Jan - Feb 2019

Why My Relationships Are Failing

By Jessica Charbonneau, LCSW


Many websites and articles that discuss weight loss surgery actually list divorce and break-ups as potential post-operative complications. Why is this and what can be done?


First off, I think it is important to state that weight loss surgery can have a very positive effect on healthy relationships. Yet, if a relationship is already on the rocks, it can strain a relationship and make things even more complicated. Changes may occur in your relationship post-surgery that you were not expecting. 


Relationships are complex. We are all creatures of habit and any changes in our lifestyle, positive or negative, can cause tension in our relationships. Your significant other is the one person most likely to be impacted by any changes you experience. Even a positive change can cause stress. Your significant other loves you, but he/she is also “losing” some version of you. A version your partner has known for a long time and has grown comfortable with. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s a physical change revolving around jealousy. One partner becomes insecure with the other partner’s weight loss and the new attention he/she are attracting. 


This is a possibility, but it is important to remember this is not always the case. If both individuals in a relationship have always shared the problems of overeating and have always been obese, then post weight-loss surgery, the individual who did not undergo the surgery may be overcome by realistic and unrealistic insecurities. He/she may worry if he/she can no longer keep up with you or he/she may worry if he/she is unable to make adjustments to his/her old ways of eating. Your partner might miss the “old life” — a life that was centered around food and eating. In this case, an already fragile self-esteem can become worse and negatively influencing the relationship. There may also be an unbalance of power and responsibility that has existed in the relationship where one individual has always played a certain role or provided for the other in certain ways. Committed relationships are, above all, partnerships, when that sense of partnership is lacking this weakens the relationship. 


The bottom line, it takes time to unlearn maladaptive patterns that have existed in a relationship. Significant others may react in many different ways, but they usually do adjust if we do.  We are all capable of change.    


There are several theories out there as to why we are seeing this phenomenon. I am choosing to focus on just one theory for the purpose of this article. The fact is, that almost half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and weight loss surgery patients are not immune to this. Individual or couples counseling before and after surgery can help when there is friction or a lack of communication. Also one of the best places to give and receive advice is from other bariatric surgery patients during support group meetings.