I adore him, but find his health problems a turn off. Is there a fix?
February 3, 2013 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I love him deeply, miss him terribly. He loves me more than anyone he's ever met. We go together like peas and carrots. But I broke up with him over one health problem that he can and would fix if I told him how much it bothered me. Am I nuts?

About a year ago, I stuck my toe into the online dating world, after my marriage ended. I was amazed by the response I got to my ads and was dazzled by a few exciting, but ultimately unsuitable men. I fell in love, got rejected, wasted time on men who looked great on paper but turned out to lacking one essential thing: conversation. All the while, in the background, was one man. Let's call him Tom.

Tom's first message blew me away, it was such a perfect mix of enthusiasm and curiosity and friendliness. His photo was adorable and showed exactly the big-hearted, congenial, thoughtful, kind, right-on, interesting, ebullient person I was looking for, and his profile, though not as wordy or well-spelled as what I thought I was looking for, showed that he had the same interests as me. And we could keep a conversation going in a way that I'd never experienced before.

It turned out we had more than interests in common. Our attitude to life, morality, our values and indignations and habits of shouting at the TV were well-matched. The day we discovered that we had had precisely the same weird religious upbringing, not a common thing, we were speechless.

But I never felt a spark. Never fell in love with him. Because there were these other, sexier, more dangerous men too, with sparks all over the place, and they outshone him, in looks, status, intelligence. (Tom has since taught me that it's not about IQ at all - it's about knowing stuff and having the curiosity that leads you to know more stuff, and about being able to talk about it all with enthusiasm.) He was just always there, so easy, so attainable. I thought he was fabulous but I friendzoned him. Tom waited. He just seemed so determined and sure that I would be his eventually, because how could we NOT end up together? It'd be madness not to.

I happened to move closer to him, and we got to spend lots of time together. It turned easily and naturally into a relationship. I grew to love him more deeply than I've ever loved any man, felt more at home and safe, and loved and happy and contented with him than I've ever felt with any other man. We fit together. He got on great with my autistic son, which was both astonishing and heartwarming: Tom was one of the few people my son would bother to say hello and goodbye to. :-) I'm an introvert, but it seemed like he was the one person on earth whose company and chat was never exhausting. He brought me out of my shell, and I made him less insecure - we were good for each other.

Tom loves me like he's never loved anyone before and would genuinely do anything for me. He said he's never met anyone like me before and never would again. He's attractive to me, but not in a want-to-rip-his-clothes-off way. More in a gosh-you're-cute-in-a-hunk-gone-to-seed sort of way. It was just all so lovely, and just what I needed and wanted, but I think I took him a little bit for granted in the beginning and felt guilty about that long after I stopped doing so.

So far so good. Sort of. But...

Tom has a problem. I like my men big. And he is big, but his weight affects his health. Specifically, he seems to have sleep apnoea, with all the symptoms that come with it: shortness of breath, not breathing for a nearly a minute at a time when he sleeps, wall-shaking snoring, falling asleep in the middle of the day. Having spent 16 years with a man with substance abuse problems and the very real worry of not knowing if he was alive or dead sometimes, to find myself lying next to a man I loved, who stopped breathing many many times a night was scary. It's never been a problem to him - he's oblivious to his snoring and apnoea. I never seriously told him how much it worried me. Because of the whole taboo around discussing people's weight I suppose, and my insufferable niceness. I nudged and hinted, but never outright said anything. I didn't think I had the right.

Aside from that worry, even though we could have some knock-out fabulous sex, the snuggly, everyday sort of sex was often marred by his size, and breathlessness and heavy breathing (and not the good sort of heavy breathing either.)

It became such an issue that I was scared to go to bed with him - for the lack of sleep, for the fear of him not breathing again, and for the worry that this time might be one of those times when I wouldn't be properly turned on.

So I broke up with him. Although I'd turned off all my dating profiles, this was making me restless, wondering if this was enough for me. I felt guilty all the time for wondering if there was someone out there who might be more perfect for me, worried that I would hurt him more if I stayed with him and then found someone else by chance. I told myself I wasn't in love with him, that we would never work because there had never been any limerence for me.

We tried being friends, but he was devastated by the break up, and seeing me but not belonging with me seemed to just prolong his pain. I was so confused about him, constantly second guessing my decision, so I asked him not to get in touch any more to maybe help me find some clarity.

