Less attracted to wife
August 28, 2005 10:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm becoming less attracted to my wife all the time. What do I do?

I’m 39 years old, and my wife is 37. We have two kids. I love my wife very much and our relationship is quite strong overall. However, in the last couple of years I have found her to be less physically attractive than at any other time in our marriage. This has been really bothering me a lot. She was absolutely breathtaking when we got married; but now she has gained a little bit of weight and, while she’s still basically nice looking, she does not grab my eye the way she used to. I’m embarrassed to say that this is important to me, but it turns out that it is. I think the changes in her body can partly be attributed to the normal ravages of time; however, she eats more junk food now than ever before and exercises less now than ever before. Her physical appearance impacts my mood while I’m with her, I’m sorry to say. Also I find myself thinking a lot about more attractive women within our circle of association. I really have two questions: (1) Is there any way I could talk to her about this without causing more harm than good? (2) In the meantime, how can I deal with being less attracted to her and more attracted to so many other people? I have no one else I can discuss this with, so I would really appreciate some feedback.

* If you don’t mind, I would like it if you identified yourselves as male or female in your responses. I think the context of your response changes a lot depending on your own sex.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some constructive things you can do:

- Talk to her about it, let her know it is important to you and see what she thinks.

- Set some time aside each day to work out together. If you have to lie about your intentions, make up a story about staying fit and healthy so the kids will always have you both around. I love working out with my wife, I always catch glimpses of what I saw when I first fell in love with her.

- Or be honest with her and tell her you want to work through this with her and exercise and eat better right along with her.

Marriage isn't supposed to be easy, and people change. Don't take the easy route. The easy route is to be the cliche you almost sound like. To get a divorce because she gained a few pounds or do something stupid like bang a hot 25 year old from your work to feel better. The physical isn't really important to me so I'm having trouble feeling sympathetic to your plight. I love the person I married, no matter what form they take.

Take the high road, take the harder journey on this one. Work it out, don't leave everything because of how someone looks.
posted by mathowie at 11:21 PM on August 28, 2005

Bringing this topic up with your wife sounds like a recipe for diaster to me. No one wants to hear a person harp about their weight. If you want to be a good husband you can propose to do joint exercise sessions (walking, running, racketball, whatever). If you buy the groceries, don't buy any junk food. Change your diet for the better as well so you are setting a good example.

Other things you can try: by your wife something sleek and sexy.

Whatever you do, don't go in head first on this. It will be bad.
posted by mmascolino at 11:22 PM on August 28, 2005

buy your wife something sleek and sexy

(speaking as woman here:) Oh for god's sake, NO!! If you're aware she's gained weight, she's far more aware (and self-conscious and worred) than you are. Buying her something seems to me to be a far worse recipe for disaster that trying to bring it up diirectly (but compassionately) -- because you're sending her a veiled message, and really, no good pretty much ever comes from that. If you get her a size smaller than what she wears, the message she may receive is "he's telling me I have to be a smaller size to be attractive." If you get her a size larger than what she wears, the message she may receive is "he's telling me he thinks I'm even fatter than I already am!" Pain, anger, resentment, and insecurity are likely emotional reactions to such messages -- and are not exactly the kind of thing to inspire someone to cheerfully lose weight. (Besides, even if you get the correct size, what if you get her something she doesn't feel sleek and sexy in? "God, that shade of blue makes me look like my skin is made of ash, and the waistline makes me look pregnant again.")

I have to admit I don't exactly know what the solution is in your case (I'll sleep on it...), but i do know that the "buy her something sexy" advice instinctively raised a massive DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! red flag for me.
posted by scody at 11:39 PM on August 28, 2005

Think about how you'd feel if the situation was reversed. "My husband is losing his hair and I'm just not as attracted to him as I was when he had it all." or whatever.

Two pregnancies and births and childrearing are going to change a woman's body. Those stresses may also affect her general mood, and may lead to stress-related eating, lack of time to exercise and less attention to her own well-being while she's caring for you and your children instead of when she was a carefree breathtaking single woman.

Perhaps, as others suggest above, you can help pick up the slack in the caretaking, and help take care of her physical well-being, both for her health and for your relationship. And perhaps you can talk to a counselor (therapist/clergy/whatever) about what your own part is in all of this, and what you are willing to compromise in order to keep what you identify as a strong relationship truly strong.
posted by judith at 11:56 PM on August 28, 2005

(woman speaking) This is one thing you don't need to share with your wife - you'll make her paranoid for the rest of your marriage; when her boobs sag, when her hair grays, when her neck wrinkles she'll be thinking that you aren't attracted to her (which equals "he doesn't love me").

How you deal with being attracted to others is to make a firm committment to yourself that you will not disrespect your wife. Period. Look but don't touch.

Then leave your wife alone and start working on yourself. 'Cause buddy some day you're gonna be bald with a saggy concave chest and hair growing out your ears, and you're going to want this woman staying by your side no matter what you look like.

