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I would like opinion on in a relationship that I have given

lots of thought to. six weeks...
I would like opinion on in a relationship that I have given lots of thought to.
six weeks ago I met have since gotten very close to a girl. We are in a relationship (referring to each other as boyfriend, girlfriend). She is 26, I am 34. This for me is after one year period of being single (which did me a whole lot of good in terms of getting back in touch with the real me).
She is the most amazing person I have met in my life: has a heart of gold, kind, extremely generous to others, gentle, affectionate, with a very attractive soft side to her. She is also curious about the world, adventurous, eager to experience new things (travel, culture, the great outdoors) - something that we definitely share. she is also a bit more lively than me (extrovert) that balances the quiet me (introvert) well and vice versa. She is also quite a deep and reflective person who is able to notice all kinds of interesting things about the world around her and the people in it. She tries hard and succeeds in balancing a career with spending time with her, family and friends and remaining "grounded" (my word for not letting yourself be overwhelmed by material trappings and other rewards of a well paid job). I think we share an awful lot in terms of values: closeness to families, moderate in political outlook, knowing that career and achievement in life needs to be balanced with other things, appreciating importance of friendships & looking after friends, attitude towards religion, importance of being kind and generous to those around us, wanting to travel and experience lots of different things in life. I am so impressed by the fact that she is all given some of the unhappy experiences she has had (raped at 16 and last relationship with person who hit her, both of which I am really sorry have happened to such a kind person...). we both find it very easy to be in each others company: both never before feeling so able to just be ourselves and say what we think. We both feel like we have known each other longer than 6 weeks (during this time we have seen each other on average 1-2 a week with exception of one week ski trip on which we went with friends). I think we have been very thoughtful and kind to each other and have something special.
We have been intimate (had sex) and do feel close to each other. She says she wants to spend the rest of her life with me and is in love with me. I have told her that I feel likewise but there is something that troubles me which is the reason for writing to get another view (perhaps I told her that I felt the same way somewhat hastily which reflects a general trait of mine: I believe I am a kind and good person but also at times to eager to please others and not disappoint them).
To come to the crux: she is overweight (not life threateningly or anything but it is noticeable to all including herself). I dont find very skinny size zero women attractive at all but if I am brutally honest with myself I do find myself bothered my her appearance (however much I try to explain to myself that it should not matter to myself for various reasons) - she is pretty underneath it! I have moments were I think to myself that I should not have let the relationship get to this stage and have therefore done something very wrong. However the truth is that then I would not have gotten to know a person who I do think is amazing and has some very unique and special qualities to her and a wonderful inside (I mean this by contrast to just appearance). I also have moments when I think I am shallow and very unfair for even thinking this way about her appearance.

By way of explanation the weight issue is also something she has mentioned many times in passing as something that she is not happy with and wishes to change, is a major demon of hers, and something that I know by the remarks is a source of anxiety and insecurity. She has sought reassurance form me by asking about whether I mind that "she is fat", "the way she looks". I have (slightly dishonestly I feel but also not wanting to hurt her feelings and cause her further anxiety) reassured her that she is beautiful and attractive and fine as she is. I now feel bad about this as: a) i dont feel I was being truthful (although did not feel i was ready to be more truthful or would have done much good at time without proper time for discussion). b) I perhaps underestimated the extent to which the issue did bother me (as well as her).I feel the need to talk to her about this a I cant not say anything as i feel i have not told her quite the truth and it bothers both me and her. I am acutely aware of how sensitive a subject this is for females so was proposing to tackle this as follows:

- I want to raise this as it is an issue you are anxious about and ask if this is OK
- ask her to talk about what she wants
- offer suggestions for how I can help if she wants to loose weight
- say that i would find her even more attractive than I do
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Answered in 15 minutes by:
4/2/2013
TherapistMaryAnn
TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
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Satisfied Customers: 5,856
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It is very kind of you to tell your girlfriend that you find her attractive even if you have some reservations about it. Women gain confidence from hearing those kinds of things. It helps her feel more confident about herself which may in turn help her motivation to do something about how she feels. And it is not like your girlfriend is not aware of how she looks. She seems to have insight and possibly a willingness to address her issue.

If your girlfriend was hurt in the past it could explain why she has body image issues and why she weighs more. Anyone who was sexually hurt (in your girlfriend's case through rape) has the potential to develop body image issues through low self esteem and trauma. And it could be that your girlfriend was affected in this way. That makes it more difficult to focus on losing weight as you would with someone who just ended up eating too much or that has bad habits. In other words, there are possibly deeper psychological issues to her weight problem.

