I don’t find Cathy attractive anymore. She’s really let herself go, and I don’t feel any interest in being romantic. If she’d change, maybe things would be different, but, right now, I don’t see how our relationship can continue.
She Says: What happened to “for better or worse”?
“Letting myself go” means that I gained a little weight with my two pregnancies. And my hair is gray instead of blonde. Ryan is showing some age himself, but very little affection or love for me. What happened to “for better or worse”?
What do THEY do?
Ryan can’t choose to be attracted to Cathy, but he can choose to love her. Actually, he not only can, but he vowed that he would. At their wedding he promised to love her forever regardless of how large (or sick, or disabled or senile) she might become.
But being physically attracted to her is another matter. He either is or he isn’t, and since he isn’t, and they both want intimacy, that’s a problem. So what now?
Ryan, even if your lost feelings toward Cathy might be authentic, they could still arise from wrongful thinking. None of us stays beautiful forever, right? A 50-year marriage is a long walk toward shared decrepitude. So be realistic.
And remember that child-bearing takes an especially hard toll on the female body. Aren’t those two children of yours worth the price of some of Cathy’s weight gain? If so, then kiss her body and tell her you love her for bearing the scars of that sacrifice.
There’s another influence to beware of. If any pornography – whether hard or soft, occasional or regular – is a part of your life, it is certainly degrading your feelings toward Cathy. Get rid of it.
Finally, even if you can’t choose to be attracted to Cathy, you can choose to be affectionate to her. Try this: Every day, make an outward act of love for her – a hug, a kind word or a surprise gift. This can yield amazing results. It can both nurture an environment in which she will more likely want to lose weight, and it can actually revitalize your own feelings of attraction to her.
Cathy, when you and Ryan got married you became “no longer two, but one flesh.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1605; Mt 19:6) Your shared commitment to love one another means you are each to lovingly care for your respective bodies, not just for your own sakes, but also out of love for the other.
Some extra pounds can come with having babies, not to mention the stress of raising them. But does that explain everything? While it’s important for Ryan to have realistic expectations, it’s also important for you to be honest with yourself, and him, about what you can (and want to) change.
Ryan and Cathy, feeling unloved can sometimes cause a person to feel unlovable, which can then cause that person to “let go” and begin to look unlovable. And as that person lets go of his/her looks, the other lets go of his/her love, and so the cycle continues.
If this is happening with you, try this. First, review your family habits about food, health and exercise, then change whatever needs to be changed, together. Commit to rebuild a foundation of mutual support, gratitude and tenderness. Do this, and physical attraction will almost take care of itself.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers for the Diocese of Sacramento, Calif.
For marriage and family resources from the Diocese of Lansing, visit www.dioceseoflansing.org/content/marriage-and-family-resources.