I had no idea how much that would hurt. Like almost physical pain, constant sitting on my hands to avoid calling him to ask him to have me back, constant wishing that I could share this or that thing with him, talking about him all the time, missing everything about him, even the bloody snoring. It got worse, not better.

I went back into online dating, and I'm hating it. Nobody seems to hold a candle to him, and I'm finding everyone dull or egocentric or both, in comparison. I have no enthusiasm for it because I think it's actually Tom that I want. I've looked at it from emotional angles and logical angles: I've never been with anyone like him before, and I really don't think I'm ever going to find someone like him again.

If I told Tom what the problem was, he would exercise, look after himself better, eat more healthily, see a doctor about his apnoea. He would probably do anything I asked to be with me again, although I doubt he has the first clue about cooking healthily and would need help. Which I would gladly give because doing things for him makes me stupidly happy.

I think it boils down to two things: I'm scared of being scared about his health. And I'm scared of my restlessness leading to me finding someone else a year or two down the line after he's become even more attached to me. I don't want to hurt him any more than I have.

I came onto askmefi and read every relevant question I could find. Regulars will know what the general consensus is: Leave him alone so he can move on. Don't say it's because he's fat! You can't help what you're attracted to. People can't really lose weight anyway. What sort of monster are you for not finding him attractive?

But is that true? How ethical would it be to just level with him and ask him to lose weight so that his health problems are less obtrusive? Or do I just need to sit on my hands a bit longer and continue to swim around in the murky waters of the dating pool and hope that the pain of missing him fades and someone just as lovely comes along?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it because he's fat, or because he suffers from sleep apnea? Because there are other treatments for sleep apnea other than losing weight -- a CPAP machine, for example. I think it shows a pretty big lack of respect for him to have broken up with him without telling him why, especially if it really is the medical issue you're worried about and not the cosmetic one.
posted by brainmouse at 8:06 PM on February 3, 2013 [36 favorites]


You're not a monster, but he probably can't just lose weight because you say so.

You could ask him to get a CPAP, which is the realistic and effective treatment for sleep apnea, but that might also interfere with sleeping together.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Level with the man. What is there to lose at this point?
posted by murrey at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Uh. I'm kinda confused. What did you tell him when you broke up with him? It sounds like you didn't discuss the reasons AT ALL, and thats... not good. If he will fix the issues, why didn't you talk to him? I am confused about your motivations and feelings, some. I understand there was a lot of fear, and some 'I'ma leave before you hurt me', I think. But.... do you know what you want? What, aside from the health, isn't good about him?

He wont change unless he wants to change... but a good plan of attack (exercise, food, and for the love of god, a sleep mask/apena fix) can do wonders in a fairly short time. I did a lot of exercise after my GF more or less decided we were, and I could support her or be lame. So I supported her!

Therapy, as always, is great. Individual and couples, probably.
posted by Jacen at 8:09 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, the consensus of MeFi answers on relationship issues of virtually every sort whatsoever, barring physical or emotional abuse, is use your words.

You ended a relationship because you refused to speak a single, understandable sentence: "I love you but you have a health problem that terrifies me."

You ended it even though you know he would work to FIX THE PROBLEM the minute you identified that problem as such.

Homer Simpson cannot say D'OH loudly enough to properly express your situation.

So use your words, for heaven's sake! Though at this point, you should probably be prepared for him to tell you to go screw.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:09 PM on February 3, 2013 [51 favorites]


I honestly don't know about the going forward part, but the point in the relation where it would have been most effective was then. As far as he knew things where ok, when they obviously where not.
Most likely the best thing to do would be to tell him exactly what you have written about being scared and being willing to help him solve the problem. But... if I was Tom I'd be a bit skittish about reentering the relationship as, er, well... you have communication issues and I'd be afraid you would not tell me about something and just run away again without trying to fix the issues in the first place.
posted by edgeways at 8:09 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a man of large size, I can say with some authority that even if he wants to lose weight and get healthy, he may not be able to do it. Not that he won't be physically able, but mentally he may not be in a place where he could do it and be successful. So, despite what you may feel, be prepared for that fact that if you tell him what is really bothering you, and agree to get back together if he will change, he may not ever change. No matter how much he may think he wants to get healthy and lose weight, it takes more than just wanting it. I've wanted to lose weight my whole life, but it has only been this last year that I've been able to change my viewpoint and lifestyle around to make that happen.

