Steve wrote: “Hey Liz, hope all is well. I have a question that seems rather embarrassing but here goes. I have struggled with eating issues for ten years, going through behaviors like vomiting, extreme dieting, exercising constantly, etc. I’m not able to afford therapy but recently I’ve made some progress limiting this behavior. However, I’ve gained weight and am extremely uncomfortable with my body and hate taking my shirt off, even during sex. This drives my wife pretty crazy, where she will give me a hard time about it basically every time (which isn’t particularly often probably, compared to other couples in their early twenties). Anyway, I want to give my wife what she wants but one time I tried and I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t stay aroused. Any thoughts?”
Liz says: Disordered eating habits are on the rise with males, so you’re not as alone as you might think. The societal pressure to be a perfect Adonis is now equal to what females endured for decades. For example, there was a time that to make it as a male supermodel you just needed to be tall and slim. Now, it seems guys need to have 8-pack abs and biceps that could rip a phone book in two.
There’s nothing wrong with working to be fit and healthy. The problem is that too often our new healthy habits spiral out of control and become unhealthy habits. The key is balance, of course, but that can be easier said than done sometimes.
Your wife should stop giving you a “hard time”. Criticism and impatience usually only serve to make you feel worse and build a wall between you as a couple. She needs to learn more about what drives these patterns you engage in and how she can be a supportive mate in your quest to overcome this. Have her visit this website: the Eating Recovery Center’s Family Support Guidelines.
You state that you “want to give my wife what she wants”, but what do you want? Do you want to abstain from sex or do you want her to accept that you’ll be wearing your shirt while you do? Try to have a deeply honest conversation on what you both want. That’s the only way things can improve. Couples who can’t talk to each other don’t usually stay together.
And keep in mind this is all temporary; with help and consistent effort your eating disorder can be a part of your past and you can be happy with your body. There are thousands of people who’ve shed their negative self-image and gotten healthy, you can be one of them. A lot of people without eating disorders can relate to what you’re feeling, too. Simply gaining or losing a few pounds can sometimes make us self-conscious during sex with a partner. We should all love ourselves and accept that *nobody* has a perfect body, not even supermodels. 😉