I don't think this is about your wife and her looks, I think it's about you and your attitude. Sexy is all in the mind (so says this woman).
posted by LadyBonita at 12:04 AM on August 29, 2005

This is just a guess, but I don't think your wife's weight/attractiveness is the real issue. I think from reading between the lines of your post that you may be one of those people who's esteem is based externally rather than internally. You said:

Her physical appearance impacts my mood while I’m with her, I’m sorry to say.

This leads me to believe that you feel that your worth and attractiveness is at stake here. The fact that she was, in your view, extremely attractive when you met also gives this theory some weight. If this is true, then the solution has little to do with your wife losing weight - or getting more attractive. The solution is for you to start basing your self worth on things other than what you perceive those around you might think. I would ask yourself if status and income and other material issues are also very important to you.

I may be off base, but it just seems like you are making an excuse of your wife's attractiveness as the base problem, when it could very well be that if you "fix" yourself you will not have any issue with her at all.

So, my advice, get thee to a therapist and start some serious and honest emotional inventory. By working on your own shortcomings you will very likely find less in those around you.

And if you feel like you need to have attractive women around you to feel happy, be honest and end your marriage first. As someone stated before, don't be a cliché.
posted by qwip at 12:15 AM on August 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I'm a guy.
posted by qwip at 12:15 AM on August 29, 2005

Her physical appearance impacts my mood while I’m with her, I’m sorry to say.

This leads me to believe that you feel that your worth and attractiveness is at stake here.

Huh? He didn't say, "I'm embarassed to be with her in public." He wants to be with someone who he is physically attracted to — and is quite upset that his wife doesn't do it for him anymore.

Call him shallow if you must, but it's a huge leap to assume this has anything to do with his self-esteem.
posted by rafter at 12:37 AM on August 29, 2005

I would approach it differently. First of all include yourself, and second of all approach it from a health perspective. Tell her you are interested in starting to excercise more, and eating healthier. Spend time together biking or swimming or something, and go shopping/cook together with more healthy food.

It is natural to be attracted to other women, genetically speaking, but that doesn't mean you should follow through with those impulses. You married someone and have kids together. Suck it up and try to come to terms with the fact that you are both getting older.

Since you had to ask, I am a guy.
posted by sophist at 12:40 AM on August 29, 2005

Call him shallow if you must, but it's a huge leap to assume this has anything to do with his self-esteem.

I did preface by saying I was reading between the lines. And since we can't ask an anonymous poster follow-up questions, I took a little license to explore a potentially correct assessment of the situation. Hey, more possibilities are better than less, n'est pas? So, while I appreciate your concern that I am misinterpreting what he is saying/feeling, I feel I couched my answer in enough "I think" and "guess" to show that I am not speaking from fact. Not sure why you feel that this angle is not something to consider - and to even call it out as a huge leap. Who knows, maybe I hit the nail on the head. I stand by my "huge leap" based on the information at hand.
posted by qwip at 1:39 AM on August 29, 2005

If it bothers you, it bothers you, and telling to just get over it is probably going to do no good. So, I'd say tell her that you love her, and then ask her to lose some weight as a favor to you. In return you should offer to change something about yourself that bothers her. Also, if she does lose weight, reward her somehow (make sure to tell her how great she looks). Though, if you do go the direct route, as I'm suggesting, don't nag her about it afterwards. (I'm a guy.)
posted by epimorph at 1:48 AM on August 29, 2005

and qwip you weren't the only one to make the leap, though mine was more of a tiny delicate feminine hop.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:51 AM on August 29, 2005

Anonymous' feelings are normal and he is trying to deal with them in a good way. Perhaps some people will be attracted to their partner no matter what, but that doesn't make him 'in the wrong'. People can be very different.

Is there a reason why your wife is eating more junk food and not working out? Perhaps it is stress or lack of time, or she has some feelings of insecurity. There might be a way you can work on this together, as people have said.

You could surprise her with some things that make her feel relaxed and sexy but aren't about appearance like massages, vouchers for a spa, champagne.

Perhaps it would be good to talk more with your wife about both of your sexual needs and fantasies. Maybe start by asking her if there's anything she would like to try, or do differently. Attraction's a two way thing, and if you do some things that make her shine you might get the connection back.

You might find that there's some things that she would change about you, and you might get to the point where you can ask her things in return. I would be very careful and sure before you do this though.

I've never been in a very long term relationship, but in my experience things can go in cycles and you might get it back better than before. Think of it as being a low point, not something that's going to get worse.

J (man)
posted by lunkfish at 3:28 AM on August 29, 2005

Are you at all concerned about how her weight will affect her health, or are you only concerned about how her weight will affect your own reaction to her? If it's the former, I suggest talking to her about your concerns with her health and offering to be a good support to her if she needs it. If it's the latter, I don't know, I probably still might try, but she'd be able to see right through you.

(woman here)
posted by cajo at 3:41 AM on August 29, 2005

Hey, is this my husband?

I'm 37, two kids and 35 pounds heavier than I was when I got married. I am well aware of how much I weigh and how I have changed over the years. I wouldn't be surprised if my husband found me less attractive, but I would also hope that the life we have built together would trump the externals.

Life is hard in this phase. There are kids, chores, work, commute, baths, laundry, bills, trips to Target and the supermarket, homework and not much time to devote to oneself, especially among women, who tend to put everything else higher one the list.