That being said, I am firmly of the belief that you should never leave someone without telling them exactly why you are leaving. How are they ever supposed to move on and take on the next chapter of their life if they don't know what went wrong this time around? To keep this information to yourself is just making this harder on him.

Honestly, if you were happy with him, and the only thing that was bothering you was the weight, than why wouldn't you tell him? If he did lose some weight and get healthy, than wouldn't you have exactly what you wanted in him?

Tell him. Don't expect anything to come of it other than giving him a chance to see why this relationship didn't work. If he changes things around than your life may end up being wonderfully happy with him. If he doesn't, than you haven't lost anything, have you?
posted by markblasco at 8:10 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you care about him at all, please tell him to get a sleep study done because, although you can't diagnose him yourself, he has the symptoms of a dangerous and potentially deadly health problem that needs to be addressed. Don't talk to him about weight or diet or exercise, the problem that needs immediate attention is the sleep apnea. Once that's under control, it's more likely that he will be in a place where further improvements to his health are something he'd consider undertaking. You can choose to tell him that your fear about his health caused you to withdraw, or not. But, please tell him about what you observed while he was sleeping.
posted by quince at 8:13 PM on February 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yes. Tell him.

Because it's cruel to make someone wonder what went wrong when you know precisely what went wrong. It doesn't mean he needs to change anything, but at least he's operating with full information.
posted by 26.2 at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tell him. And don't feel guilty about it.

I am married to a man with sleep apnea. Thank God he is using a cpap now, because sleeping with him was hell for years before he was. For the rest of you, it really is that big a deal, and appearance has nothing to do with it.

And to the poster, you may be saving his life. TELL HIM because sleep apnea can kill.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:16 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sleep apnea is not necessarily related to weight. It can be treated by other things than losing a whole bunch of weight in many cases. (It's also pretty irritating, scary, and draining for everyone who has to share a bed/room/car with someone with untreated severe apnea.) Tell him about it, and don't frame it in terms of his weight - let his doctor figure that out.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is a really confusing question, because I think the answer is so obviously to just tell him, especially if he's going to fix the problem. I'm not sure what the drama is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:20 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


He knows he's fat. You don't have to tell him that.

But you do have a moral obligation to tell him about his sleep apnea. People who have it don't always know they have it. They wonder why they're so tired the next day or why they wake up in a seated position (that's what I would do) or why their memory is shit or they don't have as good a memory anymore...but oftentimes they don't put 2 and 2 together.

But aside from that, leave him be. Move on. He is the size he is. Accept that and move on.
posted by inturnaround at 8:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


one health problem that he can and would fix if I told him how much it bothered me. Am I nuts?

Yes. You broke up with a one-in-a-hundred relationship without trying to work on it or anything, and J-MF-C, dude has a life threatening condition, and you didn't see fit to tell him he could die any night of the week, and is probably doing his health, and maybe his brain irreparable damage every night!??!

Respect to your issues, but those are your issues, and if you want a successful relationship, you need to work on them, apnea or no. In long term successful relationships, couples communicate with each other, carefully, lovingly, regularly. For your own sake, get that shit down pat asap. For his sake, even if you don't get back together for god's sake, tell him.

Nthing others, losing weight can be harder than it sounds. Love is not enough, sometimes. But shit, you gotta let him have a chance, right?
posted by smoke at 8:28 PM on February 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm scared of my restlessness leading to me finding someone else a year or two down the line

This is the heart of the matter, is it not?

my insufferable niceness

Nudging and hinting and then dumping him is nice?

There's something really peculiar about this question -- the breathlessness of the prose and the over-the-top romantic cliches ("how could we NOT end up together? It'd be madness not to." "never met anyone like me and never will again") are telling me something, but I can't quite put my finger on it...
posted by nacho fries at 8:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [47 favorites]


Tell him about your worries that he's not breathing during sleep, and tell him to get a sleep study done!!!!

That's exactly how you phrase it, too!

"Tom, I love you and I am miserable without you. I broke up with you out of fear and cowardice. You sometimes stop breathing when you sleep, and it terrified me. As you know, my ex had substance abuse issues, and I never knew if they were going to overdose and die beside me in the middle of the night.

I know the situation with you is not the same, but the absolute terror I felt with you was the same for me. I love you so much. It was untenable. I was so freaked out, I couldn't maturely broach the subject with you, I panicked, and I broke up with you instead of sharing my concerns for your health and my intense discomfort brought on by past trauma.

