now, so I suggest you start with yourself.

Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 1:19 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you have the right to a sexually-fulfilling marriage. Barring that, you have the right to an explanation from your husband about why he is unwilling to give you a sexually-fulfilling marriage. (Too bad you aren't Jewish -- you'd have that agreement in writing.) That is the mindset you should have when you bring this up with him. Don't be resentful or demanding of him -- accept that you are to blame from the standpoint that you should have been more firm in talking about this earlier on. But don't let him squirm away. He needs to be a man and address your needs, and voice any unmet needs that he has, too. It is unfair of him to keep the both of you unhappy because he's too big of a wimp to say whatever is bothering him.

RaggedRichard, I totally disagree with you on this point: I ask because whenever a guy comes in here to ask a question along the lines of: 'I'm attracted to my partner expect for X, how can I talk about it,' the answer from AskMe often seems to be that it is never acceptable for a man to tell his partner that something about her is unattractive.

Either he is attracted to her, or he isn't. There is no "except for this one thing." If the on thing is a huge issue and keeps him from being attracted to her and/or fulfilling her emotional/sexual needs, then he needs to leave the relationship and allow her to find someone who will find her attractive, without mentioning the offensive characteristic because it is no longer any of his concern. If the one thing is not keeping him from finding her attractive overall, then he needs to accept her flaws and be happy that she is accepting his flaws, too, and keep mum. A person's body is not a la carte. Now, there are things that can be mentioned (I know we were divided on the lady's mustache issue), but it shouldn't be about how sexual attractiveness hinges on that flaw. "Oh honey, you know I don't care about your hair color and find you beautiful regardless, but I do think it'd be a hot change if you died your hair red [and covered up those greys]."

Anyway, I think it's more likely your depression, your own issue with your body, or the changes in your lifestyle than your weight that are upsetting his attraction to you. Are you getting any kind of medical attention for your condition? I think that you need a professional to talk through this with. Even just your current doctor, not necessarily a therapist. I hope you haven't discounted seeking professional help just because you "don't have health insurance." There are a lot, lot, lot of options out there -- different kinds of low-cost insurance (I'm hearing stories about people stumbling across new health-care options as a result of "Obamacare"), different pay-options for mental-health professionals, free counselors through various channels, etc. Start talking to people and doing some research on finding someone to help you, with your own depression and with your marriage.

And I really strongly caution against "showing up in something sexy" or "sending him dirty pictures." It's been two years -- I don't think you're going to "remind" him that he could potentially be having sex with you. There is something going on, and you'll only make him feel more pressured and guilty about whatever it is, and if he rejects your advance you'll feel even worse after having put yourself on the line and being so blatantly rejected. (I speak from experience from a his-fault sexless relationship.)
posted by thebazilist at 1:35 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wonder if you should not put attempting to directly improve your sex life aside for 6 months(+/-) and use that time to focus on exactly what you can do to improve the quality of your everyday life, your active contributions to the partnership and then do those things. It would appear you are "negotiating" from a position of psychological and practical weakness. While I do understand intellectually, and somewhat practically, the phenomena of intractable pain it is much more responsive to treatment than was historically true. If you do not have insurance are you eligible for any temporary medical insurance ( medicaid ) or even Medicare if you are disabled. I would guess you have the time to explore local resources and strategies that are free, or very inexpensive, to assist in exercise, weight loss, and improved mobility. It would be helpful to get a clear sense of the type of community in which you live to help in identifying resources. There are numerous on line resources relating to exercises for the physically challenged. I am guessing your sexual relationship with your husband will not improve until you see, and treat, your self as an equal partner with equal responsibilities and rights. This does not mean your husband will do a quick about face if things change--you have almost no control over what he thinks and does but you do have control over your behavior which will shape (in part) your personal sense of strength and worthiness. It is perfectly normal to want to be loved for exactly what you are but that starts with your own ability to honestly embrace yourself--and part of that is usually an honest accounting of ones self.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:48 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

thebazilist - the lady's mustache is what I was thinking of when I posted that. I think what's going on here is that people have two different understandings of sexual attraction, and those different understandings are leading to pretty divergent responses on this thread. It might help a little bit if we call them out, because I think they're pretty heavily informing people's responses.

