Is It OK to Comment on a Partners Weight? Experts Discuss


African American man comforting his girlfriend at home while she is looking upset - lifestyle concepts

Our relationship with our body may be one of the most intimate, and certainly the most long term partnerships we will have in our lives. So it’s crucial that we are kind to our bodies — celebrating them and maintaining them as best we can as the miraculous machines that they are. But it’s not always that easy. Body image is a struggle for many, and is a particular issue for women. According to a 2020 parliamentary report surveying almost 8000 individuals, 62 percent of women admitted to feeling negatively about their body image, compared with 53 percent of men.

So what happens when another significant relationship in our lives threatens, or questions, our alliance with our bodies? Our romantic partner can perhaps know our bodies almost as well as we know it ourselves, so with that in mind, is it ever OK for them to comment or pass judgement about how it looks, or how much we weigh?

“The aim should be to open a dialogue about a change that you’ve noticed in your partner, and to find out or ask them if they are OK. Not to criticise or put them down.”

Jennifer*, 32, asked herself these questions when her partner unexpectedly sat her down to talk about her weight gain. “He told me that he was feeling concerned that I had gained some weight recently and it was starting to become noticeable when I was wearing certain clothes,” she tells POPSUGAR. It was a complicated pill to swallow – Jennifer’s partner insisted the discussion came from a place of concern and care, but that didn’t change how Jennifer felt afterwards. “He framed it in a sensitive way, but even so I felt a massive shock. I never expected him to say this to me, or hear this from any partner. After the conversation I felt so low. I felt a huge sense of embarrassment about my body that I’ve never felt before.”

A conversation like this is bound to make anyone feel pretty raw, so how do we make sense of it? First of all, communication is important, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. “Intimate partners should be able to talk about weight and appearance if it comes from a place of care or concern,” psychotherapist Sam Jahara says. “But how this is expressed to your partner is also key. The aim should be to open a dialogue about a change that you’ve noticed in your partner, and to find out or ask them if they are OK. Not to criticise or put them down.”

It’s also crucial that you feel a foundation of love and acceptance from your partner, regardless of your weight. Make it clear to them that this is non-negotiable. “It is important for your partner to let you know that they love and appreciate your body the way that it is,” relationship psychologist Mairead Molloy says. She adds that a conversation redefining the relationship between someone’s health and weight may be necessary. “Just because someone gains weight or is at a size someone deems to be ‘unhealthy’ doesn’t mean they actually are. Health is not defined by size and many people have found a healthier and more balanced life by gaining weight.”

Women angry and worried on the sofa after a domestic discussion

Molloy also points out the complex dynamic this conversation can create in heterosexual relationships, due to the social conditioning women have received throughout their lives to dislike their bodies, and the lack of understanding men may have of this. “Women may find it especially difficult to speak about these issues with their partner not only because they are trying to portray a certain image of themselves, but also because they may not find the same understanding of women’s body issues in their male partners,” she says.

The question is, at what point does “concern” become coercive or a damaging dynamic to have in a relationship? If your partner is making you feel repeatedly uncomfortable with these comments and – most crucially – is dismissive of your feelings on the subject of your own weight, Molloy suggests this dynamic could be “unhealthy or even abusive”.

“Relationships are not just about love, they’re about respect,” Molloy says. “Your body is your temple and should be treated as such by you and your partner.”

Serena*, 21, describes the impact of a friend with benefits commenting on her weight. “He was a regular partner who I considered my best friend,” she tells POPSUGAR. “When we were about to have sex once, he told me I was heavier naked than I looked. Another time, he asked me how much I weighed when I was on top of him. This really hurt me and has made me feel insecure during sex since, as sometimes I wonder what future partners may think.”

While behaviour like this may not be meant this way, it can be – and feel – abusive. Molloy explains: “It is a very common tactic of abusers to degrade their partner’s bodies. Abusive relationships are all about power and control. One way that people gain power over their partners is by making them feel worse about themselves.”

If you’re able to identify that your partner’s concern about your weight is coming from a place of concern and care – not manipulation or abuse – however, there are ways in which you can move forward. Psychologist Giulia Bianchi stresses the importance of “acknowledging the difficulty of the conversation”, while also focussing on specific solutions – food and exercise goals that you’re comfortable with – instead of getting sidetracked debating the discomfort of the conversation itself.

That said, Molloy says it’s imperative that these goals are your own, and feel right for you, your health, and your body. She also points out that this situation is an excellent opportunity to “find ways to feel good about who you are, beyond what your partner says”.

Though easier said than done, it’s important to separate what your partner thinks of your body from your own feelings of self worth. And above all, you must ask yourself if conversations about your weight have left you feeling respected in your relationship. “Relationships are not just about love, they’re about respect,” Molloy says. “Your body is your temple and should be treated as such by you and your partner.”

*At the request of both interviewees, pseudonyms have been used.





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