My trauma issues are not your fault. I'm sorry these issues kept me from being open with you about all of this sooner. I'm sure I've hurt you. I am deeply sorry.

I'm not sure where to go from here. If you are at all open to discussing this, I would be grateful.

Thank you for everything,

Anonymous."


Maybe that's heavy-handed, but I'm a romantic!!

Go get your guy!!!!
posted by jbenben at 8:31 PM on February 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


If I were in Tom's position, I honestly would not be interested in hearing from you at this point. Consider things from his perspective: you initially rebuffed his advances in favor of "sexier, more dangerous men." He waited patiently until your friendship developed into a great relationship. Then you ended it, apparently without explaining why. Not only that, but you ultimately cut off contact with him because you couldn't figure out your own feelings and make a decision about your relationship with him.

I don't mean to be harsh, but I think you need to decide what you want and stop jerking Tom around. Decide if you want to be in a relationship with him. Decide if the issue is his weight and being out of shape or if it's the sleep apnea. Consider that he may not be able to ever lose the weight and get in shape, but he might be able to treat the sleep apnea. Which of those outcomes can you live with and which are deal-breakers for being in a long-term relationship? If he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you, do you still want to be friends with him? Maybe also think about why you weren't honest with him in the first place about this issue--can you be honest with him about similarly important things in the future? If not, why not?

It is possible to tell Tom about the sleep apnea without even broaching the topic of getting back together. If you are genuinely worried for his health but decide that you don't want to put him through any more romantic heartache, you could write an email along the lines of:

"Hi Tom, I hope you're doing well. I came across an article the other day that made me think of you. It was about sleep apnea and how dangerous it can be for your health. I don't know if you've ever realized, but you often snore pretty loudly and sometimes I even noticed that you'd stop breathing during the night! I apologize for not mentioning it sooner, but until I saw this article I didn't realize how serious this could be. I hope you don't mind that I got in touch, but even though we're not in contact I still care about you and want you to live a long and healthy life. :)"

Or something like that. My point is that you can alert him to this life-threatening condition without opening a can of drama-worms.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:34 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Disclaimer:

I used to be involved with someone with sleep apnea. It IS terrifying to lie in bed next to them listening to them stop breathing, even without a history like yours, OP.

You're not a bad person to have freaked out. It's really scary either way.
posted by jbenben at 8:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your whole question is a very roundabout way of wondering "Can I not do better than Tom?"

Otherwise you may not have conflated 2 very distinct issues (sleep apnea & his weight). Often, conflation is used when you are trying to downplay the real uncomfortable issue with a more "acceptable" one.

Your question simply could have been : How do I help the love of my life with life threatening sleep apnea? But that can only be asked if you were still in a relationship with him, not standing outside of one.

If this is the real issue that's bothering you, then you should have no hesitation in reaching out to him with advisement to seek help for his potentially life-threatening condition of sleep apnea. That removes any ulterior motive, except genuine concern for a dear friend.
posted by Kruger5 at 8:39 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Stop being so ridicously self centered and tell the man you madly love and who madly loves you what the damn problem is. It may not work out, but Christ at least you tried.

You weren't being nice, you were being unintentially cruel and allowing your own issues to screw up the best relationship you've ever had. Knock it off, quit talking to internet strangers about this and talk to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm with Jacen...I don't know what you told Tom when you broke up with him, therefore I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Dansaman at 8:55 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is some pretty good advice upthread, so I won't reiterate what others have said, but I will mention that I have written before about the benefits a CPAP machine brought to my life. I have a lot more to say on the topic as well, if you want to memail me. Heck, I'd even be willing to talk to Tom on the phone about my life before-and-after sleep apnea treatment-- if you need a little bit of extra help. Let me know. Now go out there and make yourself lucky in love!
posted by seasparrow at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, talk to him, let him know exactly how you feel and why you did what you did.

If he wants to get back together, then you should definitely get couples therapy... you both need to be able to communicate and trust (including him trusting what you do and do not say to him in the future) if this is to work long-term.

You have a chance at happiness. Do what you can to make it work for both of you.
posted by 1367 at 9:13 PM on February 3, 2013


Tell him - but if you two do end up getting back together, expect some understandable bitterness from him at some point that you will have to work extra-hard to overcome. Think of it as the price of admission.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Telling him you're concerned about his sleep apnea isn't telling him he has to lose weight, or that he's too fat, or whatever you're worried about. It's telling him he has a serious medical problem that can be treated. I suppose his docs might encourage him to lose weight because that can help some people who have a high weight and sleep apnea, but that would likely be secondary to their main treatment suggestions.

