For many couples across the country, marriage is a major factor in a period of weight gain. According to one 2012 study, in the five years after getting married, women in their early 20s gain an average of 24 lbs., while men of the same age group gained an average of 30 lbs. While gaining weight isn’t guaranteed for everyone who walks down the aisle, it’s certainly very common.
There are a couple of important ways to look at this – one of downsides and potential problems, and another that’s far more reassuring. Let’s start with the bad news first.
Weight gain by itself is not inherently bad. Sure, if it continues unchecked, it can lead to health problems, but the real concerns here have more to do with the state of mind of married couples, and how their actions (or inaction) are related to this issue of weight gain. If we look at some of the potential causes, we can see how the same behaviors could lead to problems in the relationship.
First, gaining weight may happen because people, once they’re married, feel like they’ve found a partner and have to put less effort into their appearance. While marriage shouldn’t be based entirely on appearance, this attitude of taking your partner’s attraction for granted can lead to lack of effort, lack of romance, and ultimately, problems in a couple’s sex life.
It’s also important to recognize that as we get older, our bodies tend to change. Metabolism may not be what it once was, and the same old habits may begin to take a toll on our health and weight. Adding to this potential problem is the fact that couples have the tendency to influence one another’s decisions – so when it comes to mealtime, you may be more likely to indulge in your spouse’s favorite (unhealthy) food, to finish off each other’s leftovers (or the kids’ leftovers), to get a second helping, or even to make larger meals.
Similarly, our decisions about how we spend our time can be influence and reinforced by our spouses – and this works both ways, it’s no one person’s “fault.”
What this means, though, is that an evening on the couch watching TV is awfully tempting if your spouse is already doing it – and that you joining them reinforces their behavior. Again, this isn’t inherently bad or wrong, just one of the factors that can lead to weight gain.
A lot of this stuff goes back to complacency, feeling like things are just fine the way they are, not worrying about maintaining a certain level of health, appearance, or even motivation as the marriage moves toward the future – and even beyond weight gain or appearance, complacency is a major problem causer across many aspects of a relationship.
Now, how about the good news?
According to several studies in the last 5 years, the couples who experience the most weight gain are actually the happiest! So if you’ve put on a few pounds, it might actually be a good sign (at least for your marriage). Couples tend to get a little heavier when they aren’t experiencing stress, when they are spending quality time together communicating and growing the emotional parts of the relationship, and simply because their time commitments to other pursuits (kids, household, jobs, etc.) fill most of their days – but all of these things are rewarding and important for the longevity and strength of the relationship.
The only real issue here is the sometimes difficult task of maintaining physical attraction over time. A little weight gain isn’t a big deal, but if it’s symptomatic of “letting yourself go” (and we’ll all have different definitions of what that means exactly), it could become a problem down the road.
It is NOT our intention here to make you feel bad if you’ve gained a little weight. It happens to all of us, and is VERY common among married couples. Instead, this is to show you just how normal it is, and to remind you that you have the power to change it. Now that you’re aware of the common factors behind weigh gain for married couples, you can take the necessary steps to carve your own path.
Take some time to dedicate to exercise, both because it will make you feel good and because it will help keep sexual attraction alive in your marriage. Be aware of the ways your and your spouse reinforce each other’s decisions – talk about it and form plans to keep each other from getting sucked into the couch or skipping out on physical activities. Just as your inactive choices reinforce one another, so do your active choices.
You can work together to shed those extra pounds and keep them off – you can keep each other on task for exercise goals and when preparing meals, and agree to make those types of things a priority in your marriage. If you’re among the crowd who is experiencing some weight gain because of a happy marriage, keep up the good work!
Spending time together is important, and so is relaxing together – just remember that even if it isn’t a big factor now, appearances are important to maintaining that attraction to one another, and watching out for changes in your body (and the bad habits that can cause them to happen) will go a long way in keeping your marriage fulfilling for years and years to come.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com
My wife was only 150lbs when we got married (we were both just 23 back then). I know its not uncommon for women to put on 100 or 200 pounds in the first decade, but I'm aware my wife has put on close to 400 pounds. I try to be very supportive and I never bring up her weight. It's her body, and her decision. I treat it like its not an issue. I've tried to make her feel comfortable even as her weight has continued to go up, but at this point its becoming harder to figure out ways to make things work at over 500 pounds.
My husband is 32, and well over 350lbs. He has always been a heavier guy, but never gotten to this point. He refuses to diet. He refuses to see a DR. He refuses to talk to about it. I just dont know what to do anymore. I am NEVER mean or cruel, but I am very concerned. VERY concerned. He is always out of breath, he smokes, and he eats like crap.
Hi JR - At this point it sounds like it's a health concern though. Why not let her know that you still love her, but you want her to be healthy so she has a happier life?
Hi thewife - Unfortunately we can't make anyone do what they don't want to. All you can do is bring healthy choices into the home, cook healthy dinners, and take care of yourself. Maybe he will decide he need to make some changes too.
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