Dr. Laura Triplett, an assistant professor at California State University-Fullerton, conducts research on body image and the social implications of physical appearance. She has found that women in their 20s in particular stop having sex with their partners when they don't meet their idealized notion of what a man should look like.
"They usually give an ultimatum: 'We're going on a vacation and you have until June to look this good,' and they give him a picture that they want him to mold himself to. They buy him gift certificates to trainers and gym memberships as incentives," Triplett explains.
It's no secret that obesity is a national epidemic: The number of obese American adults outweighs the number of those who are merely overweight, according to data released in January 2009, by the National Center for Health Statistics. The data reveals that more than 34 percent of Americans are obese, compared to 32.7 percent who are overweight; nearly six percent of Americans are "extremely" obese.
Sabine* says Kurt* began piling on the pounds 18 months into their three-year relationship.
"I'm not sure if it was because he was getting too comfortable or because his adolescent skinny boy metabolism was just growing into middle-aged fat man metabolism. Regardless, he was getting bigger and not in a good way… he was growing man boobs," Sabine recalls. "I was getting really grossed out."
Sabine, now 37, is a size two and argued with herself about the passive-aggressive comments she made to Kurt, 40. Still, she stopped sleeping over at his house as often and turned off the lights when they had sex; ultimately, they stopped having sex altogether.
When men gain weight and become physically unattractive to their partner, "what usually happens is the woman takes it much more as a sign that he doesn't love her. Women tend to personalize things," Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist who specializes in intimacy and sexuality at the Methodist Weight Management Center in Houston, observes.