Lots of people of all body habits have sleep apnea. CPAP machines can help people sooooo much.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you should tell him, but frame it as a scared health issue with the sleep apnea, NOT a weight issue. There are plenty of people with sleep apnea who are not overweight and plenty of overweight people who do not have it. You are not a doctor and should not speculate. I would tell him how scared you are that he won't wake up and your will be devastated; so scared that you could not even continue the relationship, but if he is willing to address it for his sake (and yours) you want to try again.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:25 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you have any anxiety in your psychological profile? When you were with Tom, things about him made you worry and that made you worry this won't be a healthy relationship for you. With all that going on, you worried you'd like sometime else better, them you worried you didn't love him enough, and felt guilty. Trying to do right, you broke up with him. Then when he was out of reach, you began to worry you lost your one and only shot at true love. (All this is maybe exacerbated by some history that makes you feel the most spark toward unsuitable people?)

If this is a pattern in your life, then you might think about how to get a handle on your anxiety. It is so much better to sink into what is good about your life, to stop second-guessing yourself, to not be constantly striving for some perfection that's perpetually out of reach.

Anxiety-sounding quotes:

-- You got "scared to go to bed with him - for the lack of sleep, for the fear of him not breathing again, and for the worry that this time might be one of those times when [you] wouldn't be properly turned on."

-- You were often "wondering if this was enough... felt guilty all the time for wondering if there was someone out there who might be more perfect...told [your]self [you] [were]n't in love with him, that [you] would never work because there had never been any limerence..."

-- Then after you broke up, you were "so confused about him, constantly second guessing [your] decision" and eventually became convinced "nobody seems to hold a candle to him... it's actually Tom that [you] want... really don't think [you were] ever going to find someone like him again."

It sounds exhausting to feel that way. I hope you can find some peace and assurance.
posted by salvia at 9:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to be brutally honest: this question has annoyed me more than just about anything else I've read on Metafilter. Because there's a whole lot of gushy self-justification going on here.

You go from:

I grew to love him more deeply than I've ever loved any man, felt more at home and safe, and loved and happy and contented with him than I've ever felt with any other man. We fit together.

to:

[his sleep apnea/weight] was making me restless, wondering if this was enough for me. I felt guilty all the time for wondering if there was someone out there who might be more perfect for me

?? Does not compute.

And you left him, without telling him he has a potentially life-threatening disorder??

That's not 'insufferably nice', that's 'insufferably selfish'. Yeah, someone fitter and healthier who can have banging sex all night long might come along next month, but that shouldn't matter if you're committed to Tom-that-you're-in-love-with, should it?

I actually think you should move on, for Tom's sake. (Please tell him about the apnea, though.)
posted by Salamander at 11:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


i get the sense that this isn't really about the sleep apnea but your overall ambivalence about Tom. i have a couple friends who are just horribly ambivalent and have a real fear of commitment. the problem really isn't with the other person but with them. the people on the receiving end of this sort of ambivalence can be horribly hurt though, so i think unless you know you want to be with this guy 200% you should leave him be. getting back with him and then breaking up again would probably be devastating for him. therapy might help you deal with this so when you do meet someone great you are then able to commit to them.

you really should tell him about the apnea though.
posted by wildflower at 12:47 AM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


It sounds like you really, really want to be in love with this guy because it would make life considerably easier. Unfortunately you're not, and so you're fixating on specifics (that wouldn't matter were you actually in love) and then assuaging your guilt about your ambivalence by blaming it on your past and beating yourself up.

I don't mean to be harsh but I totally get where you're coming from: I'm an insufferably anxious and introverted idealist too (I recognise your purple prose very well) and it pains me daily that life will not conform to my absolute paradigm of how it *could* be but unfortunately for us relationships inevitably involve compromise - the trick is to understand where to draw the line and then ignore the idealist part of your brain that's perpetually 'if only-ing' eg 'but if only he...if only I...' ad infinitum.

The ambivalence and twisty perspective evidenced in your post is because you can't reconcile what you really want with what you (could have) had with Tom: i.e. he provides brilliant companionship but has long term health issues that you don't want to have to advocate for - a totally reasonable response from someone who is already caring for a child with special needs. This does not make you a monster, it makes you someone who wants an equitable relationship with an adult she is can depend on and will remain attracted to. You had doubts about this being the case with Tom and so you moved on.

