Do You Owe It To Your Partner To Stay Fit?

Photo: Lea Grover
Love, Self

If you believe marriage depends on looks, take your spouse to therapy instead of the gym.

When I was sixteen, my father took me on a trip to visit Reed College. He had a friend from high school pick us up from the airport. I tried to ignore their conversation but as soon as we were on the highway, my father said something to his friend that lodged itself in my brain forever.

"You've put on a lot of weight! Marriage must be treating you well!"

It was a confirmation of the subtle, Old World cues I'd heard my entire life from grandparents, great grandparents, television and movies. I thought about pictures of my parents from before my entrance into their lives, and they were thinner than I had ever been.

But now, in their forties, they were round and cherubic. Happily married for twenty odd years. The Old World moral was that fat married people are happy married people.

An article came out called "I Think It's Important To Stay Skinny for My Husband." In the article, the author explains that she doesn't feel sexy when she's not skinny and that she isn't comfortable in her own skin. So staying skinny isn't about doing it for him, it's about doing it for her.

Which is fine, I guess, for the moment. But only for the moment.

We like to think our bodies are stagnant. That this is the way I am, this is the way I'll always be, and this is the way I'm supposed to be. Only, our bodies aren't stagnant  they are constantly changing and changing beyond our control.

The day after I got engaged, my then-fiancé was rushed to the hospital, where we learned he had terminal brain cancer. That idiot tried to convince me to dump him. He thought he had somehow performed a bait-and-switch, that he tricked me into agreeing to marry a healthy, athletic guy, and BAM! I was engaged to sick guy with a limp and brain surgery scars, on medication that caused him to pack on pounds and doomed him to die.

I'd like to tell everyone in the world what I told him: I don't give a sh*t.

When you commit to marry somebody, you're not agreeing to marry them as they are at that moment; you're agreeing to be married to them no matter how they are: sick, healthy, old, infirm, and yes, fat.

You're not agreeing to love them until they go bald. You're not agreeing to love them until they rupture a spinal disk. You're not agreeing to love them until they have three C-sections. You're not agreeing to love them until they get a sun allergy.

You're not agreeing to marry them until they develop a new interest that eclipses a previous interest, even staying fit. You're not agreeing to love them until they get trapped in a fire and need skin grafts over half their body.

But you ARE agreeing to marry them because you love them. Bodies are temporary things.

One of my favorite qualities of myself is my skin, but I'm not going to spend my entire life agonizing over every scar and every wrinkle because there's no winning that fight. And there's no point. Another of my favorite qualities is my hair, and you know what? That's going to change, too. No matter how much you dye grey hairs, they'll never be the same texture as the originals.

Life is short and uncertain. To waste your time and energy trying to freeze it in a single time and place is nothing short of ridiculous. Yes, you might put on weight. You also might get hit by a bus. You also might have a heart attack.

If you're so insecure in your relationship that you believe it depends on your appearance, take your spouse and go to therapy instead of the gym.

Stay healthy because healthy bodies last longer, and the length of your life together is what matters. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Skinny doesn't equal healthy. Fat doesn't equal unhealthy. But only healthy bodies have the chance to love each other for decades and decades on end.

My husband is still alive, nearly a decade later. During the nearly nine years of our marriage, I've fed him nearly to bursting, and he's not the muscle-bound baseball player he was at 23. And after three beautiful babies, my body is as wrecked and scarred and lumpy as his.

We're the fat, happy married people my ancestors hoped we'd be. It hasn't diminished our love for each other or our attraction to each other. I love the scars on his head as much as I love his dimple, because they're part of him. He loves my stretch-marked and saggy belly as much as he loves my big perky boobs because they're part of me.

If someday he has a stroke that erases his dimple forever, I'll still love his body. If someday I have a breast cancer and need a double mastectomy, he'll still love mine.

A happy marriage is one where your confidence in your love isn't based in your confidence in yourself. Everyone has body issues but you shouldn't use your relationship as a scapegoat for them.

Own them. Acknowledge them. And then let the person who loves you most in the world rock your temporary and flawed body the way they want to.

Because you're the person inside of it. And no matter what your shape or weight, that's why they married you. In sickness or health, slimness or fat. No matter how you try, your body will not outlast your ability to love. And that's something you should be grateful for, not fight against.


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