Exercise? Yes, I know I have to do it. But when? Eating healthy? Sounds great if someone will come over and cook for me, and pack me a lunch, too, while you're at it.

I don't want this to sound like a defensive pity-party. What I'm saying is that there are lots of us out there, and we would love to be as thin and attractive as we were when we got married. I would love to wear skinny jeans and belly shirts. But for now, it's just damned hard.

What would help, if you were my husband? Take a step back and look at the division of labor in your house. Can you help her find 45 minutes a day for a walk? Can you cook a fabulous, healthy meal - often - or do the fruits and vegetables go bad in your house before they're eaten? Is there room for a treadmill or exercise bike somewhere in your house and could you pretend that you, too, would use it if you brought it home?

Don't bring it up. But if she brings it up ("I wish I could find time to exercise,"), please be positive and supportive in whatever way will work with her. Hopefully you know her well enough to know how to do that.
posted by SashaPT at 3:42 AM on August 29, 2005 [2 favorites]

I married my wife 13 years and three children ago. The work we have put into our relationship, including our physical intimacy, has made it literally true that we're "More in love than ever."

Is she heavier now? Sure. But she is acutely aware of it, and will never ever hear about it from me. I've put on weight too. As nature takes its course, we will become increasingly unlikely to be featured on the cover of a fitness magazine in our swimsuits.

I am proud of being with my wife in public. Despite how hard she works taking care of all of us and the limited time she allows for her own working out and related concerns, I think she's smokin' hot. It's deeper than skin; she's so amazingly together, compassionate, competent, funny, smart and energetic. I'm pretty sure she makes other husbands jealous of me.

I'd say it's normal to note the attractiveness of people you meet. But if you spend time imagining sexual scenarios with people you know, in my opinion you are contributing to your problem. Cheating on your wife in your head could wear down your healthy disinclination to doing it in reality. Slap yourself silly when you catch yourself running little mental porno movies starring other women, because you're only making it worse.

I have heard men use their wives' weight gain to try to justify having sex outside their marriage. It has always struck me as tremendously shallow and self-centered. I mean, what's next? What if she had cancer, and the drugs knocked out her sex drive altogether, or was in a car accident, and lost mobility for months on years? Would you be thinking "That neck brace is not so hawt. I'm gonna score me some"?

Dude, you're the problem. Get your head straight.

OK, enough anonybashing. You want to know what you can do, besides knocking off the mental adultery? Give your wife, and your relationship, due respect and support.

Tell her, "You know what? You work so hard I've resolved to do more around the house. I'll make the kids' lunches and take them to school and fold the laundry. You take some 'you time.' Work out, take a bubble bath, go to the library, whatever. 'Cause I got this."

Make it a habit. Worship her. It'll make her feel sexy, and when it comes time for some horizontal refreshment, she'll *be* damn sexy.
posted by sacre_bleu at 4:21 AM on August 29, 2005 [9 favorites]

To sacre_blue: I think I love you.
posted by essexjan at 5:04 AM on August 29, 2005

'bleu' - blah!
posted by essexjan at 5:05 AM on August 29, 2005

Anonymous: I'm male.

Just jump right into it with something like "Right! We're both getting old and flabby and we're going to do something about it."

Then start a joint exercise and diet program: you have to do it with her. If she can't eat sweets, you can't eat sweets. If she runs or swims or uses a weight machine, you run or swim or use a weight machine with her. This way it's fair and -- important -- you can keep each other going for another lap of the pool or a block of jogging or whatever it is.

Losing weight feels great, so she will thank you for it if you can get a few pounds off her. She will also think you look a little better, chubby, despite your bald spot.

But as others noted above, you have to make sure she has time for this stuff. If she's doing everything around the house, maybe you need to start doing more of that horrible stuff. She can't be exercising if she's washing dishes and cooking dinners and cleaning up after the kids and...

At the very least, declare yourself the master of one or two regular tasks that you alone will do. Maybe you are the dish washer. Maybe you're the chef. Maybe you're the grocery shopper. Maybe you are the (shudder) cleaner of all kid catastrophes. But it's your job, not hers, and you do it well enough and often enough that she never feels like she has to step in and do it herself.
posted by pracowity at 5:19 AM on August 29, 2005

Reread SashaPT's post; It's excellent:

What would help, if you were my husband? Take a step back and look at the division of labor in your house. Can you help her find 45 minutes a day for a walk? Can you cook a fabulous, healthy meal - often - or do the fruits and vegetables go bad in your house before they're eaten? Is there room for a treadmill or exercise bike somewhere in your house and could you pretend that you, too, would use it if you brought it home?

This is all excellent advice, but he can't just up and change their lifestyle without her knowing that he is unsatisfied about something. How can he make all of these changes without her coorporation and trust? (I'm leaving this question open. Let him answer it)

I'll leave off by pointing out that mental and emotional health can be improved with pragmatic, seemingly mundane activities. He doesn't have to do a lot of touch feel-good crap to solve this. Figure out the logistics and the touchy-feely stuff will follow.

Buy and prepare the right type of meals, and find time to be more active and healthy. He could try to stop watching TV. That will immediately free up hours of time.

