The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships recently reported on a communications-based study out of the University of Washington. The study concluded that mixed-weight marriages are at higher risk for conflict.
The researchers looked at 43 heterosexual couples with 1 overweight partner and 1 healthy-weight partner and compared them to matched weight couples. The factors they focused on included participant sex, whether the couples ate together/how often, perceived partner support and negative partner influence.
Their results revealed that mixed weight couples, particularly where the woman was overweight and the husband a healthy weight, had the greatest risk for marital conflict in general, and on a daily basis. Levels of general conflict, though, decreased somewhat when the overweight partner perceived support from the healthy weight partner. Conflict was also greater when mixed weight- couples ate together more frequently creating a negative dynamic of criticizing food choices.
The study concluded that relationship satisfaction is lower for both women and men when the female partner has a higher body mass index (BMI) than her male partner. And, that being an overweight woman in a relationship with a healthy-weight male has more negative relationship consequences (ongoing conflict) than when the overweight partner is the male. Marriages where the woman has a higher BMI than the male are more likely to report dissatisfaction with marital quality and are at higher risk for ending marriages than where the woman has a lower BMI.
The study suggested the need for therapists to look at the communication dynamic in a mixed weight marriage and how it relates to the relationship, as well as the personal health of the partners. Overweight women, in troubled relationships, are especially prone to complications from other existing health problems.