None of the weddings I've attended had vows that said "In sickness and in health, till death do us part, provided there isn't any weight gains or significant changes in appearance."  How about suggesting that the couple join a fitness center together, or start taking walks and hikes together?  How about suggesting that maybe counseling could benefit this couple; that maybe there is a something deeper going on than an appearance issue?  How about finding out why the husband waited until Ann's weight gain was so significant that he no longer wanted to have a physical relationship with her, versus saying something earlier?  How about suggesting that the husband take some responsibility for the relationship?  Based on what Ann wrote about separate bedrooms and late evenings out, isn't there a possibility that this may also be a case of infidelity?   

I have the highest respect for Christian counseling, but I think your "lose some weight and read a book together" solution is like trying to keep the New Orleans levees together with masking tape. ~ Disappointed

Dear Disappointed,

Thank you for your courage in writing on a complicated and emotional issue. I appreciate your comments and suggestions that this couple could join a fitness center together, become more active and engage in counseling. Great ideas. You are also right to suggest there could be something going on with the husband staying out late at night. His behavior is suspect at best. He should never be staying out late — this has all the markings of trouble during a vulnerable time in their marriage. He owes his wife the allegiance of his wedding vows, which he took twenty years earlier, and Ann needs to confront him about his activities.

I gave advice in regards to weight gain, though, because I was concerned that Ann’s letter was too quick in pointing blame on her husband, when she needed to take responsibility for her weight issues. Many couples struggle with their weight and with poor eating habits, and as a result their marriages suffer. I have found that most want their mate to be as attractive as possible and believe partners should make an honest attempt at keeping themselves attractive and healthy for God, for themselves and for their mate. Anything less introduces problems.

Finally, I think far too few people talk about the issue of eating disorders in the context of marriage — it seems easier to talk about many problems other than our eating habits. We are quick to address a number of other debilitating addictions, but tend to be dangerously quiet on the issues of nutrition, exercise and weight.

The levee has broken for this woman, and the flood waters are pouring into her troubled marriage. It is time to get out the water buckets and bail for her life. I encourage him, as well, to take drastic measures to save their marriage. I encourage this for all couples who find that their marriage has become boring and routine. I am convinced marriage can remain dynamic and exciting—but, it takes work on the part of both husband and wife. Lots of it.

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David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including   Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage,  Saying It So He'll Listen, and  When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book is titled When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.