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Love Letters

He won’t take his shirt off

Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for more than a year. We live together and are happy except for one problem: He has never taken his shirt off in front of me. He used to be heavy when he was younger and despite having lost about 70 pounds since then, he says he still has body-image issues. He doesn’t exactly have a six-pack but he’s certainly not overweight, and even if he was, it wouldn’t change my opinion of him. I’ve tried taking off his shirt in the dark and he will never let me. He even showers and changes with the door locked. In contrast, I am comfortable in my birthday suit because I know he loves me for who I am. In case you’re wondering, I’m petite but by no means a fitness nut.

We are still intimate regularly — with clothing modifications — but it feels like something is missing. To be honest, knowing that he is not completely comfortable with me kind of kills the mood for me sometimes.

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How can I help him feel more comfortable or just get over it myself?

Boston

A. I want you to ask him to talk to a professional about his body image issues. A year without nudity is a bit of a feat. If this relationship is going to continue, you both have to be open to seeing each other at your best and worst.

What if you stay together and become gray and wrinkled under your clothes? Would he want to stop having sex altogether? And what if one of you got sick or had a surgery? Or a baby? The longer we stay together, the more likely we are to see each other naked at unflattering times. Even if he makes his weight goal, he’s not going to stay “perfect” forever.

I’m not sure that you can simply get over this. His never-nude-ism is making you feel bad about your intimacy and it needs to be addressed. As for making him feel more comfortable, you can tell him why you want to see him shirtless and let him know that no matter what, it’s a turn-on.

But really, it sounds like he needs to work on his issues with a professional. Explain to him that you want all of him, and if that if he can’t get his head around taking off the undershirt, he needs to figure out why.

READERS RESPOND:

Yeah, he needs to see a therapist.

Short of tying him down, you can’t really make him take his shirt off. So if you don’t want to be in a relationship that never has full nudity, you have your answer.

This is a deep-rooted issue, and Mere is right. . . . What if you had an accident that changed how you looked? None of this should matter, yet he is showing you that it does.

This one’s easy. Keep your shirt on until he takes his off. He’ll be naked by the weekend.

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com.
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