Staying Sexually Attracted to Your Spouse: 4 Couples Share How They Navigate Weight Gain, Health Issues and So Much More
by Raquelle Harris



February 1, 2020


26 Minute Read


Staying Sexually Attracted to Your Spouse: 4 Couples Share How They Navigate Weight Gain, Health Issues and So Much More

Many married couples deal with dying passion and a loss of physical attraction. So, what’s the secret to staying sexually attracted to your partner for the long haul? BlackLove.com contributor Raquelle Harris spoke to 4 couples to find out!

Courtesy of @brittfusilier

We connect with our soulmates on many levels — how they make us laugh, how they make us feel, how they support our dreams, and even how they earn our loyalty. But let’s keep it real, our initial attraction usually starts with physical appearance. Physical attractiveness and intimacy are major parts of a relationship, and I can personally agree. The warmth in my hubby’s eyes on the night we met is what caught my eye and drew me to him. 

And 20 years later, I’m still physically attracted to him. He’s the only one who can arouse my inner butterflies, yet, I’ll admit, there have been times when life has tested our willingness to satisfy each other and our physical ability to even cuddle. We’ve had some honest conversations with each other over the years about how we look and how we feel. Physical appearance and performance changes as we grow old together, and our bodies may not appear or move the same as they did back in the day. This is one of the realities of “till death do us part.”

I knew my husband and I weren’t alone, so I spoke with four Detroit-area couples about how physical changes have affected their marriages. They shared profound insight into their relationships, including challenges in staying sexually attracted to each other, how they’ve addressed those conversations, and how it’s either made them stronger or something they’re still working out today.  

Gerard and Racheal Allen – Married 3.5 Years

Courtesy of Gerard and Racheal Allen

One of the sure signs someone is in love, is when they gain weight! At least that’s the sense I got while speaking with Gerard and Racheal Allen. Along with managing their blended family of seven, they both have nine-to-five jobs and own multiple businesses. When they tied the knot three years ago, along with their traditional wedding vows, Gerard and Racheal decided to make their own commitment. 

“We started off the majority of our time dating, [but] we weren’t together. I was in China and she was still here in the United States and leading up to us getting married, we were actually fasting,” Gerard recalled. “That took a lot of weight off both of us, initially. We made a vow to each other during that time to never get overweight because we thought it would be unattractive.”

“It wasn’t a forced thing,” he added, “it was more of a personal thing that we just agreed on.” 

After they said “I do” and started their lives together, their fasting turned into feasting as they indulged in good love and good food. “We definitely lost on that challenge. During the next year or so, we spent time going out, dating, and eating,” Gerard said. Racheal agreed that their collective weight gain was a result of them enjoying life together. “I think it’s fair to say we probably both picked up about 40 pounds in the last three and a half years going on four years. But we also say it’s strange because this is the happiest we’ve ever been and also the heaviest we’ve ever been,” she shared. “I have had issues with my weight before, but it wasn’t from a place of being happy, it was emotional eating; this is different.”

They decided to focus on managing their weight together but admit that their busy schedules don’t always align, which affects their fitness and sex life.

 “When we’re working out together and when we’re eating the right stuff together, we’re way more sexually active, but then when we fall off, we’re usually not that sexually driven,” Gerard said. “We’re not un-attracted [to each other], we’re less active.”

 “I would definitely say that there is a direct correlation between our diet and exercise, and our libido,” Racheal chimed in.

Related: Sex Can Change in Marriage — Here’s How Egypt Sherrod & Mike Jackson Got Back on Track

This is the second marriage for both Gerard and Racheal, so they’re experienced with marital hit and miss. Their battle against the bulge may affect their individual confidence, but not their mutual respect, desire or passion for each other. “We tried to be really honest about what we needed in a marriage for it to work and part of that was, I need to be physically and sexually attracted to my mate,” Racheal said. “I even told him, like, ‘Don’t let me get so comfortable.’ But he’s never made me feel bad about my weight ever. We haven’t even eaten take out or eaten at restaurants in the past month because we are actively saying that we know we have to do better, but he does a good job of never making me feel — like even when I’m hard on myself — he’s not being hard on me.” 

Jermaine and Tenita Johnson — Married 17 Years

Courtesy of Jermaine and Tenita Johnson

Similar to the Allens, Jermaine and Tenita Johnson admit they’ve each gained a significant amount of weight during their marriage, which has challenged their intimacy. While it doesn’t hinder Jermaine’s desire for his wife, Tenita acknowledged the sexual abuse she suffered during her childhood affects how she feels about herself and her body. 

 “As a person who has battled low self-esteem in the past, as I pick up weight, it is a self-esteem issue for me,” shared Tenita, who has opened up about her battle with depression and suicide as an author and public speaker. “I have had this problem before. Now, I think it is more centered around my weight. I don’t want to be intimate in broad daylight or during the morning time,” she shared. 

