Meeting The Emotional Need For
Physical Attractiveness

Letter #2

Dear Dr. Harley,

After many months of struggling to lose weight and look nicer, I've come to the conclusion that what you have written is hurtful, hateful and belittles women. While I have failed miserably to lose all 80 pounds, I have changed my eating habits (no more than 15 grams of fat a day) and exercise 5 times a week. I have lost a grand total of 35 pounds. All this to try to lose some weight so my husband would continually accept me. I have come to the conclusion that if my weight means so much to others that they are encouraged by people like you to shun me, they are not what I want. I can't help my looks as they were given to me by my mother and father. You ought to be ashamed of yourself to think that marriage is only of value when the wife is thin.

Before I read your book, I was fat and happy. Now I am a little thinner, and angry. I am sending in my membership to NOW as people like you who are so immature as to rely on a woman's outward beauty need to be exposed!


R. J.

Dear R. J.,

Everything you say about the need for physical attractiveness can be said about any other emotional need. It can be applied to the emotional needs for affection, admiration, conversation and all the others. I have counseled men and women who ask, "why can't I be accepted for who I am? Why does my spouse expect me to change?" There are spouses who are unaffectionate, have no interest in sex, don't like to talk, would prefer not to earn a living, refuse to pick up after themselves, lie about everything, can't say a complementary word ... I could go on and on.

Why should physical attractiveness be any different? It's not easy to meet most emotional needs, and physical attractiveness is no exception. Of course it's hard to lose weight. If you found a way to lose weight without any suffering, you'd be rich in no time. Those of us who are predisposed to be overweight (I am included) fight hunger all our lives. Why do we do it? I do it for a host of reasons, health, for one. But another important reason for me is that I want to look as good as I can to my wife.

You want to be loved for who you are and not what you do. So do I. We all do. But the reality is that you have not loved your husband for who he is, but rather for what he does. If he did not meet any of your emotional needs, your feelings toward him would have changed considerably from the day you said, "I do." You married him because you loved him and you loved him because he met your emotional needs. If he were to stop meeting those needs, your love for him would fade away.

You may feel that being overweight is a trivial matter--that there are far more important considerations in marriage than physical appearance. But I leave that judgment up to each spouse I counsel. It's not for me to tell them what should or should not be important to them. They tell me. And many tell me that it's important to them for their spouse to lose weight.

If your spouse tells you that your loss of weight would meet one of his most important emotional needs, you have a choice. You don't have to lose weight. In fact, you can choose to gain weight. He will probably accept you no matter what you weigh. It's not a matter of acceptance, its a matter of whether or not you're meeting his emotional needs. What I suggest in His Needs, Her Needs is that, in exchange for your spouse meeting your emotional needs, you meet his and lose weight.

You've lost 35 pounds. I know you are very angry, but what you've already accomplished is terrific. Losing weight is one of the more difficult challenges of life, I know. I hope you'll build on your achievement, lose the rest of the weight, and in spite of the sacrifice, be happy you did it.

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