So, for some people, and I guess I'm in this camp, sexual attraction comes down to "do I, physically, want to have sex with this person right now?" According to this understanding, attraction is related to, but not the same as, emotional involvement. People have certain physical things that they are attracted to and not attracted to, and emotional closeness will help push them one way, but might not be enough. I, for example, am in a relationship right now with a woman who I'm very attracted to, and who I love very much. I think I can say that there's no amount of weight that she could gain that would make me love her less. But if I'm being honest with myself, I just can't say that there's no amount of weight she could gain that would make me less attracted to her.

The other camp sees attraction as much closer to emotional involvement. This group of respondents seems less likely to think that a person who's in love with someone else could be not attracted to that person. I know people like this - I have a good (female) friend who has frequently described being unattracted to people at first, and then becoming more attracted to them as she gets to know them. For what it's worth, I've never had this experience. I really hate to make gender generalizations, but on the whole, I've heard many more women describe having this happen to them than men.

I think this is important, because if the OP and her husband are coming from different perspectives on this issue, they might be talking past each other. But I can say for certain that it is at least possible that her husband can love her just as much as her ever did and still be less attracted to her because of her weight gain. We can discuss whether or not this is ok, I guess, but my point was mostly that it may well be true. Given that, I think that if the OP wants the honest answer to the question she keeps asking her husband, she should decide what she wants to do if this is the case. I wouldn't feel comfortable advising her on what that should be - that's a decision only she can make.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Phew. There's an awful lot of pressure on the OP here to do this or that; lose weight; ask him to talk about his sexual neglect of her (which is what this is) in just the right way so as not to hurt his delicate feelings; just understand that fat means No Sex for You, Sorry and accept it.

Why is this all on her? What did she do wrong...get injured? Why is this all her job and her fault?

So I'm going to take the opposite tack: your husband is doing something wrong. He is ignoring what you have said, in no uncertain terms, you need. Something pretty central to a romantic relationship. As your spouse, that is a Bad Thing. He didn't listen to you, or didn't care enough to listen, or was too scared to be honest. It's bad in a friend, it's bad in a husband.

If he just *can't* have sex anymore because of his own hangups about weight, then he owes it to you to say so--and maybe even to set you free to find fulfillment elsewhere if you both think that's the only way. But he's not being brave enough to do that. And that is also wrong. It's putting his comfort ahead of your needs.

But the "lose weight" crowd needs to get bent, and here's why; you are married. It's for life, including old age. At some point, neither one of you is going to look good in a bathing suit, and life being what it is, disease or injury was likely to happen to one of you the longer you were together.

So would it be ok for him to just ignore you then? No.

And it's not ok now.

As for advice? Decide what you are willing to do. Are you willing to end it? Are you ready to deal with either his hangups (whatever they may be) or with walking away if he can't deal with them? Do you have a strategy or the strength?

Once you know what you are prepared to do/not do for yourself and your needs, you'll be ready to hear whatever he has to say.

Maybe it's fixable, maybe it's not; maybe he will apologize and start working on this with you like an actual partner. You need to know what you will do, regardless of what he will or won't do.
posted by emjaybee at 2:46 PM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

So I'm going to take the opposite tack: your husband is doing something wrong.

I don't know about that. If it was a husband complaining about a wife, I would say if she doesn't want to have sex, she doesn't have to have it. So I'd afford the same answer to the OP. The husband is not doing anything wrong. Maybe he is having hormonal problems and he isn't bothered by it particularly and doesn't desire sex.

The husband could "give in" and have sex with her, but I think what the OP is looking for is that he have the desire to have sex with her, which, for whatever reason (hormonal problem, stress, insecurities of his own about his performance) he doesn't have, and framing it as him being at fault and "doing something wrong" when maybe he doesn't have the emotional capacity to deal with sex or communicate about this issue at this time on top of being the provider doesn't seem fair.

Anon wants to feel less insecure about herself and she seems to be convinced that her weight has turned her husband off of her, when it's probably more complex than that, since he is affectionate and loving and loves her and is taking care of her.

