It started with a request. He needed an hour or two of my time to discuss "serious things" and "the future."
I was terrified. While I was flattered that he was interested in making a commitment, I was not ready to leave my life, my job, my support system behind. I stalled. But finally, I bit the bullet.
What was actually delivered was far worse than anything I could have anticipated.
"I love you," he said, "but my sexual attraction is seriously diminished because of your weight."
I was just speechless.
"I can't see a future for us right now," he continued, "because I need that sexual attraction in order to offer any sort of commitment."
I don't think I've ever felt so ugly or worthless in my life. My boyfriend had blindsided me and gutted our relationship because I had gained weight.
Months earlier, after living single for a while and having one failed date after another, I did what women the world over do to test the dating waters: I made an online dating profile.
I connected with one man in particular. He appeared to be on the same page as me mentally, emotionally and sexually. He was clearly well-read, articulate, intelligent and just the slightest bit kinky. We talked with the excitement of two people who had just connected sexually but with the comfort level of best friends who'd known each other our whole lives.
We talked endlessly on Skype, and before either of us knew it, we were making plans to meet in spite of oceans and mountain ranges separating us.
What followed was a blissful vacation, with the promise of future meetings and, well, a future. This was going to work. Nothing was going to stop us.
And then I got fat(ter).
I had already gained some weight prior to meeting him the first time, but as he hadn't seen me before, he had no way of knowing this. It was merely a continuation of a phenomenon that had taken over my body. While I wanted to fix it, I was simply not in a frame of mind to do so at the time. Instead, I coped. I survived. There was much wine and binge-eating involved.
When our next meeting arrived, I was even bigger. I was nervous, but by that point, there was little I could do. I even tried to warn him, but like so many women, talking about my weight was not what I wanted to do.
I'll never forget the look on his face when he saw Bigger Me at the airport. That look can best be described as "dismay."
What followed was an awkward vacation in which we both tried our best to avoid the elephant in the room. He claimed jetlag and culture shock, and I chose to believe it.
Then, a few months later, shortly before canceling his next trip to see me due to "work reasons," he leveled with me: he couldn't commit without sexual attraction, and his sexual attraction to me had lessened because of my weight gain.
I was devastated. Even now, the hurt is still so raw. But at the same time, I do see his point — we can't always control what we find attractive.
He and I had never been fully together in a close-proximity relationship. It's unnatural to spend months apart and then try to make the most of four two-week stints. A lot can happen in four months — enough to shock a person, as was clearly the case here. He wanted to commit to a person who was a size 12, but he ended up with a person who's size 16.
I knew that the weight was a temporary setback, but I wrongly assumed he would see it that way, too. I had not for a second anticipated that it would give him cause to question my entire attractiveness and identity, or his desire to see me, touch me, tie me up and spank me.
I was crushed. I understood that it was my own fault for assuming all would be well, but it blindsided me all the same. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. I conveniently forgot that many men are largely visual creatures, and that if that visual attraction is absent, it can be a deal-breaker.
He clearly felt terrible about it. He tried, and I will always appreciate that, but the whole vibe was off. At the end of the day, he did not see all of me.
I thought that he had been attracted to all of me the previous summer, but that couldn't have been it, because it was still me standing there. I had read the situation totally wrong, and worse still, read the person totally wrong.
If a friend had come to me in this situation, I would have told her to leave the jerk. However, real life is seldom that simple. Shortly after he canceled his travel plans, I was ready to throw in the towel, but a friend convinced me not to. He gave me some advice, saying that it would be acting out of impulse to end it and that it sounded as if there was still something worth saving — that I obviously still loved him and vice-versa. He said that knowing my tendency to second-guess everything, I would deeply regret it if I gave up, and I would always wonder what might have happened. He told me to wait and see.
This friend also had another great insight: he said he sees a palpable difference in who I am at my higher weight, and that perhaps it's not only the fat but also my whole demeanor that my boyfriend is no longer attracted. I take a lot more pride in my appearance when I know I look good, and I don't try to "hide" so much. I know that I do act and move differently at this higher weight, so he may have a point.
My boyfriend and I have a rendezvous set for summer, and it will likely determine how — or if — things will move forward. In the meantime, I'm continuing to live my life, and to make plans that don't include him.
Have you ever run long-distance? When there's an end, a goal in sight, you will make it there even if you have to start and stop a few times. But, if you're unsure of how far you are from the goal, then the only thing you can do is to keep running. If you stop, you might not have the stamina to start again. My planning road trips with girlfriends, jungle treks, and adventures are in this spirit. In the event that this relationship doesn't work, I will allow a bit of time for wallowing, but I need to hit the ground running, or I may never get up again.
I will continue to lead and plan my life and will not let his indecision or ambivalence (or anyone else's) cloud my choices. If he wants me in his life after all, great, but in the meantime, I have to look to the future, or the uncertainty of it will tear me apart at the seams.
There are things I need to do in my life, for me. Things like achieving and maintaining a healthy body, having a kid or two, and traveling to a few places that I've always wanted to see. It would be great if he were part of the journey, but I'm not going to go on a journey with someone who no longer makes me feel beautiful or desirable.
On that note, I have to figure out a few things. Is he still what I really want? In the event that he deems me attractive enough to be relationship material, will he still be enough for me?
Time will tell.