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
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.
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
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.”