Therefore, it helps to approach her in a way other than just bringing the topic up out of the blue. What you might want to try is letting her bring it up first, as it sounds like she does already. When she does bring it up still reassure her that you find her beautiful inside and out. Then mentioned something along the lines that you were thinking about changing your eating habits to something more healthy (if it helps do some research ahead of time about eating habits and how you might change yours to be healthier) and tell her since she wants to change her eating patterns that maybe she could join you. Tell her that you want to work together since you need the support and you would find her input invaluable. By doing that, you make her feel she is contributing and you don't make her feel you are doing this because of her weight.

You may want to stay away from any advice giving or suggestions. It will come across as if you feel she has a weight issue and that you are superior since you do not. It would also indicate that she is less than what you desire and it would make her question your feelings for her. And don't tell her that if she loses weight you would find her more attractive. Staying with a "help me eat better" and "I would really love your support in my quest to eat better" mode would help her feel motivated. Keep the focus on you and ask for her help. She may just end up joining you and you get what you want without hurting her feelings.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate
TherapistMaryAnn
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Kate,


 


Thanks for the reply. That is helpful as an independent and honest opinion. Just to give you a bit more detail on a few points and some additional questions. would be grateful if you could offer your views:


 


1) Not ideal perhaps but I am shortly due to move from London to Zurich to take up a new job (accepted this before we met) while she will remain in London (although will commute to Zurich fairly frequently for work and weekends and I will travel the other way). I know this will not make this any easier but we are making plans to see each other frequently.


 


2) Re what you say about psychological underpinnings of issue I suspected that and she knows as much (as the weight gain dates back to after that incident and she thinks of it very much as taking away her beauty). I can see how it feeds into low self esteem in certain areas only (body image). Is there something else I could suggest. Counselling perhaps (i dont think she ever got counselling for the rape incident as she never told anyone)?


 


3) in terms of your suggestion of letting her bring the topic up I can see the sense although I must admit I am eager to bring it up myself as I feel I have not responded helpfully to her comments in the past and I have bottled up the issue in myself (this links to 5 below). The problem with the "help me eat better" suggestion is I dont know how to make it sound particularly credible to myself or herself (I eat a very healthy diet and exercise lots). I was thinking of perhaps asking for her help by saying that I would want her help in joining me in some form of exercise that she (and we both) enjoy in effort to help me get fitter as I am lonely doing it myself and miss her.


 


4) I must admit I do feel like I am deceiving myself and herself by not being more truthful and straightforward about her appearance (I would try and do it in a very gentle way whilst emphasising all else I see in her but perhaps there is no way of doing that is not damaging to her?)and am finding this increasingly difficult. But I guess this is the best (and only approach)?


 


5) most scary of all this is leading me to question whether I do really accept her just as she is (which is what love must mean) or whether that is not in fact the case (despite me thinking that it should be and I should feel that way). Perhaps I need to examine my own feelings more carefully first before I have any conversations on this topic. At first I had thought I was accepting her as I saw her true self as who she is and some extra weight as not really part of her true self and something that could easily be removed (perhaps on back of lots of stuff she said about wanting to do so). However increasingly I am beginning to question whether that was naive of me and in fact I should see the weight and the way she looks as part of her and simply accept it (which I am finding it difficult to do). Any views? Put another way I guess I think I need to face the ultimate question of: despite all else I see in her if she were to never succeed in loosing the weight would I be happy to spend the rest of my life with her and if the answer is not a resounding yes then I am doing something deeply wrong by being in the relationship. Any views?

It would be a great idea for her to get counseling. Anyone who has been through a trauma like rape deserves the support. It can be difficult because of the shame and other feelings but if she is able to go, she should try it. She may want to start by calling a rape crisis center or a hotline as a less overwhelming way to introduce herself to the idea. It would also help her remain anonymous.

Asking her to join you in exercise is a good idea. It links to the one about eating better. Both work towards the same goal.

Being very truthful in any relationship is ideal but if you go around telling your thoughts to everyone that asks, you might not have many friends. What your girlfriend is really asking you anyway is if you love her for who she is. The weight issue is a side line. She wants to be accepted and feels she is not acceptable.

It is wise to look at your feelings about her weight. You need to look at why this is an issue for you and what you can do about either changing your views or deciding that this relationship is not what you want. Counseling can help you dig deeper to find out what is motivating you to make this an issue and how you can resolve it. It is hard to say where these feelings come from unless you take the time to explore it further.

Kate
TherapistMaryAnn
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