18 Oct Challenges when a Spouse is Obese

Wendy asked us, ``Do you have information and help for a marriage where the husband is 500 lbs? There seems to be a lack of writing on this subject, especially from a Christian perspective.``

Sex is challenging when a spouse is obese. Is physical intimacy even possible?

Watch this video for our response to Wendy.

Here is our written response to Wendy…

1.  Personal Identity:
Body image is a huge source of shame for everyone. When someone is 500 lbs, that inner shame will be intensified. Resolving inner shame, regardless of its reason, comes from recognizing that our identity must be found in our relationship with God. The book “Tired of Trying to Measure Up” by Jeff VanVonderen is an excellent resource in helping to understand and resolve inner shame. We believe addressing this issue will actually have huge benefits. Most of us oscillate back and forth between trying harder and giving up.  VanVonderen explains this dynamic and teaches us that there is a third way or “cycle” and that is to take our messages of inner shame and remind ourselves that we are loved, that we are worthy, and we are accepted because Jesus loves us, not because of our performance, our intellect, our body image, our level of daily disciplines, or any other reason.
2.  Sex:
Sex is like a super-glue that holds a marriage together. Extreme obesity impedes the sexual relationship because of both the physical and emotional problems that result. As mentioned above in #1, the emotional problems brought to bear in sex with an overweight partner can be addressed significantly by understanding identity. The physical challenges must also be faced realistically. It is very likely that sex with an obese partner may be reduced to sexual release apart from intercourse (manual stimulation or oral sex, for example). All the challenges related to sex may also result in a reduced desire for sex and over-tiredness. Part of the couple’s open communication needs to be an acknowledgment of the importance of having sex often, and, at times be willing to push through the lack of desire for the sake of strengthening their relationship.
3.  Communication:
Perhaps this is just restating the obvious, but open communication is critical in a marriage with an obese partner. Shame grows where there is secrecy, silence, and judgment.  To provide a husband-wife relationship that is supportive and empathetic, where both are willing to talk and be intentional in their relationship, is a big step towards open communication. The weight topic must be discussed in a way that the heavier partner hears and understands without becoming defensive and the lighter partner speaks without judgment or blame.
4.  Teamwork:
Couples easily allow challenges or issues to cause separation and division. Can you picture a couple seated on a couch with a difficult problem between them? Instead, we ought to sit on the couch right next to one another with the problem out in front of us… not separating us!  This reminds us that problems do not belong to either one of us … no blame! Rather, we choose to work together as a team to fix the problem that we both are impacted by. With the issue of an obese partner, both husband and wife must brainstorm and strategize together about how to deal with inner shame, lose weight, manage sexual intimacy…