Oh, and I'm female.
posted by furvyn at 5:39 AM on August 29, 2005

sacre_bleu and SashaPT are on a very good track. If your wife is eating junk food and not exercising, it's likely because she's busy with all the things that life entails. Take some of the busy out of her life and give her the time to do the things she'd be doing anyway if she could. If you'd like to see her eating healthier meals, then cook healthier meals for her so she doesn't need to turn to junk.

So, I'd say tell her that you love her, and then ask her to lose some weight as a favor to you.

And dear sweet mother of god, don't do this. Losing weight is not like picking up the dry cleaning. It's a huge, long term commitment to a major lifestyle change. It's not the sort of thing you can ask as a favour, ever. Plus, asking it as a favour would load the request with all the baggage it can possibly carry (self-esteem, he thinks I'm fat, he doesn't love me anymore, blah, blah, blah) and then throw a garment bag on the pile.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:49 AM on August 29, 2005

Do you really think that she doesn't know that she's put on weight? I'm 41 with two kids, and I know darn well that I've put on weight since I got married. I wasn't able to do anything about it until our youngest got into school full-time, because there just weren't enough hours in the day. Believe me, I tried.

My question(s) to you are:
Have *you* put on weight?

What bad eating habits do *you* have?

What do *you* do around the house? Especially if one or both of the kids is home all day, it's one hell of a lot of work. And I mean *inside* the house, not the lawn. Vacuum, dishes, laundry, homework monitor, school lunches, etc.

When does she have time for *her*? When is she supposed to make healthy snacks and exercise if she's running the kids around/picking up after you?

Have you *ever* given her a day off, where she doesn't have to do anything but stuff for her?

Try an experiment. Give her a day off, where *you* do everything that needs to be done around the house. Get the kids up in the morning, clean up after them, feed them three meals plus snacks (no junk food, remember), referee the squabbles, get them where they need to be when they need to be there and pick them up again. Now tell me, when did you have time to exercise or make a healthy snack for yourself? Now imagine doing all of that with a demanding husband who disapproves of you. And you didn't do the shopping or the laundry or the vacuuming or weed the garden, did you?
posted by jlkr at 5:50 AM on August 29, 2005

Woman on the page.

I remember once reading an article about a woman who put her husband on a diet without his knowledge. She switched to healthier, low-calorie recipes. She bought new dishes for the table that were more colourful, attractive — and smaller. She served right-size portions in the kitchen rather than bringing a whole dish to the table to prevent her husband from serving himself seconds. She didn't keep any junk food around, but made sure that there was lots of fruit and veggies for him to snack on. And she got him to begin taking a daily hour's walk with her "so that they could spend some time alone".

He never did clue in. One day he said to her, "Hey honey, I must be doing something right. My pants just fell off." He'd lost 20 pounds. At that point she confessed, and he was a bit mad, but also hey, he'd lost 20 pounds without making any special effort and he realized that she'd mostly done this because she cared about his health. So he stuck to the new regime and lost the remaining 15.

My point here is not that you should follow this method (a woman will NOT take a confession of this kind of thing as well as a man) but that it is possible to get a spouse to lose weight through family lifestyle changes.

I'd try the stealth approach first using the many excellent suggestions in this thread. Your wife probably won't be as oblivious as the husband in the article I read, but my thinking is that if you make wholesale changes to the entire family's lifestyle, I think she'll be willing to cooperate. I've yet to meet the woman who is really happy about having gained weight. Give it a couple of months.

If you don't notice a significant difference by then, and it is still really important to you, you might want to try to talk to her about it. But you're on your own there as far as I'm concerned. I'd never forgive a partner who told me he was less attracted to me because I'd put on weight.
posted by orange swan at 6:08 AM on August 29, 2005

(redundant male speaking)

I don't think that there is anything at all wrong with saying "Hey I think we both could afford to eat alot healthier and start excercising more. Let's do this together so we'll be around another 30 or 40 years for each other and the kids".

Then join a gym with a nursery and spend an hour there every other day or so. Together. It's actually quite enjoyable to work towards goals such as these as a couple.

I've been married 10 years and have 3 kids - I don't have your exact problems because we're kind of health freaks. But my wife and I have an attraction/libido level that ebbs and flows, that's just being human. The most important thing is that you are honest with yourself and your wife - THAT is what will prevent you from wandering, and the inherent trust and closeness that comes along with honesty will probably help in the attraction department. In my experience, keeping things from my wife serves to build walls between us. I know that If I wasn't taking care of myself and my wife was concerned about my health and potentially felt less attracted to me because of my lack of motivation, I would want to know.

This kind of partnership calls for the utmost honesty and communication...Sorry if this sounds dramatic but it's my life philosophy.
posted by glenwood at 6:16 AM on August 29, 2005

Sexy is all in the mind.

No, not really. Sexy starts in the body, and after a few dozen years, winds up in the mind. If you're smart. Because, like most people have already said, you'll be old one day, too, and you'd like that person to still be there despite your physical ugliness.

But in the meantime, my suggestion is this: you start working out. Get yourself into amazing shape. She'll get jealous at the attention you receive and start to keep up.

