Ask Bodyposipanda: How Do I Deal With My Partner Making Jokes About My Weight?

Ask Bodyposipanda: How Do I Deal With My Partner Making Jokes About My Weight?

Dear Bodyposipanda,

My boyfriend and I got together when I was quite thin. I've heard him make 'jokes' in regards to weight in the past. I've since gained some weight and I'm trying to come to terms with what that means about us, him and myself. He says that they were just jokes and regrets saying them, but those words continue to ruminate in my head. I should also clarify that I have spent a lifetime, as early as a small child, feeling as though my body is not worthy of respect because it does not reflect the media's ideal. This has become a major barrier in our relationship but mostly, with my own self-respect and willingness to accept my body as it is. How should I deal with this?

- R

Dear R,

When I read your question I imagined how my own friends might react if I went to them for advice on the same topic, and I'm pretty sure they would come back with a very loud chorus of 'DUMP HIMMMMMMMM'.

However, I have no intention of telling you whether to end your relationship, partly because it's just not my place, and partly because relationships are so much more complicated than one snapshot issue can ever show. So I'm not going to suggest you kick him to the kerb, but I do think it would be beneficial to spend some time getting to the root of this, because there's a lot more going on than a few insensitive jokes.

First and foremost, the way any man talks about female bodies, even if it's not his partner's specifically, is indicative of how much respect he has for women in general. And that does include you. When a straight man openly jokes about or critiques a woman's body that suggests an underlying belief that women's bodies exist for his approval, and that he has the right to objectify and pass judgement on them. We don't. He doesn't. And unless he understands that, it's hard to see how that man could form a relationship where he truly sees his female partner as an equal human being.

Secondly, and specifically centred on your situation, saying that he regrets making the jokes after you've called him up on them simply isn't enough. Because the very fact that he felt at one point that those comments were okay to make shows a deep lack of understanding about your past, your struggles, and how much weight his words would carry in context with your experiences.

Personally, in order to feel able to move on from something like that, I would have to know that my partner was committed to understanding my past relationship with my body and learning how to better support me through the pain that still comes from that. I wouldn't be satisfied with a surface level apology and a quick brushing of it under the carpet, and I don't think you should force yourself to try and brush it away either. This isn't about a joke, this is about understanding the pain that shapes who you are to this day, empathy, and respect. All of which are part of a healthy relationship.

I think it would be best to let him know how deeply affected you've been by those comments, and how you're going to have to take time to work through that together, and more importantly, he's going to have to take time separately to work at understanding the bigger issues here. And please don't convince yourself that's too much, or that you don't have a right to ask him to do that. You are not responsible for making these feelings go away by yourself. You are worthy of whatever support you need.

You are deserving of a relationship where you feel understood, respected, and supported through anything you're struggling with. Especially since your partner has had a causal impact on those struggles, they should be willing to take responsibility and put in the emotional labour to be better, in themselves and the relationship. You deserve better.

And if he's not willing to do any of that, I'll give you my friends' numbers and they can advise you on what to do next.

Love & bopo,