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Mixed-Weight Couples and Relationship Conflicts

Posted Jan 30 2013 4:13am

I have written before about relationship problems and weight loss , but today I wanted to focus on a study that I saw about mixed-weight couples and relationship conflicts.

Have you ever seen a couple where one person is a normal weight and the other is overweight? I know I have. In fact, I used to be the heavy one in my own marriage as evidenced by this picture.

I often felt like John and I didn’t “match” in appearance and I wondered whether other people looked at us and felt sorry for John that he was married to such an overweight person. Fortunately for me, John never made me feel badly about weighing 300 pounds or not being able to fit into normal-sized clothing. I’m eternally thankful that he really was always supportive.

However, this isn’t always the case and many relationships suffer from conflicts over weight.

In fact, I was at an event recently where I was the featured speaker. Before I did my presentation, a middle-aged man came up to me and started to ask me questions about my weight loss. He asked how long it took, how many years I had kept the weight off, and what my husband thought. I answered his questions and then was surprised to hear him say, “My wife is huge.”

“Oh,” I said. (I know that wasn’t the most intelligent thing to say at that moment, but he caught me by surprise.)

He went on to say, “She is so big that I find her unattractive and I was wondering if hearing your story might inspire her.”

This time I said, “Well, I don’t know if it will or not, but I hope that she feels supported by you because that can really help her as she tries to get to a healthier weight.” He looked at me with doubt. I continued on, “Seriously. The last thing she needs to hear is criticism from you because I promise you – she already says all those things to herself.”

He then said that he tried to be supportive but it was hard. I told him I understood but that I hoped he would really try.

Then, I read this study which showed that couples who are of mixed-weight, meaning one is normal sized and one is overweight, do often have relationship conflicts. Interestingly enough, the most conflicts seem to occur when the woman is overweight and the man is of a normal size.

I couldn’t decide whether I was surprised by that fact or not. After mulling it over for a bit I wasn’t all that surprised because that is what I have heard quite a few times over the years. Men complain to me about their wives weight, but the wives rarely complain about their husband’s weight. Of course there are always exceptions to this.

The main thing for us to consider not whether men or women are more critical of their spouses, but how to handle that criticism. Learning to handle criticism can help you continue on your own path and not let your significant other derail your progress or stop you from working on getting to a healthier weight. Oftentimes those criticisms make us want to eat, eat, eat just to get back at your partner although those behaviors just end up hurting ourselves.

Ignore It

This is easier said than done isn’t it? It can be hard to ignore unkind or snide comments from your significant other, but that’s the path of least resistance. I’ve known many women who learned to “hear” the comment or negative remark and decide they weren’t going to listen and managed to not let the comment drive them into overeating. Of course that takes practice and may not be the best for the relationship.

Confront It

Confrontation is never easy but when done with care it can help bring unhealthy behaviors into the open. You may want to consider consulting a therapist to help you navigate this type of solution. I’ve had women tell me that when they finally told their spouse how the negative comments made themfeel inside, their spouse made a concerted effort to stop.

Learn to Cope Without Sabotaging

No relationship is perfect. If you are the overweight partner in your relationship and cannot get your spouse to stop their criticisms or comments, it is very important that you not allow another person to trigger unhealthy eating behaviors. Although my husband was great, my friends were not. They did say mean things about my weight and I often “got back” at them by eating more. That was an unhealthy response. When I finally began to lose weight, I channeled my tendency to overeat when mean things were said into a burst of energy I used exercising, getting stuff done around the house, or journaling.

No one should be criticized for their appearance, and if you are, I am sorry. I know how that feels and hope that you are able to move past the negativity and stay motivated to continue on your healthy path.

Have you seen mixed-weight couples where one spouse seems to “pick-pick-pick” at the heavier spouse? Any suggestions for that behavior? Diane

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