I was thrilled when I received the email asking if I would like to submit an article on "Relationships".
When I received the February newsletteremail, there it was! On the first pageno less!! Never in a million years did I ever expect to see it on the first page. Following is what I submitted and I hope it will be of some help. Hugs to everyone!!
WLS and Relationships
The recovery process from weight loss surgery is long and hard. During this time relationships can be strained. Recovery is filled with fear and insecurity which takes a toll on all existing relationships.
I used to be embarrassed to take a plane or to go out in public. It was difficult to get behind the steering wheel. My lifestyle was very stifling. The consequences of my obesity, and the depression and social isolation it caused, made the risk of the surgery far more acceptable since I had been unsuccessful with every diet imaginable.
As a post-op, there is a definite change in the way I relate to others. I find it much easier to be friendly to strangers and strike up a conversation. That's really no surprise since I feel much more confident.
When I weighed 314 pounds I felt invisible. I now find that I am treated differently in public. Male cashiers smile at me and are much more talkative than they were before. Men and women alike are more apt to stop and chat with me, whereas in the past, I was lucky to get as much as a "hello".
Prior to surgery it was comfortable staying home most of the time watching T.V., being on my computer, or going to a favorite restaurant with friends. Once I reached my goal weight, I found I had much more energy and wanted to do other things. My idea of fun changed significantly. Before surgery, walking or dancing would leave me breathing heavily and exhausted in a matter of minutes. Now I wanted to try activities I was unable to do prior to surgery. Suddenly I found that my friends and spouse did not have much in common with me anymore due to the fact that they were still living a sedentary lifestyle.
Losing a spouse over the surgery can happen. My weight loss changed the dynamics in my relationship. Obesity made me self-conscious and left me with no self-esteem. As that changed, the social dynamics changed. As a teenager I did not date. I knew I didn't qualify because I was fat. I simply accepted the fact that I was fat, unworthy, and ugly because I weighed more than girls my age. We would like to think our society has evolved beyond the superficial, that we will be loved for who we are inside. Do you remember your mother saying, "Pretty on the inside is what counts." I heard that often and confirmed what I already knew; I wasn't one of the pretty people.
I knew the WLS would change my life and it certainly has. Some people have lost weight only to discover they were blaming the wrong thing for trouble in the relationship. I can see now that I had really been doing the hard emotional part for a long time. I married a wonderful man who accepted me as I was, however it was me that "settled". I had to face the realization that for many years my spouse actually was more like a brother or close friend rather than a husband. I am thankful that we are still and always will be each other's best friend.
In attending the seminars about WLS, we are told that friends and family may not know how to react after surgery. We are the center of attention during recovery. I lost a very good friend that became jealous of my new energy and appearance. I had to deal with this jealousy and decided any friends who bailed, were not true friends to begin with.
The way we think of ourselves changes drastically after weight loss surgery and therefore, others will also have a different impression of you. Prior to surgery, our size weighs down more than just our body. Depression is common in overweight individuals. After surgery and making it through recovery, depression for some may no longer be a problem. There is a whole new world waiting for us and we are ready to embrace it. This is wonderful, however make sure you pay attention to the relationships you had prior to surgery and nurture them.
You will change, there is no doubt, and family and friends may not like these changes. They will mourn for the person you were prior to surgery. Maybe you've become more outgoing or outspoken and your lifestyle has changed. You need to keep this in mind if you want to keep those old friends. Try to be considerate of their wishes and needs. If they want to watch a movie at home, go ahead and do it once in awhile. If they want to go to a favorite restaurant and get a meal they used to get before the surgery, go and order an appetizer to nibble on. Try to introduce different and new activities to your friends slowly, until they get used to the fact you do have a different lifestyle.
You will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention and compliments once you reach your optimum weight. Try to move the conversation to other topics, not always talking about your surgery. This may alleviate any jealousy that may crop up with old time friends. Friends and relatives may not want to constantly hear about it – they lived it with you. Also remember that you may attract new people with the "new you". If you want to keep your old friends, you need to try and stay in touch with them. Most of all stay positive.
Try and use common sense and sensitivity with your friends, family, and partner. Hopefully, they will offer the same in return and embrace the changes you have made in your new healthy life.
Personal acceptance is what has taken the longest and the hardest to find. Everybody learns their lessons in their own time. The only thing certain is that your whole life can change in the blink of an eye no matter how prepared you are for it. Every day I continue to become accustomed to the changes in my life and search for my place in the world for the "t;new me"t;.
In conclusion, most bariatric patients need a lot of support after surgery. Relationship changes can have a rough psychological impact. This is another reason why support groups are helpful. If friends, family and co-workers are having a hard time being supportive, bariatric patients can find peers from which to gain additional support. Studies have indicated that patients who participate actively in a support group have better outcomes than those who do not.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts". – Winston Churchill