Building Your BEST Marriage & Relationships After Weight Loss SurgeryAugust 9, 2017
Life changes after weight loss surgery. While you are losing weight, often times people find themselves in this process and it's not always who they were prior to surgery. The interpersonal changes that occur can impact your marriage & relationships after weight loss surgery, especially if there isn't open communication already in the relationship or marriage.
You may think that having weight loss surgery would improve a relationship especially if it is a struggle to go out, be regularly intimate/sexual, or if one or both of you put a lot of emphasis on the weight as a wedge between you in the marriage. However, it has been statistically noted that many marriages, in fact, struggle after weight loss surgery due to the interpersonal changes that occur and increased jealousy and fears that also arise that comes from weight loss. The best way to counteract this is to work on your marriage while the changes occur so that you grow together rather than apart.
Marriages or relationships that are already showing struggles can really take a hit after weight loss surgery for many reasons. Also, there can be a whirlwind of emotions that are not discussed as both parties are trying to navigate so many changes occurring all at once. It is important to remember why you got married in the first place.
What was it that you originally saw in your partner that lit you up and vice versa? One great exercise is to talk about this, and to recall the good times, and look for the good in each other.
Also, I'd like to add that if you are already experiencing marital/relationship distress prior to weight loss surgery, and you would definitely like to improve your marriage or relationship, it is highly recommended that you seek out and begin to see a marriage/couples/relationship counselor to help you work these issues as you go through the process of bariatric surgery. This will also help you to improve your relationship or marriage while experiencing the lifestyle change that occurs as a result of weight loss surgery.
7 Tips For Marriage & Relationships After Weight Loss Surgery
These are my top seven tips to building your best marriage or relationships after weight loss surgery and a few of them you may not expect!
1. INCLUDE YOUR PARTNER IN YOUR PROCESS
Most partners have no idea what to expect. They know you'll lose the weight, but even they don't know the mental and emotional changes it will create in you as a person. Likely, you won't know that either until you go through it. Therefore, it's important that you include your partner so they can be there for you, help you when you need it, and so you can get the support you need.
Including your partner also lets them know that they are important to you.
Following surgery, many relationships and marriages fail because the marriage is not given any attention because the focus is on work, the kids, or other obligations. Putting your marriage as a priority and including your partner in your process will help them to feel included and important in your life.
Marriage is a partnership and a relationship that requires nurturing, communication, togetherness, mutual understanding, and work. When you neglect the relationship, it naturally declines. When you include your partner in your surgical and postoperative process, they feel better, more confident, and can easily cheer you on.
When a partner feels ostracized or excluded, it becomes uncomfortable to share feelings, intimate details, and partners begin to refer to each other as strangers, and again, the relationship declines. The best way to work on your marriage as you go through this process is to include your partner and to ask them what role they would like to have as you go through this as well. This will help you both lay the foundation for what is to come and to help you build a stronger relationship as a result.
2. START THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS EARLY
Discuss how the expected physical change could impact emotional change and self-confidence, and what is going through your mind. Discuss your feelings about your physical changes and be open to listening to theirs.
Share your feelings and emotions about the process. Are you scared? Are you excited? Are you worried? Share these things with your partner and have a deep conversation about it.
For many people, this is both a scary and exciting time of not knowing what to expect. Sure, you've seen everyone else's photos and transformations, yet you still don't know what yours will look like. That's okay. However, when you begin to discuss this with your partner, they can begin to understand what is going through your mind. Also, when you communicate it allows them to be there for you and to support you mentally and emotionally.
Also, it is very important to not take things personally and ask clarifying questions if you feel something was said sharply. One of the biggest issues in marriages is one person taking things out of context, or taking something personally when it was shared with love. Likewise, if something is shared and meant to be shared "sharply" or as a criticism, it's important to communicate your needs to share that this information is not constructive and that you would appreciate if your partner were to take more time to think about what is said before he/she says it.
Most often, however, it's not that someone intends to harm or be hurtful with words, but that the person did not think about how it would be received. Therefore, people say things that can potentially be hurtful without the intention of it coming across that way. So be sure to ask clarifying questions like, "Well, I heard this...; did you mean it that way?" or "That was hurtful. I'm not sure you intended for that to come across that way. Can we discuss that further?" or asking for further clarification of the intent, meaning, and delivery of the message. This helps you understand what is being said, while also understanding the intention of the message as well.
It's also important to discuss with your partner in advance that you do not need criticisms regarding food policing or exercise policing. It is important you communicate your needs effectively, and also hear your partners needs as well. This will help you both avoid any undue conflict.