Good for you for understanding your own needs, but maybe next time you should lay your cards on the table and give the other person a chance to at least respond to your concerns before you duck out. It'll damp down the 'if onlys' for all concerned.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:13 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think you're nuts, but I do think you're pushing yourself a little too hard to have a relationship. Your marriage ended, you started dating a bunch of people, and then in the midst of all the dating you did, you got your heart broken? And then you settled for the nice guy and now that you've left him you're feeling torn up and afraid? And all of this happened over the course of a year? That's a lot of emotional upheaval for a relatively short period of time.

Take a break, for your own sake. Give your heart a chance to heal. Rebuild yourself. Leave Tom alone until you're doing better.
posted by rhythm and booze at 3:13 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I broke up with him over one health problem that he can and would fix if I told him how much it bothered me.

This is a hell of an assumption.

You should have told him about the sleep apnea, if there was a chance he didn't know about it. But given your ambivalence, I think it would be really cruel to make a relationship conditional on its being treated. Plus it will not be an easy ride for you, even if he is eventually successful.

If I may:

I came onto askmefi and read every relevant question I could find. Regulars will know what the general consensus is: Leave him alone so he can move on. Don't say it's because he's fat! You can't help what you're attracted to. People can't really lose weight anyway. What sort of monster are you for not finding him attractive?


You're not helping yourself with these made-up conversations.
posted by BibiRose at 5:32 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


You spent a long time married to an addict and worrying about him not waking up in the morning? It sounds like this could definitely be something that has the potential to affect all your future relationships. Have you addressed this with a therapist? I really have no idea what being in a relationship with an addict is like, but I imagine being able to have honest, open discussions about health was not always an option for you. You noticed a serious medical condition a person you loved was suffering from and weren't able to discuss it with him.

Whatever you do, tell him about the apnea.
posted by inertia at 6:02 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you should break up with Tom because I don't think you fundamentally respect him.
posted by timsneezed at 6:10 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like some of the above answers, I have a feeling that your ambivalence toward Tom isn't really about his weight or sleep apnea. Rather, I get the sense that he was almost perfect for you in theory, but you weren't feeling it for some reason you couldn't quite put your finger on. So you're focusing on the one thing that isn't perfect and wondering if fixing that will fix your feelings toward him. It might not.

And the two things you're afraid of - a loved one unexpectedly dying, or you finding someone "better" - those fears have the potential of following you into any relationship. They're the risks of commitment, and they could happen with anyone, at any moment. Maybe they're Tom-specific thoughts and your brain's way of talking you out of a relationship with him, or maybe they're concerns that could hamper your desire to commit to anyone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:30 AM on February 4, 2013


From the OP:
I knew that turning to Mefi would highlight the real problem behind my question. It's hard to have your own neuroses shown to you this way, but I needed to see them and none of the people I know IRL were able to show them to me.

There's a lot of other mitigating information that I could have included to make me not seem like such a horrendous person, but it's not really relevant to what the real problem was. And of course, my question turned out to not be about the real problem.

I did actually tell Tom about the apnoea. We discussed him going to the doctor, and what the treatment would be. More than once. He wasn't keen on the likely options of CPAP or weight loss, and laughed it off, or brushed it aside. What I didn't do was tell him how important it was to me, how scared I was at night. Because as a few of you have pointed out, I have communication issues.

Pretty much all of you have been right on one way or another. None of you really said anything that I felt an urgent need to contradict or defend. I've taken something from every single comment. You've shown me what I still need to work on.

I owe Tom an apology and a better explanation than the one I gave him (Which was just, "I'm not attracted enough to you.") I will give him both, and kick his butt in the direction of a doctor. And then, I think, I have to let him go. You're right: I am really not ready for another relationship. I'm really quite ridiculously scared of being alone, but I can see that it's the best thing right now.

I feel much calmer and clearer now. Sad and sick to my stomach, but I know what to do. Thank you.
posted by taz at 6:58 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the update, OP. I was thinking about responding earlier, because I found it particularly striking that the attraction concern seems highlighted in the "edges" of your post (your title is about not being turned on, your tag list includes "sex" and "attraction") but that in the meat of the post you frame it as a health concern, which is not exactly the same thing. No doubt, this is because you're afraid that rejecting someone because they are overweight to an extent that you find unattractive is "monstrous" and might make you a "horrendous person."

