The image of an ideal good-looking couple, for most of us, is set by the romance movies we are exposed to. Whether Hollywood or Bollywood, both the hero and the heroine look stunning. They have perfect bodies, flawless skin, and thanks to advanced medical procedures, perfect features. Social media filters and getting to be the hero/heroine at your own wedding has closed the gap between the movie pair and the common couple. The pressure to look a certain way when you are single or about to get married is something we experience and talk about a lot.
What does not get mentioned as often, is what happens when time has gone by in a couple's journey together and routines and responsibilities have taken over. Health of loved ones, depression, work pressure, pregnancies, and parenting. All of these require a fine balance that is hard to maintain for most people. The struggle to juggle priorities is exhausting and personal health and fitness takes a back seat for many.
A and N got married in 2011. An investment professional, the intensity of travel and pressure of maintaining his performance is extremely stressful for A. An artist who works at her own pace, N is more in control of her work schedule. She is also very particular about her diet and is an avid runner. Over the years, A has gained a lot of weight. According to A, their entire friend circle teases them by calling him N’s father based on how they both look now. He was able to take that in his stride but when strangers started guessing that N was his daughter, it wreaked havoc on A’s mind. As a result, he started lashing out at N and left no opportunity to point out the disparity in their earnings and N’s negligible contribution to their lifestyle. Even he agrees that it was an unfair move, especially since N had no hand in getting them in this situation. It also did not help that young and old men flirted with N. It's obvious that this made A insanely jealous. Now the couple is in therapy and working on the romantic aspects of their relationship with me.
Then there is V who has been unable to shed her post-partum weight for the last decade. She is so conscious about the shape of her body that she claims she is unable to see herself naked in the mirror. This disdain with her own body is the result of her pre-pregnancy self who was obsessively working out and maintaining a perfectly shaped body. Fad diets, unachievable standards of exercise and perhaps even post-partum depression all of these have come in the way of V shedding her weight. V’s sex life is at a complete halt as she is ashamed of her body—how can her husband see her like this when she is unable to see her own self? I am sure many of us mothers will relate to what V is going through. I know I went through a phase where I begrudged all men at large as they did not have to suffer the woes of pregnancy, the post-partum radical changes to our hormones and bodies that we women have to deal with. The brunt of it was borne by my husband, who could not talk about fitness or weight in front of me at all for many years.
What I realised in my own journey is that after a while you stop seeing your partner with the traditional “good looks” lens and their “look” becomes a haze. What keeps the love and attraction going is how your partner makes you feel—which is another column on its own that I will write. Sticking with the overweight topic, I have a super fit family friend who is crazily in love with his wife who has always been overweight, even when they got married 22 years ago. At the very beginning everyone in the family and circle of friends had and continues to be banned from talking to her about her weight. He says he loves his wife for the person she is, everything else does not matter to him. I believe him. I am still overweight 13 years after my pregnancy, but I feel the genuineness of the comment when my husband calls me a hottie, or I see him give me a lustful look at a party because he finds me sexy. I think that switch from being conscious to being confident about how I carry my excess weight is also a factor of how my partner discouraged me from disliking my own body. The fitter spouses who are in a similar situation please take note of this approach of handling your overweight partner.
In conclusion, as a person who has, and continues to go through this experience, I recommend that you please be fit and strive to be the appropriate weight for you, for health reasons. Everything else is secondary. And remember that stressing about your weight when compared with your spouse is not a healthy approach to lose those extra kilograms. For many, that stress has ended up increasing their weight instead. If you want to get to your desired weight, it will happen when you love yourself the way you are, any positive change we set ourselves to achieve becomes easier when it starts with love.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on email@example.com