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Dear Emuna: My Overweight Wife
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: My Overweight Wife

Help! I no longer find my wife attractive.


Dear Emuna,

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

Dear Worried,

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.

– Emuna

Dear Emuna,

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.

– Emuna

October 3, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 90

(86) Med, September 12, 2016 4:44 AM

You missed a very important point

Emuna, You missed a very important point in answering the man with a fat wife. God admonished men to love and sacrifice for their wives but also for their wives to respect their husbands - not to love them - to respect them. Whether you believe this or not, men desire and need respect from their wives much more and before they desire or need love. And the truth is, that if a husband loathes fat on his wife, she is showing him sincere disrespect by keeping it. I can think of no other more damaging behavior a woman can display within marriage than disrespect. It is as damaging as a man refusing to love and sacrifice for his wife. Too many women forget this and dismiss the issue of their weight thinking, naively, and wrongly, that it is a surface issue when in reality they are trodding clumsily upon the one thing that can end the happiness in their beloved marriage, and possibly become the catalyst that end the marriage altogether. Or is it perhaps, that the disrespectful wife feels she is entitled to demand the man sacrifice his greatest desire for her to respect him by refusing to take care of herself. Maybe that's why so many women think it's ok. Her needs trump his. I hope this is not the case because you get what you give... Pressed down, shaken together and overflowing... My wife let herself get fat. I supported her, I tried to help, I tried to explain what it would do to us and she ignored it all. So here we are. I will never leave her because I will honor my promise... these days, not necessarily because I made it to her, because, these days her fat and her indifference to it quite frankly angers me, but because I made that promise to God, I will keep it. His laws trump her needs. For her lack of respect, she has lost mine. And from a man's perspective, that's as bad as it gets. Consider this.

(85) Anonymous, October 23, 2014 4:56 PM


I am so amazed at how you were able to answer the husband of the overweight wife with such a neutral and effective tone while cautioning the wife not to neglect her responsibilities. Way lto go!!!!!

(84) Al, February 28, 2013 6:33 PM

Worried husband reply

Emuna, I can tell that you are overweight. This is the typical fat women response to any man who dares to complain about his wife's weight. I'll start out by saying a.) it is not natural! People these days are completely neglecting their health and getting fatter than we have ever seen in history.Unlike facial deformities this is completely their own fault! B.) Everyone should be allowed to be happy.That means if your spouse is not making you happy you a every right to leave him or her.Your spouse is not even related to you so we should you have to keep her or him around in your life if you are not happy.c.) marriage is really based on sexual attraction.After all, if we weren't attracted to the person,we wouldn't have married them in the first place! So if you don't realize it already you are just giving men more the reason to cheat on their overweight, ungrateful wives who think for some reason they should be locked in to their misery just because they said "I do" a decade ago.God I hate feminists!

Anonymous, July 20, 2014 4:29 AM

in sickness and in health for better or worse

well maybe you aren't as attracted, but do you think you are going to be so attractive when you are 85, and did you only marry someone because of their attraction or because you loved them, and if you really loved this person, you would understand it is very hard to lose weight, I gained weight myself after constantly being picked on when I was a hundred pounds less than I am now and I wanted to keep people away from me that only care about how my body looks to them and does not want to care about me as a person

Anonymous, October 20, 2014 9:14 PM

Are you perfect?

I assume that since you want a perfect wife who never changes, you have not got thinning hair or an expanding waistline. You have always brushed your teeth and used mouthwash. You keep your yourself clean and you treat your wife kindly. You make sure she has household help so she has plenty of time to go to the gym and the tennis club and keep herself in shape. Since you get regular trips to the barber, do you make sure your budget can cover both time and money for her to also make weekly trips to the hairdresser?
No???? Well.... Maybe you carry some blame here also... at the very least. And of course, you haven't aged at all.
You are always thoughtful and kind and never fail to help around the house or with the children.... No? Are you hampering her efforts or helping? Maybe she would like time to exercise and money to take care of herself but spends all her effort on taking care of the house, the children, keeping a proper Jewish home, etc. Keeping a kosher home is more effort than a non-kosher home. How much do you help in holiday preparation?

Maybe you really prefer a maid and dating to making some poor woman's life as your wife so miserable with all your expectations and demands.

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