The reason I'm responding is that it is *not*, in fact, monstrous or horrendous to feel that way. It's an extremely common preference, and I don't think you're doing yourself any favors by beating yourself up about it or sweeping it under the rug. There are also *other* preferences (status, intelligence) that initially steered you away from him and that over time it seems you reconsidered, but it might be worth reconsidering that reconsideration: is it fair to everyone involved, and does it bode well for the relationship, if you feel like you are compromising on a lot of fronts?

I think that perhaps spending some time out of the relationship world and getting yourself at peace with yourself will lead you to a place where you feel like, yes, it is OK for you to have expectations about the sort of person you want to be in a relationship with, that having standards about things like educational level, employment status, or weight doesn't make you a horrible person but is instead a sign that you think highly enough of yourself to feel like you deserve a partner who not only treats you well and is madly in love with you but who is also physically attractive to you and makes you proud to be their partner.

Also, don't be so quick to accept blame for not convincing Tom of the seriousness of his health issues, especially if you talked about it on more than one occasion. This is the same fallacy that you can fall into if you're involved in a relationship with an addict of any sort: that their lack of action or change is partially your fault because you didn't do a good enough job of communicating how much the addiction is affecting you and the relationship.

Tom is an adult. Yes, it would have been a good idea to communicate your feelings on his weight and sleep apnea more directly. But it's not the job of his partner to convince him through handwringing and emotional pleas to take his health seriously.
posted by drlith at 7:39 AM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


90-95% of people can't sustain an intentional weight loss of 10% of their body mass for five years. This is well documented. (The figures for intentional weight gain are even less favorable.)

This really has nothing to do with treating sleep apnea in most cases, anyway, because CPAP and BiPAP have a much better success rate than 10%.

So. You talked to Tom, and he didn't want to use a CPAP. Sounds like what you said about how he would fix it if you asked him to isn't accurate, then. It's possible he might be a candidate for surgery (some sleep apnea is caused by jaw misalignment that can be surgically corrected, and some is caused by intra nasal or sinus issues that can be surgically corrected) but if he's resistant to using a CPAP, my guess is that surgery would be out of the question.

His reluctance to explore treatment for sleep apnea trumps your (understandable!) anxiety about being in a relationship with someone you can't sleep next to because you find the sleep apnea terrifying.

Seems like you've already got your answer from Tom, then.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want to note this: "We discussed him going to the doctor, and what the treatment would be." You don't KNOW what the treatment would be. I'm overweight and I have sleep apnea, and losing weight will do NOTHING for my sleep apnea, because that's not the cause of it in my case! (I wish it were so simple, because I've lost a lot of weight recently. Heh.) It runs in my family and is caused by the structure of the nostrils, jaw, throat, etc., in our case--as evidenced by my beanpole cousin with the same affliction. So stop prescribing treatments that you're not qualified to prescribe. Yeah, Tom needs to get it taken care of to prevent brain damage and DEATH and whatnot, but he needs to find out about his options from a doctor, not from someone with possibly mixed motives and who doesn't know what's causing it or how to fix it.

I hope he gets the problem addressed and that things work out for each of you one way or the other! Best wishes (sincerely--you just happened to hit a serious sore point of mine!).
posted by wintersweet at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, use your words.

And then follow through with some actions. Explain how important it is to you to have him around for the long haul, and then have fun taking walks with him (walking everyday, holding hands, will take the weight off--guaranteed!) Find other active things to do--biking, bowling, flying kites--whatever. Cook healthy meals--together. Give it three months, and see what happens.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:34 PM on February 4, 2013


For you: Partners can absolutely diagnosis sleep apnea. You may not be able to know the severity, but the apneas are not subtle. It does sound like Tom is a ticking time bomb.

For Tom,
A sleep study is not fun, but it's one night. Part of the symptoms of apnea is that the person is easily overwhelmed because of the lack of rest. A CPAP is not fun, but your symptoms start getting relieved very quickly when using one. In the beginning, all you can see is this uncomfortable mask on your face. However, you don't have to wait very long to start to feel much better. That doesn't make the mask easier to get used to, but it does balance out the scale a little when getting energy back in return. And the horrifying picture I had of climbing into bed with my bride and putting on a Darth Vader mask never happens. You can turn out the lights and then put your mask on.
posted by DTHEASH1 at 4:01 AM on February 5, 2013


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