Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to look good for our partners.
When you first start dating your partner, you dress to the nines to make sure your other half has the hots for you. We can put make-up on and play around with our style but what happens if you put on a little bit of weight?
We’d expect our partner to still feel attracted to us regardless of our body weight but this isn’t the case for this week’s reader, Maddie.
“My husband of 6 years revealed to me recently that he has spent our entire marriage hoping I would lose weight, and that he doesn’t find me attractive,” Maddie tells HuffPost UK.
“I’ve struggled with weight loss my entire adult life, and I’m not certain I’ll ever be as ‘skinny’ or ‘in shape’ as he’s hoping for. My friends are telling me this is abusive and I should leave him. I don’t know what to do,” she adds.
It must be heartbreaking for Maddie to hear how her partner feels about her appearance. What should she do? Counselling Directory member Georgina Sturmer is on hand to give Maddie some advice.
What would you say to this reader?
Sturmer says it sounds like this has been a shocking and hurtful revelation that has left Maddie questioning herself and her marriage. “Your friends have piled in with their support and advice. But this has left you floundering and unsure,” she says.
She wants Maddie to think about herself and how she feels about her marriage.
“Are you feeling happy and satisfied, with this criticism coming as a bolt out of the blue? Or does this criticism feel familiar, is it something that you have got used to?” she adds.
Sturmer continues: “It’s hard to identify or label a pattern of behaviour based on a very short snippet of information.
“It’s possible that this relationship is one that is characterised by conflict or miscommunication. But it’s important to acknowledge that criticism is a hallmark of controlling behaviour, of emotional abuse.”
How can these comments affect the reader?
Low self-esteem and boundaries
As Maddie has shared that she’s struggled with her self-image, these comments have probably triggered feelings of shame and embarrassment, feeding into her low sense of self-esteem.
“Perhaps also anger, frustration, or sadness,” Sturmer says.
Unexpected criticism and trust
“It sounds like this criticism was unexpected, which may have shaken the reader’s sense of security in the relationship,” Sturmer says. “If he has hidden these feelings for so long, what else might he be keeping from her?”
Minimising and denial
If a partner is critical, controlling, or abusive, it’s common for people to minimise or deny what has happened.
“They might blame themselves, justifying their partner’s behaviour,” Sturmer explains.
Advice from other people
It seems that Maddie has a supportive group of well-meaning friends who are urging her to leave her husband.
They will certainly help her to feel less isolated at such a difficult time.
“But it’s not always easy when friends offer their advice. Everyone has their own agenda. It’s important for the reader to make decisions based on what she really needs and wants,” Sturmer says.
What practical advice would you give this reader?
Sturmer suggests that Maddie should explore what you want and need from this relationship. This might involve self-reflection, discussions with a friend, or working with a counsellor.
“Are your needs being met? Do you feel that you deserve for your needs to be met? And how can you communicate all of this to your husband?” she adds.
Sturmer continues: “What would you say to a friend in this situation? Sometimes we need to take a step back and imagine that we are offering support to someone we love. What would you suggest that they do?”
If Maddie does decide to stay, Sturmer thinks she should seek support.
“What do you need to help you in your relationship?” she asks. Though it seems like she has a great set of friends, she should explore counselling.
“Counselling could help you to explore your self-esteem and your relationship with your body image, without fear of judgement or someone else’s agenda,” Sturmer explains.
“If criticism and self-doubt feel familiar, then you might benefit from exploring the other relationships in your life. Do you put yourself down, and do you accept it when other people put you down too?” she asks Maddie.
However, if she decides to leave she should still seek support.