My wife has gained weight and I no longer find her attractive. I love her and want to make this work. What should I do?
– Worried about Weight
My initial reaction is anger – which I’m sure is the response of most women, except the really skinny ones who can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound. But they don’t count anyway! I've calmed myself down (those Lamaze techniques have multiple uses) and I will try to answer the question rationally.
First of all, I hope that you and any other men that feel that way are wise enough not to tell your wives! That will definitely cause your marriage serious harm. You should reassure her that she is always beautiful to you. Not only will that help her, it will help you too. If you say it often enough, you may come to remember it and believe it. She is already uncomfortable about (and very aware of) her weight gain. Don’t add to her pain.
Secondly, you said that you love her. Focus on the qualities that endear her to you. This will increase your affection for her and your sense of closeness and lead you to see her in a more attractive light.
Thirdly, our sages recommend that intimacy occur in the dark. This preserves a sense of mystery and excitement and takes the light off (literally) our physical flaws. I’m sure you have some you’d rather she not see, although perhaps she is more forgiving…
Fourthly, it is important to consult a third party – a rabbi, therapist or trusted male friend. Being female, there are limits to my ability to understand your situation. And being a female who struggles with her weight… well we covered that…
And now a word to wives. We have responsibilities too. While we can’t always look our best (pregnancy, nausea, screaming babies, screaming adolescents, screaming singles all take a toll!), we do need to try. We must make an effort to stay in shape. We should try to dress in ways that are flattering and to “spruce up” for our spouses. We may find it easier to cook and deal with babies who are spitting up while wearing a robe or old shirt, but that is not the way to present ourselves to our husbands. We may walk in from work and immediately want to change into our ratty old comfy clothes. That is not the best way to greet our husbands either.
We want them to have eyes for no other women (although not all other women appreciate that!) but we have to help. We have to make our own best effort.
Ultimately, everyone’s best effort resides in prayer. We should ask the Almighty to help reignite the spark and closeness. If He is willing to bend the truth (as he did with Abraham and Sarah) or have His name blotted out (as in the case of adultery) for the sake of peace in the home, then surely if you sincerely want it and pray for it, He will come to your assistance. Don’t wait too long to ask.
I am a 42 year old Jewish woman with three children – 4, 7, and 10, and a husband of 12 years. I grew up in a home in which I had to do a lot of the housework and where I got yelled at a lot and hit a lot, too. I decided to be nothing like my mother and to raise my kids without chores, and with freedom to relax, watch television, play sports, to be happy, and to know I love them. I play with them every day after work (I'm an accountant with long hours), and I take them to amusement parks, movies, and sports events every weekend except for Shabbat, when I take them to synagogue and to friends and invite their friends to us. You'd think they'd be the one thing I want for them: happy. They are not. They are miserable.
Sure, their happiness comes when everything is perfect (read: exactly as they wanted and not one tiny bit different) but otherwise they are always angry at me, their dad, or at each other. Nothing is good enough, nothing is enough. They are rude and they never, and I mean never, listen to me or their father. Everything, and I mean everything, is an argument and a debate. I take care of their every need. I still dress them all and even carry the ten year old to his bed when he asks (almost every night) and sometimes I have to carry him out of bed to the couch to watch television in the morning so he can wake up on time for school-otherwise he wouldn't get out of bed. All they have to do is yell "Mom, milk! Mom, cake!" and I bring it to them as they watch TV. They don't have to do laundry or make dinner or set or clear the table or even make their beds and if a guest comes over and says to one "You dropped that, why don't you pick it up?" they'll say "Nah, I'd rather not," or ask "Why?" or say "It's the maid's job" and they completely embarrass me. This summer I took them to California for two weeks and to Disney Land and other nearby attractions for five days of the trip. They were angry the entire time. I was miserable. All I wanted was for the kids to be happy and know I love them and to love me. This hasn't been the case. What is wrong with them? What do I do to make them understand how lucky they are and how much they should appreciate me and know I love them? I'm at my wits end and I'm screaming at them almost as much as my mother screamed at me. They don't listen. Nothing works.
– Whole Lotta Love
Dear Doormat Mom,
I’m very sorry but this case requires some tough talking, starting with you. You carry your 10 year-old to bed?! That is not a kindness to him. You are crippling him. Children (and adults) thrive through responsibility. They need discipline. They need structure. They need to believe they can make it on their own. You have been systematically depriving them of that opportunity.
I understand your desire not replicate your own experience. But a sense of obligation, an ability to accept responsibilities and comply with rules must be inculcated in each and every one of us. It is just not necessary to accomplish this through hitting and yelling.
And there is a big difference between a list of age-appropriate chores spread out among your children and a Cinderella-like existence.
One of the ways our children know they are loved is because of the guidelines and parameters we establish for them. It shows we care. The Almighty does the same with us.
Another way is through the demonstration of our belief in their capabilities. They can take care of themselves in many ways and we can help them gain confidence with each progressive step.
I’m sure you love your children. I can hear that you are in tremendous pain. You have lost a lot of ground.
But it’s not too late. You can begin to tell your children, “Because I love you I will not carry you to bed but cheer you on as you walk there yourself.” “Because I love you I will not get you food when you yell for it but teach you when and where you can get if for yourself (not to mention communicating with your mother in an appropriate manner and tone!)”. “Because I love you we will turn off the TV during meal times and sit around the table getting to know each other.” It will be awkward at first but you will get there if you persevere and don’t revert to the old, unsuccessful patterns.
You don’t mention where your husband fits into this scenario. Presumably he has allowed you to run the show. Hopefully he will be at least as supportive of your new more effective and healthier system.
It’s going to seem like tough love at first. But you will get what you want – your kids will ultimately thank you.