Why Couples Who Gain Weight Together, Stay Together

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Why Couples Who Gain Weight Together, Stay Together

What are the best indicators of a happy and successful relationship or marriage that's built to stand the test of time?

Couple rings?

Countless smiling photos of the two of you together on Facebook and Instagram?

Family and friends who get along swimmingly on each and every occasion?

According to science, one of the best ways to tell if your relationship will last happily ever after is by looking at your waistlines over time.

Research on the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that couples who report satisfaction in their marriage tend to gain weight.

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For a period of four years, researchers followed a group of 169 newlywed couples, checking in with them twice a year to measure factors such as height, weight, marital satisfaction, stress, and any steps taken toward divorce.

Their stated goal was to figure out how overall satisfaction in a marriage is reflected in each spouse's weight gain or loss over time.

"Prior research makes competing predictions regarding whether marital satisfaction is positively or negatively associated with weight gain," they explain.

The two competing theories they sought to evaluate were as follows:

  • The health regulation model, which "suggests that satisfying relationships facilitate the functions of marriage that promote health. Thus, spouses should be most likely to gain weight when either partner is less satisfied because marital strain causes stress that interferes with self-regulatory behaviors."
  • The mating market model, which "suggests that weight maintenance is motivated primarily by the desire to attract a mate. Thus, spouses should be least likely to gain weight when either partner is less satisfied because they should feel an increased need to attract a new mate. This longitudinal study of 169 newlywed couples evaluated each possibility."

The results revealed the mating marker model to be the winner, as spouses in happy marriages gained a significant amount of weight.

Meanwhile, those who remained slim reported rocky marriages that eventually ended in divorce.

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"Supporting the mating market model," the researchers found, "own and partner satisfaction were positively associated with changes in weight, and this association was mediated by steps toward divorce: Spouses who were less satisfied than usual or had partners who were less satisfied than usual were more likely to consider divorce and thus less likely to gain weight."

The researchers theorize that the phenomena is due to an unconscious desire to continue attracting mates.

People who are part of happier couples no longer feel the need to attract a new mate and, therefore, feel less stress about their appearance.

Meanwhile, those in rocky relationships are more likely to maintain a slim figure in order to continue attracting potential new partners.

Although these happy, well-fed couples don't feel the need to worry about either their partner only loving them for their looks or potentially attracting someone new altogether, these findings do raise questions about whether stable relationships may have a negative impact on overall health and well-being.

Psychologist Andrea L. Meltzer, lead researcher and then-assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says that couples should pay attention when it comes to their weight gain, because it can lead to health consequences such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes the following risks associated with obesity:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Many types of cancer
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

"So these findings suggest that people perhaps are thinking about their weight in terms of appearance rather than health," says Meltzer, now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University. "By focusing more on weight in terms of health implications as opposed to appearance implications, satisfied couples may be able to avoid potentially unhealthy weight gain over time in their marriages."

There's nothing wrong with not paying as much attention to your appearance after marriage because you're confident that your spouse would continue to love you despite it.

However, your health should not be compromised, even for love.

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Caithlin Pena is a writer and editor for YourTango who enjoys books, movies, and writing fictional short stories as a hobby.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on June 19, 2016 and was updated with the latest information.

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