Q. Six months ago, my boyfriend (late 20s) left the area for four months to go help his grieving mother, in another country, adjust after his stepfather passed away. Before he left, we had a great sex life. I (23-year-old man) was in great physical shape, and he was in good shape as well. We were a cute couple.
We FaceTimed almost every day and kept our relationship intact. I stayed in good shape, and I was assuming he was doing the same. Toward the end of the four months, I noticed his cheeks were fluffier when we FaceTimed, and he said it was just the sun getting him tanned. I didn’t think anything of it.
When he finally arrived back home and I picked him up at the airport, his face was still beautiful but his clothes were oddly tight. I tried to play it off, happy to see him. When we got to the car he confessed to gaining 45 pounds from his mother’s cooking. He told me he was determined to lose it, but flash forward two months and he’s been insistent I skip the gym and eat in excess with him as well. I’ve gained a lot of weight now too. This has gotten embarrassing, when friends and family see us and we’re in too-tight clothing and snacking. He loves the way I look, but I don’t.
I don’t know how to go about telling him that we need to stop swelling.
A. You can’t make decisions for him, but you’re welcome to change your own habits. I know it’s tempting to follow his lead with the new lifestyle, but do your own thing instead. Be honest about why. “I’m unhappy with the way I look and feel.” End of conversation.
This is tricky, because if he doesn’t change his own habits over time, you’ll have to adjust (or try, at least) to being a couple that’s on different paths when it comes to food and exercise. It’s workable, just a change.
I do wonder whether the time at home altered a lot of things for your boyfriend, even his level of exhaustion right now. He experienced some kind of loss, cared for his mother for months, and returned to a routine that might not work for him again just yet. Please check in with him about how it’s felt to unwind from months of supporting a loved one.
I’m projecting a little, but I do remember that when I was caring for my mom a lot when she was sick, 90 percent of my diet was hospital muffins, and I was far more concerned with making her smile than taking a short walk to clear my head. It might take time for your boyfriend to figure new ways to care for himself.
For now, it’s about staying honest. If you don’t want to snack, let him know. And if you’re feeling less attracted to him right now, take the man shopping. Get used to looking at him in clothes that fit. Wardrobe helps.
If you find yourself stressing too much about weight and appearances (your own or others), it may be time for some soul-searching. Looks aren’t everything. Our current culture worships thinness and “the hot look” — but there are lots of beautiful people of all body types. Our ancestors used to think skinny people looked sick, so it shows how tastes are very cultural and subjective.
You didn’t mention your concerns for your boyfriend’s emotional health. As Meredith mentioned, you should check in with him to see how he’s processing the time he spent helping his mom work through her grief. Caring for a parent is emotionally challenging.
If you want to lose weight go ahead. Tell him you’re going to do this and ask if he’d like to join you. Bottom line though, you can’t make him lose weight and he can’t make you gain weight. Also, buy bigger clothes for now. No need to wear tight clothes.
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