I speak this as a man who has a girlfriend who works out more than I do, and whenever I see her spending 30 minutes on a stationary bike, think to myself, "Self, you need to get up off your sorry ass." She's my impetus. Anon, you can be your wife's impetus.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:35 AM on August 29, 2005

Male speaking -

You're 39. You are going through the early stages of your very own *mid-life crisis*. This is a time when you will start to feel trapped in the life you've created (regardless of how good it is in its externals), and you'll start to wonder about choices you made and roads you didn't travel down. You will soon start considering wearing younger clothes, getting a tattoo, and lusting after that red 2-seater. Just get clear - this is about you and the rest of your life, not about your wife.

Here's the golden opportunity that human development offers you. Learn about mid-life crises, work on yourself, use all your creative powers and ideas to make your life more fulfilling and worthwhile. Good for you for acknowledging your dissatifaction. Men sometimes think they either have to just bull through these things by toughing them out, or throw it all overboard and roger the 25 year old hottie. Both of those choices are quite limiting and will come back and seriously bite you when you're turning 50. Start learning how to court those inner voices that are going to help you grow and develop.
posted by jasper411 at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

"Act as if you have ____, and ____ shall be given to you."

The original ____ was "faith," of course; but I've found it to be true of a lot more. "Act as if."

Also: See C_D above. Great advice. It only takes one person to drastically change the dynamic of a relationship. Step up.
posted by cribcage at 9:18 AM on August 29, 2005

Male here: How physically attracted you are to your wife is not some fact of life you have to deal with. It is a direct result of your own attitude.

What is generally considered attractive in a woman is almost entirely cultural. If you find that your wife does not meet your own standard of beauty, you know (if you reflect a little) and should remember that this standard is not hard-wired into you, and what you find attractive varies from day to day and hour to hour.

More than physical appearance, the attitude you take is the main factor in how you feel. There is a feedback effect, no matter what attitude you adopt, your wife WILL pick up on it, whether she realizes it or not. She feels every hesitation and tic, and also every gaze of numinous loving adoration.

I think 23skidoo is a moron.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2005

Reading this breaks my heart. This could just as easily be me you're talking about. Believe me, she knows.

Please keep a few things in mind:

How would you like to be approached about something like this if the tables were reversed? We're not talking about "letting yourself go" here. Pregnancy and childbirth have a huge, lasting impact on a woman's body, and there really is no male equivalent. The nearest example I can think of is some friends of ours--the husband has had substantial liver and kidney problems for the past few years and looks vastly different than the day they were married. They are crazy in love with each other, so his appearance has been pretty inconsequential.

Now, I don't think you need to keep your feelings to yourself, but it seems wiser to address the real problem. She is obviously stressed out if she's mainlining the junk food and can't find the time to exercise. Maybe you could help diminish her stress levels in some way. There are some good ideas above--helping more around the house, cooking some healthy meals. I would add in some child care duties--checking homework, helping the kids organize and put away their stuff, etc.

Are you doing things as a couple, sans kids? Spending time together can remind you of the wonderful person currently buried under all that baggage.

This may sound silly, but it actually should be sobering: someone will find her attractive in her current state, even if you don't. Consider that you're probably not the only one with midlife issues. She is quite likely in the midst of her sexual peak. Mid-thirties? Your wife probably has plenty of affection and, um, "energy" to share with whomever makes her feel sexy. Let's hope it's you, Sparky.
posted by whatnot at 9:46 AM on August 29, 2005


Well, I agree with 23skidoo. There's no reason to believe anything is wrong with the asker or that he's on the verge of a midlife crisis and about to destroy his marriage. For some people, looks are important. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Try focusing on your wife's positive qualities. Unless she's completely let herself go, there is probably still quite a bit about her that you do like. Right now, you may be stuck in a loop where you're inexorably drawn to focus on her negative qualities. The obsessing over what's wrong with your partner tends to distort the reality. Break out of the loop. Each time you find yourself talking to her and this begins to creep up, force yourself to focus on a positive quality.

I'd also say take your wife out on some fancy dates. No, not the cinema--try the theatre. Or a nice restaurant. Or a concert. Do this for you and her. Seeing her at her best, with her hair and makeup done, can do a lot. If it's been forever since you saw her as such, it can also be quite a pleasant surprise. And when she does make an effort to look nice, compliment her. A lot. It'll make you feel good and it'll make her feel good.

Exercise is not as an important component of weight loss as it's made out to be. A healthy diet is far more important. If you're willing to take the time, prepare all her meals and do all the shopping. Stick healthy snacks in her bag and try to get rid of the junk food.

I wouldn't tell her about your feelings just yet, because attraction is largely in your head. Again, focusing on your wife's most positive qualities will help a lot. Also, putting some effort into the problem will make you up beat about the future.
posted by nixerman at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2005

I do not think 23skidoo is a moron.

