By – Celina Murphy
Irish Daily Star
Wednesday, July 22nd 2015
“I’m over weight and my partner doesn’t want to have sex with me anymore.” This is a lament that Motivation weight management adviser Claire Jackson often hears from patients attending her clinics. “Sometimes I think that maybe the lifelong vows of commitment should be re written for better for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…in fatness and thinness!” she says. “I thinks it’s easy for over consumption and the lack of exercise to take away one of the best aspects of marriage: a healthy sexual relationship.
“Life presents marriage with lots of challenges, many beyond our control. However there are plenty within our control – including our weight. Foolish financial decisions, laziness around household chores, poor career choices, irresponsible drinking or gambling habits or domestic abuse can all challenge a marriage. Yet is it a little taboo to talk about how weight gain can challenge the health and sexual relationship as time goes on? One of the key challenges facing patients coming to see me about their weight gain is maintaining a long term sexual relationship. The strain of ‘kick on’ obesity issues such as low self- esteem and feeling self-conscious can ultimately affect libido and really mean the making or breaking of a marriage.”
We are all sexual creature with needs and desires. We get married promising to love our partners for their heads and hearts but the physical body is part of the commitment and can so easily be forgotten. It may sound superficial, but without the bond of sex the knock on effects can be catastrophic as resentment takes hold and closeness disappears. I see first-hand the hurt and devastation this can cause.
“In a loving relationship I believe physical attraction and sexual compatibility is often taken for granted – with the assumption there’s no need to work at it. The love can remain, while the physical connection can easily be lost. For many this often cannot be helped, as the appetite has gone. It is not a conscious decision but weight is a massive factor. I’m not writing this to incite blame or make generalisations about the sex lives of all overweight people. I’m trying to make sense of the reasons why this natural act tends to suffer when one or both partners is overweight.
“Those with families, jobs, elderly parents and other responsibilities are often so distracted trying to juggle all the balls that time for themselves and their partners’ drops off the priority list. We may recall a time when self-care meant soaking in the bath and emerging like a different person. And feeling attractive, worthy and desirable helps us let down our guard and encourage physical closeness with our partner. The point here is that lack of time and energy for ourselves can drive couples apart in itself and adding weight gain into the equation can spell an end to romance – which can spell an end to sex or vice versa.
“The combination can affect our partner’s attraction and physical advances towards us, but more often than not it is our assumption that because we feel unattractive then out partner must see us that way too. This is due to our internal monologue, the destructive self-talk which tears down our confidence and leaves us void of positivity.
“Emphasising our defects injures our emotional state so we’re left with feelings of anger, guilt and frustration. These unfounded pessimistic beliefs cause the problems in our relationship because we start to push others away. We learn to lash out and drive away our partners, not for anything they have done but as we’re angry and frustrated, perhaps feeling incapable of assuming responsibility for our own behaviour.
“And so a sharp tone, a certain look, a confused text can be translated into rejection – when nothing could have been further from the intention. And a friendly by smile by him to another female…well, that could constitute filing for divorce…Sure an affair with a happy slim, attractive younger model is inevitable why wouldn’t he? The truth is that it is us they love, us they want sex with. It’s because we fear that we are not good enough our aggression jealousy pushes them to the limit and then causes us to overeat due to stress and guilt. So the cycle gathers momentum and ends up in an acrimonious mess.
“If you love your partner and want that love reciprocated physically it is important to have honesty without hurt, encouragement without force and a willingness to make changes without demands. Examine how you see yourself, your behaviours and your attitudes towards your relationship. Never assume your partner knows what you’re thinking. Analysing your own self-talk may help you to replace the negative, destructive, ideas with more realistic solution- based monologue. Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviours and attitudes.
“Take responsibility, work on your own mental and physical health. If weight is an issue then tackle it. Don’t focus on weight loss, gain happiness instead. There is nothing more attractive than a happy person. Empower yourself by understanding the root cause, the possible physiological and psychological triggers that have led to weight gain.
“Be honest about your past. Sexual problems are very common and occur in many different forms – and they are at the root of most weight problems. You must ask yourself the right questions to get the right answers and solve things. I’ve come across so many clients who having succeeded in losing weight with us have then rediscovered their sex lives.
“They worked on their heads as well as bodies – and the negative self- image, guilt, and resentment disappeared as their weight fell and they became sexually active again”