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Dating Advice #34 - Physical Barrier

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Dating is so much of an emotional activity. But what happens when physical limitations come into play?

Dear Rosie and Sherry,

My best friend can't seem to meet the right kind of men. She is short and heavy but she has a heart of gold. I wish I could find someone for her but I'm afraid she'll look for all of the wrong men in all of the wrong places. What can I do? Sometimes it breaks my heart to tell her all of my happiness and joy because there isn't much of either in her life.

What can you suggest for her that would really get her out of this rut?


Dear Hope,

Our answer to you depends on how honest you can be with your girlfriend. She certainly knows that she's overweight, but she may be in deep denial about how badly this hurts her chances of dating. Can you sit down with her and explain that you care about her very much and want to be helpful, but in order to help her you have to tell her something that will be painful for her? If you cannot do this, then don't bring up the topic. If you raise it and see that your comments are unwelcome, emphasize again that you volunteered your comments out of love and concern, and then back off.

If your comments start a heart-to-heart discussion between the two of you, be prepared to offer your ongoing emotional support and encouragement. Many people who have never had an eating problem don't realize that weight is a painful topic for most heavy people, and that the reasons for their problem are based on many complex emotions.

It's no secret that heavy people have considerable difficulty dating. Physical attraction is vital to any relationship, and the media has conditioned us to view thinner people as attractive. Some men don't mind if the woman they date is a little chubby, and some women like a man who seems "cuddly," but extremely overweight people may have difficulty finding anyone to go out with them.

In addition to difficulty with her weight, your friend probably has issues that contribute to her problem of not meeting the right kind of men. They could be the same issues that relate to her weight problem. This is quite common. If she is insightful, she may be able to understand her problem by herself. But if this is too hard or if she cannot address the problem on her own, she may benefit from the help of a therapist.

Usually, when overweight people slim down, they find it easier to attract potential suitors. However, they also face the same dating problems as the rest of the single world; how to find someone compatible, how to develop a courtship, and the like. Sometimes newly slim people think that their new appearance alone should bring them quick dating success. When that doesn't happen, they may get discouraged and slip back to their old eating habits.

Dating is difficult for almost everyone. Men and women who are challenged by eating problems must realize that being slim is not a cure-all for loneliness, shyness or social awkwardness, and that they still need to put effort into meeting suitable dating prospects, acquiring effective dating skills and developing a healthy courtship. The continual positive reinforcement of a weight-loss support groups, weight-loss counselor, or healthy self-rewards (e.g., a non-food treat when you might have reached for a carton of ice cream after a bad date) goes a long way to helping them maintain their weight when the going gets tough.

Rosie & Sherry

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am fresh off of a divorce. Before I met my ex-wife, I was not very good at dating. Now that I'm single again, I'm worried that I will not be able to meet someone due to my fear of rejection.

I also have another problem... I am a recovering cancer patient and I don't know if that would be a "turn-off" to many women.


Dear Peter,

Most people who are newly divorced need to go through a grieving process before they are ready to date again. We suggest you look at one of our earlier columns, (#21 - Transition Time), for advice on how to do that. Your fear of rejection is as much related to your divorce as it is to insecurities you apparently felt even before your first marriage.

The fact that you are recovering from a dangerous illness (we wish you a complete and speedy recovery) will definitely concern the women you date, but a number of women will be interested in going out with you despite your medical problem. We think that once you are able to boost your self-esteem, you will be able to see that your medical condition is not a barrier to successful dating.

No matter what your medical condition, treatment and prognosis, a potential wife should be told this information (just as she should be told if you have diabetes or any other serious medical condition). This is one of the factors she will take into consideration when she decides if she wants to marry you. Revealing this info is a matter of Jewish law, which prohibits deception of any kind.

The question, however, is at what point you have to reveal your medical history. Someone who has been in remission a long time and has a very favorable prognosis may be able to reveal this information in due course, just as he would reveal another illness. If you've been in remission a shorter time, it might be wise to let your date know this at the third or fourth date, which is around the time a couple has gone through basic introductions and decides whether to make an emotional investment in getting to know each other. Someone in active treatment might be obligated to reveal this fact much earlier. We suggest that you speak to your rabbi and discuss the appropriate time to explain your condition to a date.

We hope that this finds you on the road to a healthy, happy and successful future.

Rosie & Sherry

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