Wife's weight gain creates problem for couple

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Dear Amy: My wife recently told me she was disgusted with her weight and how she looks. She wasn't skinny when we married nine years ago, but she was not even close to fat.

Over the last several years she has gained weight, and I've tried to encourage her to go to the gym with me and to eat healthy, etc.

She joined the gym, but after a few months (and even a 10-pound improvement) she stopped going. I am in decent shape. Not big but thin, with flat abs and such. When she told me how she felt about herself, she also said she was worried I would cheat on her, something I've never done and never would do. I love her the way she is, but she's at the point where she doesn't want to be intimate with me because she doesn't feel sexy.

How can I help her lose the weight and feel more attractive without making her feel worse about herself?

I've offered to go to the gym with her or do anything she wants me to do. I think she's beautiful, but it's hard to convince her when she doesn't feel that way herself.

Can you help us? Your opinion is important.

— Confused

Dear Confused: Your wife's problem is fairly common. You put on weight, feel bad and the self-assessment then depresses you and saps your will. Then you feel worse.

Your wife isn't being good to herself. She is also not being good to you because she is projecting onto you behavior that you would never do, involving you in her problem to the extent that she is pushing you away, and then she's feeling unlovable and (now) also unloved.

She would benefit from a thorough medical work-up and nutrition counseling. Yoga and meditation might help; so might getting a bike, a dog, new sneakers or one of those fancy new wristbands that senses your every move. I'm sure there are dozens of things she could try that she hasn't tried yet.

Know this: You cannot really help her to lose weight. You can help her to feel loved. Reassure her that she is beautiful. Say that you want her to be healthy and happy, but tell her the lack of intimacy now makes you feel like an accessory to her weight issue. Sometimes people disappear so much into their own insecurities over this that they forget that having sex is something that can invigorate you and make you feel great about yourself (and your partner).

Dear Amy: I started going to the gym this summer. There's a gorgeous girl there who is probably just a few years older than me (I'm 18). However, I have never approached her, as I know the kind of message that sends immediately in a gym environment: (i.e. you're a "bro" and she's a "chick").

The last thing I want to do is make this frat boy impression. I'm strongly against that attitude and believe women should be treated with respect. How can I talk to her without being written off immediately?

— Not a Jerk in LA

Dear Not a Jerk: At your age (and considering mine), I think it's safe to say that neither one of us has a ton of firsthand experience with frat boys, other than the stereotype that we both observe through the media.

The only surefire way not to come off as a jerk is not to act like one.

Unless you plan to approach this woman with a go-cup in your hand and say something objectionable to her, then you're probably fine. Smile and say hello to her every time you see her and then pay attention to her cues. If she is interested, she will let you know.

Dear Amy: I bet you get a ton of responses to the letter from "At a Loss." This guy invited a woman into his group of friends and then didn't stop her when she started to basically paw him in front of his wife and friends. And then he wants to apologize to her? Wow.

— Shocked

Dear Shocked: Wow is right. Many, many readers responded as you did.

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