Too many people in this world like to jump on the bandwagon, and say that others are shallow etc.
Fact is that for men physical (visual) attraction is important. This is a fact of nature, and does not make us shallow or evil.
Having said that, the emotional damage caused by men running around looking for the next most attractive woman to sleep with are huge, and the payoff is not worth it.
I have always wanted to try and have a conversation with my wife on this issue. I am not an evil person. I love her dearly and would never do anything to hurt her. I do not cheat on her, but that does not mean that I am not attracted to other women at times.
Usually it just takes a quick moment to myself to 'really' imagine myself with this person and not my wife to bring me back to reality. That is to say, after the sex, there is still a lot of time to spend with the person, and I am not interested in that at all.
Any man who claims that he is only ever attracted to his wife is either quite the exception, or is lying.
Having said that..... This does not make us evil.

Most of us are so scared to admit this due to the PC Police, that we find ourselves posting anon to boards like this.
It would be far more beneficial to everyone if we could accept men how they are, and have a dialog based on that rather than the idealized version of love and sex.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2005

Dittos aplenty: for god's sake, don't talk to your wife about feeling less attracted to her; don't ask her to lose weight; don't extend or imply any criticism. Like plenty of people mentioned, in all likelihood, she's all too aware of her weight gain.

Do do what it takes in terms of household responsibilities to make sure she has time for herself, and also make the time for quality time alone with her. Besides just giving her more time, this'll probably have the bonus effect of making her feel loved, and only good could come from that. (For more advice in this vein, I recommend David Deida's The Way of the Superior Man.)

Do promote and share in a healthy lifestyle, working on yourself, too. (You could even ask for her support in the changes you want to make in yourself, by asking her to share those lifestyle changes with you. But you first. And after you're making sure she has time to herself.)

But remember ,also, that no matter what, skin gets less supple, wrinkles occur, hair gets grey and coarse. In time, your wife'll be 50*, and 25-year-olds will still be 25. Eventually, you'll have to either learn to find her attractive regardless, or you'll have to deal with finding her less attractive. I don't know what to tell you about that; maybe therapy could help; I don't know. (But, no matter what, still don't say or imply you find her any less attractive.)

(When I saw your request for specifying sex, I first thought, dismissively, that you should just look at profiles. Then I remembered mine said "XYZZY." Anyway, I'm a man.)

* Note: This isn't saying 50-year-old women are unattractive; I'm saying that by anonymous' apparent standard of youthful beauty, they can't compete with the young, more or less tautologically.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:12 AM on August 29, 2005

23skidoo, all of those things might indeed indicate there's something wrong but I see nothing in the question's content or tone to suggest those possibilities. All he says is "This has been really bothering me a lot," which is understandable. But, whatever. I'll shut up now. I just wish people weren't so judgemental about these things.
posted by nixerman at 10:14 AM on August 29, 2005

First off, this is an excellent thread.

I just want to reiterate something simple that's getting lost in the psychoanalysis: STOP BUYING JUNK FOOD. You're not walking on eggshells when you point out that a bag of Doritos is full of fat, salt, chemicals, and nothing nutritious. A serving of ice cream is a scoop, not a bowlful. "Light" frozen dinners? Think again, buddy.

Exercise is not as an important component of weight loss as it's made out to be. A healthy diet is far more important.

This is very true, but upping the overall activity in your life by, say, taking a long walk together each night, will have a significant physical (and hopefully emotional) impact.
posted by mkultra at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2005

Are you saying that anyone can will themselves to be physically attracted to anyone else?

If they've already got years of intimacy behind them, a genuine intellectual attraction, and an ostensibly lifelong commitment to each other, it is hard to see why not.

If I find my own wonderful, funny, brilliant wife unattractive it's my own shitty ego that wants to impose it's own vision of how things should be on everyone else that is at fault. Not that I should beat myself up about it, but I definitely should recognize that the attitudinal stance I intentionally adopt is the primary factor in how I feel about things. The alternative is to make up a story to tell myself justifying my feelings to myself.

I'm not trying to criticize or judge the poster. I'm only honestly saying what I tell myself. I'm just trying to emphasize that our own worldview is more important than anything else in determining how we feel. The fact that the poster is sincerely asking for advice on the matter is wonderful. If the problem was really deep, he wouldn't, and would just bitch to his buddies about it. But the poster loves his wife, has loved her for a long time, and, I don't doubt, will continue to grow in love for and with her.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2005

by your wife something sleek and sexy.

That would send the exact wrong message: that you like her body and want to see more of it.

Here is what I would do if I were you. Come up with the idea that you both are getting older (almost forty) and have a "Mid life crisis" where you want to get in shape. Convince her to "do it with you" so that you guys can stay healthy and active together. Point out older hotties like Madonna, Sherrill Crow, etc.

The idea is to make her think you're worried about her long-term health (like living to 90 and being fit and healthy). When really you only care about her looks.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2005

I'm sorry I called you a moron. That was way out of line.

Sex change gives me pause, the other two don't. But if she genuinely wanted it... I could see getting behind it (get your mind out of the gutter!)

Let's not derail the question any further?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2005

Like mkultra and orange swan say, switching the household diet is a great way (the only way) to get this thing going. Shopping should be the chore you take on first -- she would no longer have to shop and you would get to choose the right foods for all of you (you have to include the kids in this).