She went on to share that Jermaine was the first person in their relationship to struggle with weight gain. “It is one of those things where you have to think about if you were in your spouse’s position, how you would want to be treated,” she shared. “At one point, I focused on him gaining weight because I was tight, but now, the tables are turned. He used to always be like, ‘I am not going to be with no fat woman.’ Well, I’m damn near a fat woman, because I am 5’2”, he is almost 6’0”, so when I gain weight, I am not going up, I am going wide.”

Jermaine is a Marine and self-proclaimed alpha male, yet he makes it clear that Tenita is not alone with feeling physical insecurities. After overcoming a season where they were both unfaithful in their marriage, Jermaine admitted that his ego was “very fragile.” He even wondered if the reason his wife stepped out is because he could no longer satisfy her physically. 

“Men get self-conscious. We may not show it as much, because that is one thing about a man, when he gets excited, those feelings are going to take over regardless,” he said. “After we had our incident with infidelity, it was probably the worst for me, because with a man, it is about ego. The male ego is very, very fragile.”

“One of the best things we ever did was talk through it. Having that hard conversation of what you like and what you don’t like.” — Jermaine

“When you go through a situation, especially if you haven’t had any in a while, the first thing you are going to do is look at yourself,” he reflected. “You are going to look and say, ‘Well, maybe I am going to have to lose this weight, or maybe I am not hitting that spot.’” 

Jermaine says he was able to get back on track with his wife by being intentional about their intimacy. He says that’s what sustained his commitment to Tenita. “I think it all comes back down to intimacy. I will say, it took me a while to get to the point where it really was not about the sex. Do not get me wrong, there is the physical part of sex, but when you graduate to where it truly is intimacy and you truly love someone, it is more than that,” he shared.

The Johnsons don’t tiptoe around the realities of marriage. After enduring issues like depression, infidelity, and suicide, which have destroyed some marriages, they no longer allow the extra pounds to kill their intimacy. “One of the best things we ever did was talk through it. Having that hard conversation of what you like and what you don’t like,” Jermaine said. “Be honest and direct. It doesn’t matter what size you are.”

As far as what works for them now, Tenita says sometimes you have to verbalize your desires during sex session. “Give directions, a lot of people feel like they shouldn’t have to do that, but you do. Nobody is hitting the mark, every time,” she said.

Related: There’s No Such Thing as the Perfect Love Story

And Jermaine says he loves sexting and social media music dedications to keep their passion lit. “When you were younger, you are in the twenties and early thirties, you’re ready to go, but now, it takes some prep as you get older,” he admitted. “If I am trying to do something tonight, I have got to start that process early on. Whether it is, sending her text or whatever, and then she sends me some stuff, so I can get to thinking.”

Lavelle and Kim Guess — Married 15 Years

Courtesy of Kim and Lavelle Guess

Many of you may remember the ice bucket challenge that went viral on social media back in 2014. Pouring a bucket full of ice water over your head was meant to simulate the muscle stiffening that happens with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. While many braved the temporary discomfort, Lavelle Guess lives with the disease daily. ALS, also known as motor neurone disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. 

At 40, Lavelle needs assistance to complete all of his daily functions and tasks. Because he’s wheelchair-bound, his wife Kim is his caregiver. She assists him with eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. He can walk short distances with assistance, but he tires easily. About 35 minutes into our interview, Lavelle had to rest because he was tired from speaking. Kim’s resilience and grace were on full display as she spoke candidly about how ALS has affected their life together. 

He was diagnosed in the summer of 2016, but Lavelle said his symptoms started in 2015. Initially, he dismissed them and thought it was due to the physical demands of his job. “I just knew my right side was weak and I thought it was because I’m left-handed, but it wasn’t, it was because of this [ALS]. I had a bunch of twitching (in my chest) going on and that’s what made me get checked out.”

Lavelle admits that, like many men, he initially avoided the doctor. “I used to work out and I could tell I was getting weaker, I knew something was going on, but I didn’t think it would be this serious and keep going,” he recalled.

Once he could no longer work, the harsh reality of the family’s new normal set in. Both Lavelle and Kim experienced a drastic change from the relatively hardship-free life they once took for granted. “We had a set plan of what our life was going to be for the next 5-10 years. All of a sudden, that plan was out the window,” Kim said. “As a woman, when you find a man that can provide and take care of you, you allow him to do that — I did that. He took care of everything. He paid all the bills. I spent all my money on dumb stuff. I was irresponsible as a grown woman.” 

“I had no idea who I was as a woman without being a wife or a mother. Towards the end of the summer [of 2016], when I saw him break down from not being able to work, that’s when I started changing because I knew I couldn’t stay at that place.”

