Dear Joseph,
My greatest fault is that I am overweight. I have many other good qualities. I am successful in my work, my young adult children are productive members of society. I have friends and get along with all of my family. There is little in my life that is out of control but this one thing. My husband feels that my being overweight is a direct reflection on who he is--that somehow it says to other people that he is defective because he chose to marry a thin person who became overweight.

I am tired of not being able to have a close, comfortable relationship with him because I never know when he is going to say something that will crush me again. I accept full responsibility for my overweight--I blame it on no one but myself. But I really just want to be accepted for who I am, not what I look like. My question is: Is it immoral for a person to be overweight, particularly in the context of marriage? Do I "owe" it to my partner to be thin? Thank you for your response.
Overweight and Insulted

Dear Overweight and Insulted,
Are smokers immoral? Are diabetics who break their diet immoral? People who drink liquor and then drive a car act immorally, but giving in to the normal range of human frailties--when they don't directly harm another--should not fall into the category of immoral. It's too emotionally charged, inappropriate, and counterproductive a word in this context. By the way you write, however, it sounds as if you believe you could control your weight pretty easily. If that is the case, then why don't you? For if you can control your weight without extraordinary effort, I do understand your husband's annoyance (though obviously such understanding in no way justifies his making comments that "crush" you). You say that, "I just want to be accepted for who I am," and yet, when you met your husband you were thin, so he perhaps had the right to expect that that's a part of you are.

My wife (who told me it was all right to write about her in a public forum) gave birth to our three children during the first four years of our marriage and put on much weight during the pregnancies. I appreciate that she put on the weight while pregnant with our children. I am deeply moved by her efforts to keep her weight down.

It sounds to me that you have sort of given up on trying to work on your weight. That might be the trigger for your husband's anger. You sound like an exemplary human being, successful in your work, with fine children and many friends and good family relationships. You may be conveying to your husband that you make efforts for everybody else but are not making an effort to be attractive to him. From his perspective, he could feel he is being taken for granted, and that can trigger both hurt and anger.

Because of the hostility the issue of your overweight seems to be generating, it probably would be wise for the two of you to see a marriage counselor. That you feel you can no longer have a close and comfortable relationship with your husband is very sad. And the insights of a good therapist might help you both find a better way to deal with your overweight. You might be motivated to do more about it, and he might be motivated to be kinder to a person to whom he most owes kindness, his spouse.

Please write back. I'm anxious and genuinely concerned to know what happens.

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Joseph Telushkin, a rabbi and Beliefnet columnist, is the author of 10 books, including "The Book of Jewish Values," just out from Bell Tower/Crown.

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