No sweets, no chips, no soda pop, etc. No prepared foods such as frozen pizza. Be suspicious of everything that has sugar added, including everything that is supposedly healthy and low-fat and natural. A Granola bar, for example, is a candy bar with good PR. Yogurt full of sweetened fruit is candy. And watch out for condiments and canned foods -- they're full of sugar and salt.

And buy stacks of tasty fruit and veggies. You might need to be the cook, too, and buy yourself a couple of good cook books, but the minimum is to make sure nothing stupid is in the kitchen and lots of good things are. Then if it turns out she's snacking on carrot sticks, for example, you should make sure there are lots of them ready for when she starts looking for snacks. But no dip. Just the carrots.

"Health nut" daddy will get some shit for this if they're hooked on eating junk, but you have to do it. (Are the kids getting fat, too?) Take the blame and say it's for your good, that you're doing it for yourself, but that you can't do it alone. Something like that. You'll have to work out your own plausible line.

And keep a scale out somewhere convenient to you (and, incidentally, to everyone else). But don't ask them about their weights. They'll know; that's enough.
posted by pracowity at 11:05 AM on August 29, 2005

Male here: How physically attracted you are to your wife is not some fact of life you have to deal with. It is a direct result of your own attitude.

The fact that 'attractiveness' is cultural dosn't mean that you can just change what turns you on... People who grow up in one culture keep the same standards of beauty when they move to another locale. For all we know, (and it seems likely) those standards are imparted onto you as a child, and when you hit puberty.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2005

I will echo the responses above that say “don’t tell your wife directly that she needs to lose weight” and will add another wrinkle: have you stopped to reflect on how your attitude, right now, is affecting your wife? Don’t think that she hasn’t noticed that you don’t find her as attractive as you used to. Don’t think that she hasn’t noticed you checking out the attractive women in your circle of acquaintances. How do you think that makes her feel? Do you think that makes her feel good about herself and motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle? She may be eating a lot of junk food because the junk food comforts her without judging her.

In addition to the suggestions above about pitching in and making sure that she has time for herself, look for things about your wife to praise. Think about the ways in which she is wonderful and unique and irreplaceable. When you catch yourself thinking about how she has gained “a little bit of weight” find something positive to think about instead. A change in attitude on your part may make more of a difference than you think.

Do make the lifestyle changes, get rid of the junk food in the house, increase your whole family's activity level, and make sure that she has time for herself, even if that means making dinner and cleaning up and putting the kids to bed twice a week so that she can go work out. But if you are silently sending the message "you are not good enough for me the way you are" then you're undermining all the good habits that you put into place. Try to make the message (spoken or unspoken) be "I am crazy about you and I want us to be healthy and active so that we can always do fun interesting things, even after the kids grow up and move out."
posted by ambrosia at 11:25 AM on August 29, 2005

Male checking in: I had gained weight during our marriage, while my wife gained very little, even after two kids. She mentioned to me several times that she wanted to grow old with me, and that my weight gain made her worried this wouldn't happen.

That, in itself, did not do the trick, but eventually I came to realize the weight gain, high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc., requiring 7 pills a day to maintain, was just not working for me and I went on a diet and actually now weigh less than when I got married 21 years ago.

I guess I would take an interest in her health. If you know her weight gain is causing health problems, pointing out how much you want to be with her over the long haul is more of a motivator than "I don't find you attractive anymore." Positive motivation is much better than negative motivation, and knowing one has one's spouses support, rather than worrying about the negative opinions of one's spouse, is the way to go.

If she does diet or start exercising, give her all the material support you can: help with cooking, shopping, cleaning up. She will really appreciate it.
posted by Doohickie at 11:39 AM on August 29, 2005

At 39 years old are you still "all that"? Let's be honest here.

People age. They change and not always for the better. And then there's the basic laws of gravity. Often times not a lot one can do about that. And... she gave you two children. Do you think that's easy on a woman's body??

What I got from your post is that she hasn't gained that much weight, so how about you cut her some slack and take a look in the mirror. The increased junk food in her diet could be stress eating. Is she under more stress at home (probably so with 2 little ones) or at work (just the combination of the two can be enough to drive someone to hit the chips!).

Rather than pointing out her flaws in a way that would most likely hurt her, why not suggest some fun and active things to do together like an evening walk, a game of tennis, a hike at a nearby park, etc, etc. I think telling her straight out would be the worst thing you could do unless she's bothered by the weight gain also, you'll likely just cause her to eat more.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2005

I think there is a clear and real difference between the normal ravages of time and someone gaining a bunch of weight because they eat junk food and don't exercise. If his wife gained 400 pounds, everyone would recognize that the OP was perfectly justified in bringing the issue up. If his wife gained 4 pounds, everyone would recognize he was being a shallow, eating-disorder causing jerk.

So there is clearly a line. Where that line occurs is debateable.

I'd advise buying healthy food and exercising. Being a good role model may work. If it doesn't, there may come a time when having a heart to heart is necessary.

Don't listen to the people saying you are the problem. They don't know anything about your situation besides what was in the short original message. Like I said, there is clearly a line between "normal ravages of time" and "my partner has become a slovenly, junk-food addicted beachball". Only you can know for sure where you and your partner are at.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on August 29, 2005

Male here.