Anon, I think your option is to tell him your worries and what you want and how you feel, encourage him to see a doctor for a hormone panel and leave it at that. Perhaps there are other ways of satisfying yourself sexually that you can explore, if it's just sex that you want. But you can't force someone into desiring you. In the end, you're just going to have to figure out how to feel good about yourself as you are.
posted by anniecat at 3:07 PM on September 14, 2010

I think it's not fair to do anything until you've talked. That being said, I think counseling is the best format for this talking to occur. There are plenty of pro-rated counselors available (I used to see one through the state university I attended- I believe they were a "community counseling clinic").

Please don't show up in something sexy unless you are prepared for possible rejection. I was in a sexless relationship and found out (after a lot of heartbreak) that it stemmed from his own insecurity. Also, it was likely related to untreated depression. The sense of rejection was the most humiliating feeling and led me to some really uncomfortable places.

Also, I think some of the gender based conclusions are a bit unfair. I (as a female) had a much stronger sex drive than my partner (male). People concluding that his lack of desire to have sex meant he was unattracted to me was unhelpful. I am pretty certain that he was *most* attracted to me, but had his own issues to work through. In general men may have a higher sex drive, but this is not always the case. Please don't listen to this.

For myself, the stereotype that men should always want it and women shouldn't was detrimental and frusturating.

Please talk. Please seek counseling.

Good Luck.

On preview: anniecat said what I wish I could say. In my experience, I wanted to feel desired and there was nothing I could do to make him feel that way. OP, figure out what you want from him and talk about that.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the spirit of offering suggestions rather than responding to other posts I suggest you do not take emjaybee's advice. It is a dead end--the logical conclusions of her advice are: 1) hope he confronts himself and changes 2) accept an unfulfilling relationship,or 3) leave him. I would point out that you have almost no control over the first and the 2nd and 3rd do not leave you in a much better (or possibly worse) position than you are. The "get bent comments" also go nowhere. You expressed "disgust" with your own weight, acknowledged it is a contributing problem and most importantly it can be a very serious medical problem when coupled with substantially impaired mobility. Having diabetes, less mobility, arthritis, more pain, taking medications for hypertension or cardiac problems etc are not going to make you feel better, feel sexier or be more sexually attractive. The "weight is no problem" is OK if one can be relatively physically fit--excess weight plus limited mobility is not exclusively a cultural or attitudinal problem it can quickly become a medical problem. I personally do not care if you lose weight. I do care that you are as fit as possible, feel good about yourself and are pleased with your own efforts to address the issues that effect your everyday experience. BTW, I know some increased regular exercise is possible. I have worked all my life with persons who have major psychiatric and/or physical disabilities and I work out 3-4 times a week with persons who have major physical limitations due to trauma or disease. I do wish you the best and hope you work for the best life possible.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:19 PM on September 14, 2010

I suspect this boils down to:
(a) at your current weight he isn't finding you sexually attractive right now
(b) BUT he knows darned well you were injured and you CAN'T really do anything about losing weight.
(c) he's in a situation where he knows he can't say anything because it would hurt you, plus it's about something that isn't under your control to fix.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:56 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

So I'm going to take the opposite tack: your husband is doing something wrong. He is ignoring what you have said, in no uncertain terms, you need. Something pretty central to a romantic relationship. As your spouse, that is a Bad Thing. He didn't listen to you, or didn't care enough to listen, or was too scared to be honest. It's bad in a friend, it's bad in a husband.

I'll come down right in the middle: you both need to step up here. Or rather, I don't think it's very useful to think of either of you as having done something wrong, regardless of what may be the case. You should be focusing on fixing the situation to the best of your ability, as you can't force him to act in any particular way.

As others have noted, it sounds like you are unwilling to get the truth from him, and I'll bet he's just as unwilling to give it you. You are wary of being hurt and he is wary of hurting you. Of course, the irony of this sort of situation is that you are both already in intolerable pain. As others have also said, you two need to have some honest, painful, but compassionate discussion, and maybe counseling too. That's all there is for it.

Get it out in the open and deal with it however you are both able to deal with it—whether that be you losing weight or staying the same and being happy with it, him learning to find you attractive and having more sex with you...or not. But until you start pushing for what you need, you are choosing to be unhappy indefinitely. I'm not saying he's not responsible for being a good husband to you, but you best know what you need (and you have a right to it), and you can only control what you say and do—understanding that fully gives you power.

