You Can’t Change Your Partner

I’m Alexander Cheves. I am a writer, author, and sex educator. My nickname is Beastly. I give adult advice — no question is off-limits. To ask me something, email AskBeastly@gmail.com or send me a message via the Ask Beastly contact form.

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Hey Alex, it’s me, Alex. (I love how many people are called Alex.) 

Anyways, I’m here to ask you about something I’ve been struggling for quite some time. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year now or so and I am absolutely in love with him. However, it’s just that I sometimes feel like I want him to work out a bit more.

Not to say that he’s unattractive (he’s really handsome and hot plus we have crazy good sex), but there’s something about his body that I don’t fully appreciate. However, whenever he asks me if there’s something he could change about his appearance, I don’t dare to share my thoughts. I don’t want him to feel insecure or bad about his body – he is attractive after all. But whenever the question arises, so does conflict in me. On one hand, I feel like I should be honest, on the other, I feel like I should be kind. 

I hope you can offer some good advice and thanks in advance! 

Hi friend,

Be honest, but kind. My boyfriend and I are gym-goers and one day I asked him to tell me the truth. He did: “I wouldn’t mind if you were a little bigger.”

From that moment on, I started working out very hard several times a week. A year later, I confessed that his words had contributed to an unhealthy relationship I developed with going to the gym.

He was shocked. He didn’t take his words back, but he told me the second part: “I do like you bigger, but there’s nothing you have to change about yourself in order for me to love you.” I needed that.

We all have our preferences, but that Part Two was essential. But only say it if it’s true.

If your boyfriend asks, telling the truth is all you can do. After that, you can’t needle or badger him into becoming a gym bunny. In my last relationship, I wanted open sexual permission — freedom to fuck anyone. I communicated this to the guy I was with and he communicated back: “No.”

So I tried to change him. I badgered, complained, blamed, and grew bitter. I pushed him to be different. In the end, he broke up with me because I had beaten him down so thoroughly that he had no other option. That horrible breakup was a lesson: you can’t change the person you are with. You can’t change their body, beliefs, politics, insecurities, jealousies, or sexual tastes, and it’s wrong to try. In Dan Savage’s terms, these parts of a person are called the Price of Admission, the things we pay in order to date someone. You can tell the truth when asked — kindly — and you should, but that is the limit of what you can do.

If the things you need in a partner compose a rigid set of traits, you’re going to have brief relationships. The best pairings I’ve seen are ones in which requirements stay pretty flexible. Your partner will change naturally without your involvement. Inspired by your fitness, he might naturally start going to the gym on his own. But what if he gets injured and can’t set foot in a gym again? That’s scary to think about, but anyone can get hurt in fitness and have their lifestyle forever changed. If that happened to you, wouldn’t you you want his love for you to be based on something more than your image? I’m not discounting the value of looks — I can only date someone I’m attracted to — but a healthy degree of flexibility in the things you need from someone’s body allows you to love them during the times their looks aren’t the best. There’s nothing wrong with having physical, sexually-charged relationships or leaving someone when you lose attraction to them, but those practices are not conducive to long-term romance.

I try to inspire healthy habits between my partner and I, and some of our practices are core parts of us: we work out, we recycle, we’re promiscuous. If one of us were to evolve out of one of these core pillars of who we both are, we’d probably separate. While I can inspire the things we do that keep us together and that I love, I can’t control his evolution, and he could still wake up tomorrow and decide that he dislikes fitness, hates the environment, and wants monogamy. You can’t control how someone you love might change.

So, tell the man — when asked — that you’d like him to spend more time in the gym. You’re entrusted with his heart so you at least owe him the truth. But if you really love him, tell him that while this is a preference, you still love him and want to fuck him no matter what. He doesn’t need to change his body to keep you, but some squats wouldn’t hurt.

Love, Beastly

Above Image: Art by GWAHANOL

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