Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My girlfriend and I have been together a couple years now, and she's gained weight. It wasn't all at once. She's been putting on a few pounds here, a few pounds there, and it's added up over the years. I love her and was even thinking we might get married, but I want her to look how she looked when we met. How do I tell her that? Am I being a jerk?
-- Weighing In
Weight gain in relationships is common. You're living indulgently, eating big meals in restaurants, plowing through buckets of popcorn at the movies, maybe drinking more wine and booze. Newlyweds tend to plump up too. Cornell University conducted a study that found newlyweds gain more weight on average than people who are single, usually during those first couple years.
If you've noticed that your girlfriend has gained weight, then she's noticed it too. Even if she isn't on the scale daily, she's certainly felt her jeans tightening. She's probably hoping A) you haven't noticed and B) if you have, you don't care.
Well, you have. And you do. That doesn't make you a jerk; it makes you human. The main difference between a relationship and a friendship is intimacy, so it's good to protect and preserve that, but telling her she's gained weight will only hurt her. No matter how gently you go about it, all she'll hear is, "I think you're fat and I'm not into you." Rather than point out the obvious, move beyond words and take action. Since your objective is to see her slim down, help her get there.
Frame it like this: You've been thinking, and you'd like to live healthier -- cook more meals focused on fresh, healthy ingredients and do more active things. Suggest you do this together, then stick to it. Plan outdoor activities, join a gym, and when you see any sliver of progress, praise her praise her praise her.
Good to know about the newlyweds, Wanda, good to know. Here's the thing: These two aren't newlyweds. They aren't even soon-to-be newlyweds. They're still dating, so technically they're still in the courting phase. Or in her case, the quarts of ice cream phase.
There comes a time in all relationships when partners become comfortable. For men, it's when they stop thinking before passing gas or checking their phones for sports scores in front of their girlfriends. The problem is when that comfort level crosses the line into complacency or even laziness.
Is it possible to get so wrapped up in your relationship and so secure in your partner's unconditional love that you stop working on improving and maintaining yourself? Of course. Happens every day. Some relationships are built on it, but many of us want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror, instead of just look at ourselves through the loving eyes of our partners.
So what level of comfort, complacency and laziness are you willing to live with in your partner? Sounds like you're already fed up -- pun intended. But before you have the lifestyle conversation with her, ask yourself: What is your role in her weight gain? Are you enabling her? Are you letting yourself go or not trying so hard in any areas?
Answer those questions honestly, my friend, and then you can have an honest talk with your girlfriend.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.