Lavelle was noticeably emotional when sharing how this has affected him mentally and emotionally. “I always want to apologize to her, for me having this because I’m putting a big burden on her. I used to smile all the time. I put on a front, so people still think I smile all the time, but it’s a lot of dark days that I have. I’m in the house 95 percent of the time. If we didn’t have a deck, I would be in the house all the time.”

Following her initial depression over Lavelle’s diagnosis, Kim realized she had to reinvent her purpose. She’s lost almost 70 lbs while empowering other women through her company, Guess Who’s Dancing Fitness, LLC. Innovative classes such as Twerk Werk and Twerk Shop, offer a fun way to stay fit while improving confidence. It’s a platform for women to feel safe being themselves while receiving support. “My classes were birthed because of the pain I was going through with what [Lavelle] was going through. I couldn’t be overweight and be able to take care of him and do the things with my son, that maybe he would want to do but can’t do anymore. I have to take my personal health seriously so I can ensure I’m here for my son until he is an adult.” she said of starting the classes, which are also a financial blessing for the family.

The classes have created a new mindset for Kim, which Lavelle sometimes struggles to understand. “When he was at his best, I was always his supportive cast. Now, he doesn’t know who this girl is, I’m not the same girl I used to be. He is consumed with what I’m doing because he doesn’t have the life outside the house like he used to. That has created a major shift in our relationship.”

When it comes to intimacy, they rely on the connection of their souls, more so than the physical connection of their bodies. Lavelle can get an erection, but it doesn’t stay. When he is aroused, he wants to please Kim, but he is unable to hold his upper body up, making sex a challenge. “It basically comes down to me pleasing him,” Kim shared. “That is the one thing he can do is have an erection and have an orgasm. If he has that feeling, I’m going to make it work. That’s the part that people don’t get in relationships — is how much you sacrifice. I never thought I would sacrifice this much when I got married to him.”  

There is no cure for ALS, but giving up isn’t an option. Kim’s diligence with Lavelle’s care contributes to how well he is doing compared to other ALS patients. “Most people who have had it as long as him are basically a vegetable, but he can still walk and swallow and stand,” Kim said. “We have hard days, but our son makes it different for us because he’s 7 years old, and we have to teach him that you have to keep pushing. When things are hard or things come your way, you can’t just stop.” 

James and Nicole — Married 17 Years

(Editorial note: This couple’s names have been changed to maintain anonymity.)

James, 47, and Nicole, 43, have been married for 17 years, and during that time, they’ve had to battle with multiple health issues that have had a great effect on their marriage. Prior to the birth of their two sons, Nicole struggled with infertility due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. And since 2011, James has battled a rare autoimmune illness called Hyperactive IgG4, a condition that causes inflammation in the body’s organs and the formation of excessive connective tissue, which prevents normal organ/tissue function. As a result, along with issues such as asthma and renal failure, he has developed Peyronie’s Disease, which is caused by scar tissue, or plaque, that forms inside the penis. It can result in a bent, rather than straight, erect penis. 

Editorial note: James and Nicole not pictured (Courtesy of @bundleofbanks_)

According to the couple, he’s lost significant length and width because of plaque build-up. Nicole described the past four years of their sex life as “sporadic.” It stagnated shortly after the birth of their 4-year-old son, around the same time James’ started noticing symptoms. “I thought we weren’t having sex because he wasn’t attracted to me,” Nicole recalled before she knew about his condition. However, James says his desires for his wife are the same as the day they met, almost 20 years ago. “I’m still highly attracted to my wife; it has nothing to do with her,” he shared. “The Peyronie’s affects my manhood, I don’t have the confidence. It’s hard for me to come on to my wife with it not being how it used to be.”

“My issue is with lack of foreplay. His issue is his lack of confidence.” — Nicole

This is an issue they are still navigating today. Along with working to find confidence in his sexual performance again, James also co-sleeps with their young sons, one of which has autism. Nicole doesn’t really like the co-sleeping situation and says she’s uncomfortable with having “quickies on the floor,” so she often sleeps on the couch. When intimacy is lacking, she says their relationship suffers and she gets frustrated when yearning for that connection with her husband. “Everything is so rushed, I never get a chance to get comfortable,” she shared.

“My issue is with lack of foreplay. His issue is his lack of confidence,” Nicole said. “The Peyronie’s is a major issue for him, but the lack of intimacy is a major issue for me. I’m not angry about the actual lack of sex, I’m angry about the lack of intimacy.” 

Each of these couples has a unique story of dedication despite adversity because they practice one of the keys to lasting love… grace. They understand that relationships aren’t always 50/50, so they give a little more when needed. They’re using what’s meant to destroy their love, as a way to fortify their connection ‘til death do them part. 

For more stories like these, be sure to follow us on Instagram @BlackLoveDoc to join the conversation. Also, tune in for more Black Love the series on Saturdays at 9/8c on OWN! Plus, binge watch seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon and Urban Movie Channel.