Best thing I know for this kind of thing is looking at her. REALLY looking at her. Let your eyes trace every curve, every wrinkle, every feature of her body that makes her look like HER and not like somebody else.

Then remind yourself just who that is you're looking at. Then keep doing that until you find yourself weeping with gratitude that after all these years she's still there.

If this isn't something you'd normally be spending time on, and you want a plausible excuse: grab a copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and start training up your life drawing skills.

She was a total hottie - and she married YOU - and you're still together, still in love, and isn't that what life is FOR?

How you feel about your wife's body is your issue, not hers; it's something YOU can work on completely internally.

As you get older, she's going to look different, sound different, smell different, act different - but she's still HER, you're still happily married, and if you learn to drive your mind right you'll STILL be happily married when you're both very, very old.

Your control stops at YOUR skin. It's hard work even making it go that far, but it's worth spending time trying.

Spend time looking at your own body, too, full-length nude. It's really easy to fall for the illusion that we're all still kids, just trapped somehow in a 40-year-old shell. Look at your 39-year-old shell and realize (a) this is ME (b) no, really, this is ME.

If you're like most people, you won't have spent much time doing this, and you'll be experiencing increasing cognitive dissonance between your beliefs about how your wife OUGHT to be and your experience of how she actually SEEMS to be. There's nothing you can (nor should) do about the experience, but there's a hell of a lot you can do about the beliefs.

That kind of cognitive dissonance will really screw you up, and it will manifest in many more ways than just loss of attraction. It will pay you bigtime to get rid of it.

If you can rid yourself of illusions in regard to your own body, you'll be a fair way down the track toward true acceptance of - and renewed attraction to - your beloved's.

You might also care to have a read of this; it might not be quite your cup of yak butter tea, but it's in the right kind of direction.

On preview: no, you're not THE PROBLEM; the problem is what you said it is: that your attraction to your wife is fading. There are two complementary approaches to solving that problem: (a) modify your wife (b) modify your mind. Of those, (b) is more likely to work, less ethically questionable, and has more knock-on benefits. It's a no-brainer choice.
posted by flabdablet at 9:01 PM on August 29, 2005 [2 favorites]

(a) modify your wife ['s body] (b) modify your mind

If his wife is fat, (a) seems more likely to produce benefits (health and otherwise) and is much more likely to happen than (b).
posted by pracowity at 12:06 AM on August 30, 2005

Uh, pracowity, we're not talking about Eliza Doolittle here. Anonymous' wife is not a plaything upon whom Anonymous can freely impose his will. Anonymous hasn't even said that she is fat. He said that she has "gained a little bit of weight", which for all we know may simply mean that she won't be in the next bikini issue of Sports Illustrated. Of the two things: (a) his wife's body and (b) his own head, Anonymous certainly has more control over (b).
posted by ambrosia at 7:44 AM on August 30, 2005

It sounds like "gained a little bit of weight" in this context means she's getting unattractively (at least to him) fat.

And I'm talking about which one is more likely to change. How do you change the sort of body people are attracted to? You don't. But with his wife's agreement -- and I'm sure she would like not to be fat -- they can make sure the whole family eats right and that everyone reaches and maintains a good weight.
posted by pracowity at 10:50 AM on August 30, 2005

I think it is natural to lose your physical attraction to your spouse over time. We aren't really "wired" so see our best friends/siblings as sexy - and our marriages evolve into a deeper commitment akin to friendship. That said, realize that just because YOU don't find her that attractive anymore, that doesn't mean she isn't. Just as you are finding others in your circle more attractive than your wife, others in your circle may be checking out your wife - and maybe SHE doesn't see YOU as attractive anymore and could be attracted to other men as well. Just remember, the grass is not greener despite how it looks from the other side. These "other women" will prove to be less attractive over time as well.
posted by bodysurfer at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2005

Shorter thread: lie to your wife. She's a woman, and thus too fragile for the truth.

Seriously, what the heck? I'm unmarried and barely old enough to drink, so I can't possibly offer any worldly advice to anonymous, but I also can't believe the stuff that he's getting from this crowd. In particular, I'm looking at you, whatnot. Anonymous doesn't find his wife attractive anymore, so she should threaten to cheat on/leave him? I understand that weight is a sensitive issue, but keep things in perspective!

For what it's worth, here's some advice from someone half your age. I remember that my parents once had a deal: my mother kept her hair long in exchange for my father shaving his beard. It sounds from your description ("she has gained a little bit of weight") that it isn't really the weight that's bothering you. Perhaps the change you're looking for could be in her hair or clothes? Maybe you could make a deal with her about the way the two of your dress or style or what have you that would make both of you happier.

I don't mean to backhand you, whatnot. I'm sure you didn't intend your comment to be taken that way, but it took several readings to see it as anything else.
posted by Ptrin at 12:00 AM on September 11, 2005

I think it is natural to lose your physical attraction to your spouse over time. We aren't really "wired" so see our best friends/siblings as sexy - and our marriages evolve into a deeper commitment akin to friendship.

Bullshit. I'm married 21 years and I still think my wife is hotter than hell.
posted by Doohickie at 1:20 PM on September 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

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