"While the marriage might be over or heading into rough waters, it’s important to remember the change was for the betterment of that spouse’s health."
In a society that values appearance and reputation, it’s not surprising the lengths many will go to in order to improve one’s image and self-image.
In the United States, the dissatisfaction of one’s body starts at a young age, with 42 percent of girls in first through third grade wishing to be thinner and 45 percent of boys and girls in third through sixth grade wishing to be thinner, according to The Body Image Therapy Center. Seventy percent of men and women from ages 18 to 30 do not like their bodies. When diet and exercise seem like difficult or impossible options, many who seek to improve their bodies turn to bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is a procedure that causes weight loss by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold, preventing the absorption of nutrients or by a combination of both gastric restriction and the prevention of the absorption of nutrients, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
These surgeries allow for an improvement in one’s daily life and functionality as an individual. When a married person undergoes the procedure, it can have behavioral effects on the individual who went through the procedure and their spouse.
Men and Women
There is a demographic difference in those pursuing weight loss surgeries. Despite equal rates of obesity among American men and women, 80 percent of patients who undergo bariatric surgery are female, according to the Journal of Laparoendoscopic and Advanced Surgical Techniques. Researchers at UC San Diego Health Systems believe that there are cultural reasons for women seeking surgical weight loss earlier in life, as opposed to men seeking it when their health deteriorates to the point where they may require it.
Much of that has to do with the male satisfaction of their individual health. A 2014 study at Kansas State University showed that 72.8 percent to 94 percent of overweight and obese men were satisfied with their health, in contrast to 56.7 percent to 85 percent of overweight and obese women.
This level of satisfaction is often depicted through the marriages experiencing a weight loss surgery. Seeking health treatments to battle weight gain is to ask for help, and according to the previous statistics, women express their dissatisfaction more frequently, allowing for a quicker rate of body change.
This rate of body change can manifest itself in changes to one’s social life, regardless of gender. In the life changes necessary to maintain the weight loss, the lives of everyone in your house are affected. Children might complain that their favorite snacks are no longer being purchased. Spouses seeking common ground in their lifestyle might no longer have it. Not only do these procedures require the endurance for you to change your behavior, they also can test the people around you.
Before one endures the procedure, they are required to complete a behavioral examination with a mental health provider to decide on the appropriateness of the surgery. They look to identify psychosocial factors believed to compromise the procedure. That type of reflective exercise is good to have within a relationship with someone undergoing bariatric surgery.
There are different types of bariatric surgery that cause different changes in one’s body.
- Gastric Bypass: A small stomach pouch is created by dividing the stomach, and the small intestine is rearranged to connect them both. This produces significant long –term weight loss and restricts the amount of food that can be consumed. It produces promising changes in guy hormones that lower appetite and enhance satiety. However, it is a more complex procedure and could result in a greater complication rate. Additionally, there are several vitamin deficiencies and dietary restrictions that one will have to adhere to for long-term commitment.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy: Eighty percent of the stomach is removed. This restricts the amount of food the stomach can hold and requires no foreign objects or re-routing of the food stream. It creates rapid and significant weight loss that involves a short hospital stay. However, it is a non-reversible procedure that has the potential for long-term vitamin deficiencies.
- Adjustable Gastric Band: An inflatable band is placed around the upper portion of the stomach creating a small pouch above the band and the rest of the stomach below the band. This reduces the amount of food that the stomach can hold, inducing weight loss of about 40 to 50 percent. It also is reversible and adjustable with a lower rate of vitamin deficiencies. However, it has a slower and lesser amount of early weight loss, with a greater percentage of patients failing to lose a minimum of 50 percent of excess body weight. It also requires a foreign object in the body that can result in slippage, erosion and mechanical problems with the band. There also is a high rate of re-operation.
- Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch Gastric Bypass (BPD/DS): A small, tubular stomach pouch is created by removing a portion of the stomach, and a significant portion of the small intestine is bypassed. This results in a 60 to 70 percent excess weight loss at their five-year follow-up appointment. It also allows patients to eventually eat near their normal meals and is the most effective against diabetes. However, it has a high complication and mortality rate and a high length of hospital stay. It also requires a significant amount of follow-up and adherence to dietary and vitamin supplement guidelines.
After the Surgery
These various procedures can create a reliance on medical care before, during, and after the procedure due to the likelihood of post-surgery depression or additional surgeries to remove excess skin, not to mention bouts with diarrhea, risks for alcohol abuse, and the need for a gym membership.
The amount of change can make one feel like they’re being pulled in a million directions, and without having a spouse going through the process as well, it can create a perception of abandonment and unreliability.
Divorce on the Radar
Because of the drastic changes to a spouse’s life and body, divorce is a common thought that enters a relationship where a spouse has bariatric surgery. Eighty to 85 percent of patients who were suffering from obesity before or at the time of their marriage, will divorce within two years after their weight-loss surgery, according to BariatricTV. Similar research has been found by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida.
In those seeking to stay with their spouse post-bariatric surgery, support services and therapy provide an outlet to guide relationships into a more comfortable and safe environment. The need for support is critical during a time of great change for both spouses. For the spouse that receives the surgery, they’re in the process of losing weight, looking better than they did previously, and might find themselves wanting out of the marriage. For the spouse who did not, they might struggle attempting to support their spouse while they feel their spouse pulling further and further away.
Several websites, including the Seattle Times, went as far as to label divorce associated with weight loss surgery as “Bariatric Divorce.” The complicated role that overall health has within a physical marital relationship is highlighted when one spouse’s body goes through such drastic change.
With such high self-esteem, it can often feel like a fresh start for that spouse, whereas the spouse that did not receive the surgery can often feel left behind. These two polar extremes of feelings can cause a rift that ends the marriage. While the marriage might be over or heading into rough waters, it’s important to remember the change was for the betterment of that spouse’s health. The positives of health benefits should not be overshadowed or oversimplified.
However, to actively seek a divorce from a spouse with the only reason simply being getting back into the dating pool now that you’ve lost all of your excess weight is damaging to the relationship you once shared and damaging to the children that may be involved. Seeking health benefits shouldn’t result in a loss of a spouse, but if it happens, make sure it isn’t due to selfish reasons.