Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for more than a year. We live together, are very much in love and overall very happy together, except for one problem: he has never taken his shirt off in front of me. The thing is, he used to be very heavy when he was younger and despite having lost about 70 pounds since then, he says he still has the body image of someone who is overweight and just doesn't feel comfortable with his shirt off. He doesn't exactly have a six-pack but he's certainly not overweight, and even if he was it wouldn't change my opinion of him. Honestly. I've tried taking off his shirt in the dark and he will never let me. He even showers and changes with the door locked. I know this is definitely because of the weight issue and not a third nipple or bad skin or something. In contrast, I am comfortable in my birthday suit because I know he loves me for who I am. In case you're wondering, I'm petite but by no means a fitness nut, and I don't judge people by their weight.
We are still intimate regularly -- with clothing modifications -- but it feels like something is missing. To be honest, knowing that he is not completely comfortable with me kind of kills the mood for me sometimes.
He keeps saying he will take off his shirt once he gets into better physical shape, but he doesn't exercise regularly and doesn't eat as well as he could. Still, I don't care. I wish he would just own it if he's not going to lose it. Either that or commit to being more comfortable with his body however he needs to.
How can I help him feel more comfortable or just get over it myself?
– Clothes On, Boston
A: I want you to ask him to talk to a professional about his body image issues. A year without nudity is a bit of a feat. If this relationship is going to continue, you both have to be open to seeing each other at your best and worst.
What if you stay together and become gray and wrinkled under your clothes? Would he want to stop having sex altogether? And what if one of you got sick or had a surgery? Or a baby? Or needed help getting changed? The longer we stay together, the more likely we are to see each other naked at unflattering times. Even if he makes his weight goal, he's not going to stay "perfect" forever.
I'm not sure that you can simply get over this. His never-nude-ism is making you feel bad about your intimacy and it needs to be addressed. As for making him feel more comfortable, you can share your thoughts about why you want to see him shirtless and let him know that no matter what, it's a turn-on.
But really, it sounds like he needs to work on his issues with a professional. Explain to him that you want all of him, and if that if he can't get his head around taking off the undershirt, he needs to figure out why.
Readers? Should she put up with this? What can she do to help him along? Does he have to see a therapist? Ever had this problem with someone? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.