3. DON'T EXPECT OTHERS TO CHANGE BECAUSE YOU ARE CHANGING
Unless your partner is having surgery also, or unless they are ready to make a lifestyle change like you are, don't expect them to change their eating or exercise habits. There can be anger and resentment that builds when you go to remove all of the ice cream and chips from the house and your partner is not okay with that. Of course, you can ask for support in this area, but cleaning out the kitchen cabinets without asking or mentioning it can cause a partner to feel ostracized and excluded. So it is important to communicate how you plan to move forward with eating and food options in the household.
Of course, you can ask for support in this area, but cleaning out the kitchen cabinets without asking or mentioning it can cause a partner to feel ostracized and excluded. So it is important to communicate how you plan to move forward with eating and food options in the household.
This is a process for you to grow and while they will be wanting and willing to help you, don't have huge expectations for what they are willing to do without a serious talk. Ask them what you can remove from the house as a family, and make this about both of you and your family as a whole.
In my experience, my husband is a vegetarian and relies heavily on carbohydrates for his primary form of sustenance. I knew he was not going to change his diet, nor did I expect him to. I recognized that me living a post-bariatric lifestyle of low-carbs and high protein was my decision and something that I would need to work on, and have. However, we don't keep ice cream in the house, and neither of us drinks soda so this was not an issue. From a food perspective, I honored his diet, while I created a new lifestyle change with my diet.
I realized if I started dictating what my husband could and couldn't eat, it would go beyond food and would impact our marriage. So we discussed it and have open communications regarding food and support one another's eating behaviors.
Also, it was important for me to realize what my trigger foods were so that I could discuss it with him and we could decide what we would allow and not allow in our house, and if I felt tempted by any foods in our house, to discuss it with him.
4. DON'T EXPECT YOUR PARTNER TO WORKOUT WITH YOU
Reminder: This is your journey. It's great if your partner wants to workout with you. It's great if both of you make it a habit to workout together. However, it can cause problems if your expectations are to rely on them to do the heavy lifting for you. If you wait for him or her to workout, you may not go at all.
Make working out your habit for your own process and if they come along for the journey, great. However, if you rely on someone else, you could be disappointed. Get moving on your own and have a routine that works for you.
Get into your own routine. If your partner wants to tag along or go with you, fantastic. However, if you place expectations on him/her, it could be an undue pressure that could potentially be overwhelming.
5. ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT AND DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
There will be times that you need help, emotional help or physical help, or both. It's important to ask for what you need during this process because you will need emotional support through this process. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need, and be open to communicating your needs with your partner. This is why communicating, as stated previously, is so important.
Marriage is a give and take so it is crucial that you're stating what your needs are in addition to contributing your thoughts and feelings in the relationship.
It's also important that you listen to your partner's needs as well. Don't make assumptions that they don't want to help, or are too busy. Likewise, don't make assumptions that they will help without asking them first. You would not want to be taken for granted and so neither does your partner. This is why communicating is essential so that you can both get on the same page and support one another and keep your marriage or relationship strong. Weight loss surgery is a big deal and asking for what you need is important and being open with your needs is essential.
6. SPEND QUALITY TIME TOGETHER
It is recommended that you engage in a regular date night or date of some kind - at least twice a month or do things together to spend quality time.
You can plan a picnic, go out for a walk, or do anything that the both of you agree upon. The idea is that you spend quality time together doing something that you both enjoy or that you alternate choosing the activity so that at least every other date, it's something that you like to do.
Make the focus spending quality time together to reignite your connection and spend time doing fun things together.
Spending time together helps to build bonds and makes the relationship stronger. Take time out weekly or as often as possible to get some down time together to build upon your relationship.
7. APPRECIATE EACH OTHER
Take time out weekly to appreciate each other or the things you've done for each other. A simple 'thank you' goes a long way. After surgery, you'll likely be very tired and with decreased caloric intake, you'll be struggling to get back into a normal routine. If your partner is picking up the slack at home, thank them for helping out more while you recuperate.
Having a regular gratitude practice where you celebrate each other increases the likelihood that you'll continue to do these things for each other.
When deeds go unnoticed, people tend to get resentful and wonder why they take on the tasks. Appreciate your partner and thank them for picking up the kids, doing the laundry or helping around the house. Notice what a great parent they are and thank them for whatever you appreciate about them.
What you focus on expands, and if you look for the good, you will find it. Likewise, if you are looking for the negative you will find that too. When looking to build your best relationship or marriage, it is important to look for and celebrate the things you appreciate about each other and share those things as often as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHORKristin Lloyd, MS, LPC/LMHC, PhD-Candidate is a licensed psychotherapist and certified transformational mindset mentor guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits, better relationships, and fuller richer lives after WLS. As a WLS surgery patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges experienced by the WLS/bariatric patient. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset which aims to help individuals live a fuller richer life after WLS.