It is easy to stay in shape at the start of a relationship and disappointing when your partner later puts on too much weight.

It is easy to stay in shape at the start of a relationship and disappointing when your partner later puts on too much weight.

My partner and I used to have a lot of fun exercising together, but a few months ago he got a promotion at work which meant working longer hours. He stopped going to the gym with me and now he’s packing on the weight in all the wrong places. To put it bluntly, I find it very hard to get turned on by his beer gut and fijibidas (saggy sacks of skin and fat under the upper arm). Is there some tactful way of suggesting he better shape up. Or must I ship out?

Fussy aren’t you? I hope you never develop sags anywhere. You have fallen for one of the most common relationship traps and it is quite likely that your relationship won’t survive it.

Most of us, when we start going out with a prospective new partner can’t resist becoming our most attractive self. Females get all prettied up and are the epitome of care and affection. Males dress thoughtfully and are considerate and protective. As the relationship progresses, each continues to invest great effort in winning the other over. Conversations can run late into the night, as both become the most attentive listeners. Nothing is as appealing as spending time with the new lover. Each will participate in activities that never held any interest before simply because the new partner likes them.

Over the intense early months of the relationship, lots of effect is put into looking good. Hairdressers, nail technicians, clothing stores and gyms all benefit from the patronage of the hopeful. Then somewhere along the line, when the relationship is secure, all the effort becomes too much. Gradually people slip back into being their true mundane selves.

Your partner has had an incentive to slip back. He has a new promotion at work. You could use this as an excuse for his change of behaviour, hoping he’ll soon go back to the gym. But this would be a mistake. People are promoted and still manage to get to the gym. No, you have to face the fact that physical exercise is not much of a priority to him. His career is much more important. He was willing to make the effort to go the gym to win you over, but now the urgency is gone.

Obviously, having an attractive healthy mate is important to you. But how important? Now that you have fallen for him, he is betting that you will overlook his flab and appreciate him for his other attractions, like getting rich.

Trying to cajole him into accompanying you to the gym won’t work. He’ll see you as a nag and you’ll fall into the trap of trying, and then failing, to change him. You need to accept him as he is, flabby.

Before you ship out, you might want to consider whether you live up to your initial PR. Obviously you look good, spending all that time at the gym. But what did you sell him that won’t endure? Are you as career focussed as he expects? Are there activities of his that bore you to death that you’d rather now miss?

The process of getting to know each other and building a lasting relationship involves making concessions. Settling down, in the real world, usually does mean settling for less than you were originally sold.

Ultimately you are the only one who knows how important the looks and health of your partner is to you. Trying to change them never works. If you are no longer attracted and cannot sustain the relationship as it is, tell him gently and honestly. See if he moves. If he doesn’t, you know what to expect. Then it is up to you to put up with it or ship out.

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