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I always considered my relationship a healthy one, until a few days ago. What I’m about to tell you, I share with you because I’m not sure whether I’m overreacting or if it’s something to be worried about. I’ve been slim my whole life, but never been the healthiest of eaters and never been a sports/fitness type of gal. I went to see a specialist and turns out that my weight is fine, but I have a bit of extra fat, mainly around my hips and belly. I’m far from being fat or overweight, but I’m definitely not “fit” either. I should probably add that at age 14, I wasn’t officially diagnosed but strongly believe I had depression of some level because I felt really useless, ugly and stupid, and I also suffered bullying in junior high. Suicidal thoughts did cross my mind and I stopped eating, but I was never diagnosed with anorexia or anything for that matter. My whole life got better when I entered high school and things just brightened up overall.
I have a 4-year-old relationship with someone that I met at college and things have been good in the grand scheme of things. But nearly a year ago, he suggested that I’d start hitting the gym and has been dropping hints that I’m fat (he has used that word) ever since. He is well aware of the problems I once had with food during my teenage years. I’ve been trying to stick to exercise but for some reason or another, I haven’t been able to stick to it as strictly as I wish. Before even saying “good morning” to me, the first text I get from him now is “Have you been to the gym today?” and makes me feel guilty if the answer is no. He jokingly said that January is the deadline and If I’m not “fit” by that month, he will dump me. He brings up this topic quite often and I don’t know if he is really joking or not. I know he probably just wants to motivate me, but this feels weird. I feel a horrible amount of pressure on me and I’m definitely not fond of this kind of “motivation.” It feels cruel. He is a very skinny guy, far from a fitness male model and all he does is run every day. I’m well aware that I haven’t gained weight because I wear the same pairs of jeans that I’d wear 7 years ago. Is this some sort of mental violence or am I overreacting?
It’s okay to feel angered by these comments. His words were mean and have obviously been a hit to your self-esteem. You have expressed to him that you previously struggled with difficulty around eating and instead of lifting you up, he’s tearing you down. Mentioning that he may break up with you if you don’t lose weight is not a joke. Jokes aren’t supposed to crush your self-esteem and make you feel uncertain about where you stand in your relationship.
Encouraging a partner to be healthy is much different than verbally abusing a partner. The comments that he has made fall into the latter. If you think this is a strange form of “motivation” then you are being manipulated. He doesn’t dictate if you work out, you do. Your self-worth shouldn’t be based on the number on the scale or your boyfriend’s view of your body. Living a healthy lifestyle and prioritizing exercise is important and can be encouraged by a significant other in a loving way.
Encouraging a partner to be healthy is much different than verbally abusing a partner.
You need to be upfront with him and let him know these comments are unacceptable. I also recommend setting clear and healthy boundaries with your partner should you choose to stay with him. Let him know that he is not welcome to comment on your weight. Reiterate that his comments are not helpful, but hurtful. If he continues to body shame you show HIM the door before January.
Relationships are a balance of acceptance and influence. Anyone that has been in a long-term relationship has attempted to influence their partner in some way. Maybe it’s selecting a restaurant on a Friday night, radio station in the car, or sofa for the apartment. Depending on the commitment level of the relationship and the personalities of the people involved, these attempts at influence may be extensive or minimal. Often times, couples that attempt to influence each other can do pretty well in the long term. However, when the attempts at influence become too one-sided or too aggressive, they can cause serious problems.
I think you may be there in your relationship. The most important thing that you said in your question is that “it feels cruel.” This tells me that even if he has good intentions and wants to motivate you, that his comments have gotten to an unhealthy place. I am particularly concerned about his comments, given your past struggles with body image and depression. It is vital that you take steps to protect your mental and emotional health.
No one should ever tell their partner that they should lose weight or else.
First, he should have known better from the get go. No one should ever tell their partner that they should lose weight or else. However, you are at a point where you will have to set some boundaries with him starting with how his comments have affected you.
Let him know that you are trying to improve your physical health and have visited a physician, but this is your body and not his. He can encourage and cheer you on if he would like, but these type of comments are hurting you, not helping you. If he has a problem with who you are, then this relationship isn’t going to last. And lastly, if he doesn’t stop saying unhelpful comments, he doesn’t have to worry about dumping you, you will do him the favor.