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Relationship Advice: How Weight Loss Could Affect Your Marriage

By Cynthia J. Turner, PhD

 

In the early 1990's, while leading groups for women who were trying to lose weight, I discovered a remarkable book, which I have never forgotten: Weight, Sex and Marriage, A Delicate Balance, by Richard B. Stuart and Barbara Jacobson, two marital and couple's therapists. Busting the myth that all men and women want slender wives and husbands, and that most people as well would do anything to achieve this goal, these experts explain the surprising hidden advantages of obesity in marriage. 

 

Some of the main points they make are that compulsive overeating and obesity issues can evolve into providing a surprising and often subconscious stabilizing force, in that it may protect their spouse or partner from outsiders, and can also in some cases, keep their partner at a distance regarding intimacy. Sabotage may become an issue, and the partner losing weight through dieting, exercise or weight loss surgery, may be encouraged by their spouse to avoid exercise, eat out a lot or eat high calorie food, as a way to maintain the old homeostasis and balance in the relationship.

 

These relationship patterns are almost always suppressed or subconscious, so much so, that often neither partner is aware of it until someone decides firmly to lose the weight and stick with it, no matter what the consequences. Research shows that the divorce rate goes up massively following weight loss surgery, which often leads to an individual changing their lifestyle dramatically in many areas following surgery. This "new version" of this person may become much more active, outgoing, confident, and goal-driven. The spouse, especially if he or she enjoyed a life organized around food, may miss the original version of this new, healthier and more attractive person they are living with. They develop feelings of resentment, inadequacy, or jealousy. Hobbies, interests, and activities may no longer match. Massive weight loss often leads to much more socialization and some individuals are threatened when they see this occurring with their spouse. Often individual and couples therapy can make a dramatic difference in these situations. If you think this is happening in your relationship, don't hesitate to seek help!