Good luck and best wishes.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 7:50 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd suspect he really is afraid of hurting you further in the attempt. I know I was that way after my wife's surgery.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a lot going on here: insecurity, a major life change, chronic pain, financial stress, and the lack of sex. Things are getting worse (new dreams), but the attempts at conversation seem to have gone as far as they can. In my experience, once a conversation reached an impasse in relationships where we hadn't had couples therapy yet, it stayed at an impasse.

I have a tight budget, so I do really know how much money worries make certain things nearly impossible, but I also know that even in my tightest days, I was making choices about what to save up for and how to spend the little money I did have. So let's say you went to couples therapy every other week for six months. Full price would be $1700 or less. Let's say it took a full year. If you could buy a satisfying sex life and good communication, the kind that strengthens the long term foundation of your marriage and sets you up for long-term happiness together for $3400 -- wouldn't you save that money somehow?

The trick to getting your money's worth is finding someone who you really, really like. It takes shopping around.
posted by salvia at 10:44 PM on September 14, 2010

First of all, there's a lot of gender stereotyping in this thread. Men don't always want more sex than women. In fact, in my experience of married couples, it is usually the women who want sex and the men who aren't giving it. I don't know why. It's something to do with marriage that makes a man not feel as driven to sex. It may also be a natural hormonal thing as we age. I know how difficult it can be to deal with desire discrepancy. I dealt with it for years. What finally helped was accepting that I had some responsibility for us not having sex in that I was putting too much pressure on my husband and asking for sex in unreasonable ways and times. So I took some of the blame onto myself and we sat down for several long, honest, non-judgmental talks.

We talked about what turns us on and what turns us off. We talked about what times we feel like having sex and when we didn't . We talked about our communication. I can't actually say that we started having more frequent sex because of these talks, but we started having more enjoyable sex and our relationship improved. I went from feeling unattractive and neglected to feeling desired, mostly because my husband started verbally expressing the times he found me attractive, even if he didn't actually want to have sex. We started verbalizing the times we wished we could have sex, even though we couldn't for one reason or another.

I'm also disabled with back pain and heavier than I would like to be because of it. I just can't buy the idea that someone just stops being attracted to their spouse and that's it. Sure, physical things like weight can be unattractive, but there's always a way to make it sexy. Certain clothing, outfits, lingerie, blindfolds, roleplay, whatever does it for you. Take what you have and make the best out of it. It works if you have two people who want for it to work. If you don't, then you've got bigger problems.

But the biggest thing here is you have got to seriously talk about this with him. I found that instead of having talks that turned into fights due to emotional finger-pointing, the trick was to put on the "Objective Hat" and just listen to what my husband had to say without reacting to it emotionally. You have to pretend your spouse is your friend who's telling you about their feelings about a relationship that doesn't include you. Only when we had listened to each other from this detached perspective did things start to make sense.

Good Luck.
posted by threeturtles at 11:00 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a psychologist, or a Freudian, or a dream interpreter, but I have myself had very similar dreams to the one you mention in your question. That feeling of elation you describe--I know exactly what you're talking about, and it's such a deep, calm, wonderful feeling. I've had that feeling in dreams when I'm with men who aren't my husband. We went through a rough time recently, so I brought up one dream to my psychologist, thinking it signified that I should go elsewhere and look for someone who could make me feel the way I did in that dream. It's her view that it's possible in dreams that different characters represent different aspects of ourselves. And that made so much sense to me. So, to make a long story short, I think the most significant part of your question was you having that dream. It sounds to me like you were talking to yourself, telling yourself that you love you no matter what your appearance is! How wonderful! That part of you that loves you unconditionally might be trying to get through to you in your waking life. Again, this is all conjecture, but if I were you and if it's possible, if would put energy into getting to know that part of yourself better.
posted by lagreen at 4:36 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

First of all, there's a lot of gender stereotyping in this thread. Men don't always want more sex than women.

Note that the Original Poster described her husband as having a high sex drive, which now seems to be completely gone.
posted by nomadicink at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2010

I have a health problem that affects my ability to exercise, and have gained weight over time. Lack of physical activity makes weight really hard to manage.

Looks. Get a great haircut, get a great, sexy outfit, and then, Have you tried seducing him? Nice meal, a little wine and music.

This is a big issue. Big issues are what therapy is for.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on September 15, 2010

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