Gaining or Losing Weight Can Change Your Relationships
By Cynthia J. Turner, PhD
For decades, researchers have studied attraction and the findings are fascinating. Human beings are attracted to their friends and mates for numerous reasons, many of which are subconscious. Typically most individuals are attracted to others who are somewhat like themselves, in terms of weight, general overall appearance, fitness, as well as intelligence, family background, finances, interests, and other variables. Less obvious and more complex psychological dynamics include how safe an individual feels with others in terms of the match.
The unconscious brain looks for ways to protect the individual in terms of not just physical security, but emotional security. So for example, a person may feel attracted, in a safe way, to another person that they feel will accept them, commit to them, and stay faithful. Couples and friends are also often matched on self-esteem, i.e. confidence. This applies not to just marriage, but also to friendships. Imagine then a man or woman losing a massive amount of weight and how that might improve his or her self-confidence. Now imagine how this might change the spouse's sense of security in the marriage. It is not unusual for the spouse of an individual who is considering weight loss surgery to express their fears and concerns directly. Jealousy may become a huge issue. Although unusual, occasionally the spouse will do everything possible to stop the procedure from happening, while expressing concerns about divorce or affairs.
Friendships and relationships with siblings or other family members may change dramatically after successful weight loss surgery, as people tend to be "matched" to companions and friends in terms of their self-esteem, as well as their looks and interests. This is why clubs and other groups are such an important part of our social culture. After massive weight loss, self-esteem, general fitness, and interests may change, and these changes may dramatically affect how and with whom a person tends to spend their time.
These issues and challenges often come as a shock to weight loss surgery patients, as divorce or changes in friendships may be painful, difficult and challenging. Don't be afraid to seek short-term counseling with a psychotherapist or pastoral counselor trained in these matters, because ignoring the issues may at times lead to problems with maintenance of weight loss or regain issues. This makes sense, given that sometimes, loss of a marriage or friendship may be more than a person can handle, and the weight may slowly creep back on. Frequently this occurs without the individual even being aware of what is causing the regain. Couples therapy may be a critical part of working through these issue for some individuals. Support groups are also a safe place to talk through relationship problems and hear how others have handled them.