The decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery is, by necessity, a selfish one. You’re taking the time, money, and mental energy to focus on yourself and your health—maybe for the first time in your life. And that’s a good thing. But if you’re in a relationship, it’s nearly impossible for a major life change NOT to affect your partnership. Perhaps you’ve heard worst-case scenarios on bariatric support boards. Or maybe you read about a recent Swedish study that found bariatric surgery was associated with an increased rate of divorce and separation. The truth is that, yes, gastric sleeve can result in changes to relationships. But there are a lot of caveats to that statement.
A Changing Dynamic
Your partner’s sense of normalcy revolves around you being obese. He or she may agree wholeheartedly that gastric sleeve is the right answer, but the fact remains that as you lose weight, they lose the version of you that they know. It can be a scary thing, especially because most people aren’t crazy about change in the first place. And then there’s the reality that your partner’s day to day life will—hopefully—change. If your relationship includes overeating together, enjoying lots of cocktails, or sitting on the couch watching movies rather than being active together, they may resent that your decision is turning their world upside down. My patient, Annette, made the difficult decision to end her marriage for that very reason. “I think our relationship revolved around food,” she says, adding that he continued to eat poorly in front of her and made her feel bad for losing while he was still gaining. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Jealousy and insecurity can be other obstacles for people as their significant other loses substantial amounts of weight. As you become more attractive by society’s standards, they may wonder if you’ll cheat and/or leave them for “someone better.” As sad as it is, that’s a fairly common worry for partners.
And it’s not an unfounded concern. Some of my pre-op patients are in unhealthy—even abusive—relationships because that’s all they think they deserve. It takes the incredible boost in self-confidence that comes from taking control of their weight to make them realize that they DO deserve better. Endobariatric patient Regina knows of several relationships that ended after gastric sleeve but says they were toxic to begin with, involving issues from infidelity to narcissism. And Brandi, an amazing member of the Endobariatric team, agrees that she’s only seen breakups occur when underlying issues are already present. “This is just my two cents: If it ends, then it wasn’t a secure marriage or relationship to start with,” she says. “Mine, personally, got better!”
Getting Healthier Together
Plenty of my patients have the same result as Brandi—an uptick in happiness within their relationships. According to Amy, “I think (gastric sleeve) is actually making our relationship better. I’m getting more confident the more weight I lose.” And Cindy says her husband is her biggest champion. “He is very proud of me and the weight I’ve lost. He knows how happy and excited I am over every pound I lose,” she reports.
In addition to a strong foundation, the key to a fabulously successful relationship after surgery seems to be engaging your partner as you progress on your weight loss journey. Find new recipes to make together, take up new (or old!) activities as a couple, and make plans for a bright, healthier future.
Sadly, statistics say that half of marriages will end in divorce, and gastric sleeve patients have the same odds. But rest assured that most partners in healthy relationships will adjust well to the new you. And you may end up even more solid than you were before.
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.