He gained 50 pounds

Dear Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend for two years – he's 41 and I'm 36. We've had our ups and downs but we are still very much in love. When we first met, we were both running regularly for exercise and in great physical shape. We also had a very affectionate relationship with great and regular sex. Fast forward two years and we have both stopped running, and the affection and the sex we once enjoyed have dwindled down to nothing. But it is not for lack of me trying. I still want to be affectionate and have lots of great sex and have told him this nicely. He is embarrassed that he has gained weight and has told me this is the reason he isn't into being intimate. We've been stuck in this rut for about a year. On my end, I stopped running because I got a new job that, with a long commute, takes up all of my time. I'm not exactly sure why he stopped running, but I think his knees started to bother him. Then he had trouble finding an activity he liked to do instead. He's a couch potato now.

I watch what I eat and haven't gained weight since we first met. He has put on about 50 pounds and he's not a big man, so it shows. He is clearly upset about his weight issues. How can I help get us out of this rut? I want him to be healthy, but I should make it clear that I don't mind that he has gained weight. I'm still really attracted to him and tell him so all the time. Second, the classic suggestion for addressing this issue is usually for the couple to find active things to do together – walk in the park, swimming, etc. But we can't do that because my job (with the commute) is so demanding. In addition, we have different schedules due to the nature of our jobs (we're up at different hours – sometimes 4 a.m. – and work weekends), which makes it hard to catch up with each other. Plus, all his life, what he's done for exercise is run and he doesn't really like anything else. Also, we can't afford to join a gym.

I am getting more and more concerned for his health – both physical and mental. He has a tough time talking about serious/emotional issues like this and just shuts down. I accept this about him (no one is perfect) and want to work on this issue within his comfort zone but I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to do it. I also see our relationship suffering. Not only are we not intimate much, but when we are, he pretty much wants to keep all of his clothes on because he's embarrassed. He moves away when I try to cuddle up with him for a movie or something. But I love him and want to be affectionate like we used to be. It makes me feel rejected and cold when he acts that way, but I have been doing my best not to take it personally.

Now, I know that affection and sex dwindle down after the honeymoon phase. But we went through that already, after the third or so month. Then it was regular level/good intimacy for almost a year. Can you offer any suggestions about how we can get out of this rut? Breaking up is not an option.

– Weighty problem

It sounds like the weight is just a piece of the problem. You hint at financial stress and say your schedules makes it difficult to spend time with each other. You write that you can't afford a gym and that you're working weekends. It's time to talk to your boyfriend about how you might address these lifestyle issues as a couple over the next few years. A discussion about hopes and dreams might give you guys something better to look forward to.

You should also ask your boyfriend to go to therapy. He might not like talking about big problems, but he needs to address this rut and why he's not taking care of himself. Tell him the relationship is precious and that you want to make sure it survives. He needs to show you that when things are tough, he'll work with you to make it better. If you think he'd rather get this information from you in writing, send a thoughtful email.

I could suggest shared diets and elliptical machines, but again, his weight gain seems to be connected to a larger issue that has to do with quality of life. If you guys can work out the big-picture stuff (how to live more comfortably), the day-to-day routine – and your sex life – should get better.

Readers? What can she expect from him? Is this a honeymoon phase issue or a lifestyle problem?

– Meredith