By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Are you in a mixed marriage when it comes to weight? It’s when one person is heavy, and the other isn’t.
If so, the weight difference could be causing some problems in your relationship. And as Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl tells us, it’s worse if the woman is overweight.
Matt and Jessie Brouwer’s marriage was revived when he decided to lose weight and get in shape. Now, they enjoy shopping for healthy food and working out together.
“Now we’re in a better place,” said Matt.
New research from The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows mixed weight couples have more conflict, including arguments and feelings of anger and resentfulness.
“Those little disagreements or insults can really take a toll on a relationship over time, and as a result, couples can sometimes find themselves pulling farther and farther apart,” said David Sarwer, a psychologist at Penn’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.
He sees just how much weight matters. “Body weight and obesity plays a much more central role in a romantic relationship than perhaps we’ve ever thought before,” said Sarwer.
After years of struggling with his weight, and the fights it caused, Matt finally lost 50 pounds.
“I wanted to make a change in my life — and for my family’s life — to get healthy. I can see just from looking back at pictures, I was not going in a good direction to being there for my family and kids,” said Matt.
Trainer Joeleen Kielkucki, who helped Matt get in shape, has seen all sorts of conflicts with mixed-weight couples.
“Maybe the spouse that is more physically fit gets more attention, and that causes turmoil,” said Joeleen.
The research showed mixed-weight couples who ate together frequently had more problems, and the most conflict happened when it was the woman who was overweight.
“It colored everything in my life,” said Betsey Schow, author of Finished Being Fat. Her book is about her weight struggles and how her husband reacted.
“If I was fat then, ‘Oh, I look terrible you must not love me, you must be ashamed of me.’ And he would say dumb things that would make me think that,” said Schow.
She says losing 75 pounds and now, running with her husband has helped restore their relationship.
Schow advises, “Just give as much love and support as you can and keep the focus on other great things in your relationship.”
For the Brouwers, Matt’s weight loss meant sacrifices on both sides.
“Getting up at 4:30a — it’s tough, and so her being there by my side definitely made it easier,” said Matt.
Now, there’s what Matt calls the good nagging.
“Gentle reminders to grab a water,” said Jessie.
Matt and Jessie are a happy couple once again.
For more information on the study, visit: http://spr.sagepub.com/content/29/8/1109.full.pdf+html