Divorce after Weight-Loss Surgery
Have you ever received a gift, beautifully wrapped and attractive to view, only to open it and find that it was not what you thought it might be? The gift perhaps holds a value that will be more accurately determined in retrospect. But initially it is not what you expected. Such is sometimes the case of a marriage after weight-loss surgery. Divorce after weight-loss surgery is not uncommon.
The beautiful hope of a “new you” becomes the reality of a new you, — and something beneath the wrap of who you have become changes the status quo of the marital relationship. According to BariatricTV, 80-85% of patients who were obese prior to or at the time of their marriage will, within two years, divorce after weight-loss surgery. If that seems high, consider that somewhere around half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.
The statistic originated from John Pilcher, MD, FACS, a bariatric surgeon in San Antonio. The original article was “Counseling Bariatric Surgery Patients” by Dan Orzech published in Social Work Today Vol. 5 No. 6 P. 24 and appearing in hitpages. Not everyone agrees with the validity of this statistic. Diana Hamlet-Cox an attorney in San Jose, cautions us that the article does not link to the actual study. “Cited in studies means there should be a link to the studies – if a doctor reports unreferenced statistics, they should not be taken seriously. I cannot find any actual studies (with a possible exception in the 1980s) that substantiate these numbers, nor the significance over the baseline for divorces (in the US, about 50%).”
It seems while there is debate over the actual statistical rate of divorce after weight-loss surgery, there is agreement that the rate of divorce after weight-loss surgery is high. According to an article published in the Seattle Times, a website concerning weight-loss surgery divorce lists it as one of the possible post-op complications. It goes so far as to call it bariatric divorce.
Weight-Loss Inspires Us to Change that which No Longer Serves Our Highest and Best
In part, the change is more an adjustment of courage or self-esteem. Prior to weight-loss surgery, prior to improved health, prior to enhanced physical attraction, prior to a rise in confidence, in some instance there was a poor marriage. The marital relationship already had not been working for some period of time. So while improvements in the aforementioned areas can enhance an already stable marriage, a marriage that was volatile before the weight-loss surgery may collapse following the procedure.
The spectrum of improvement enjoyed by the weight-loss surgery spouse becomes an impetus for those actions necessary for termination of an already failed marriage. In this instance the gift beneath the wrap is attractive in its’ own right, although unanticipated. Options that were not even considered at one time prior to the “new you” are now part of a menu of decision and change.
…if the weight-loss surgery spouse in a long-term marriage was of normal weight when the marriage began then that relationship is probably in pretty good shape to withstand the changes…
Divorce after Weight-Loss Surgery Changes the Status Quo
Often, both partners in the marriage have shared the problems of overeating and obesity. Then, following weight-loss surgery, the spouse who underwent the procedure suddenly bursts alive. She becomes energized and wants to see and be seen. A one-time introvert and homebody now burns to socialize. She is treated differently by peers and has become more acceptable and generally more attractive to those around her.
At the same time, the spouse did not undergo the weight-loss surgery may be overcome by insecurity. He cannot physically keep up or make adjustments to the new way of eating that has come into his home. He misses the “old life” — a lifestyle that was likely centered around food and eating activities. An already fragile self-esteem becomes worse, thereby negatively influencing the marriage. His partner and lifestyle that once were, are now gone and probably irretrievable.
The status quo changes. Interests and activities change for one spouse while they remain the same for the other. The poor eating habits and resulting obesity that may have been the bond that united the couple is now gone. Relationship counseling before and after weight-loss surgery can help the couple manage through these changes together. Read, “Relationship Issues after Bariatric Surgery.”
If the marriage has transitioned into something that is not satisfactory for one or both partners then divorce after weight-loss surgery may be the inevitable outcome.
Long-Term Marriages Better Withstand Weight-Loss Surgery
The article “Counseling Bariatric Surgery Patients” published in Social Work Today agrees that the divorce rate after weight-loss surgery is extremely high. However, if the weight-loss surgery spouse in a long-term marriage was of normal weight when the marriage began then that relationship is probably in pretty good shape to withstand the changes following weight-loss surgery.
As for me, I was obese as a kid from about the age of 7 or 8. I then lost a dramatic amount of weight when I was 16 years old and transformed into a beautiful teenage girl — I call this my ugly ducking story. It was way back then that I experienced the wonderment of a “new me.” My self-esteem soared and my personality blossomed. I enjoyed of the attention of the opposite sex, and I was married at 19-years of age.
Years passed, things happened, and the weight piled on and on. Finally I had gastric bypass surgery after 20-years of marriage. But I did not experience this wonderment of a “new me” after my weight-loss surgery. I think that’s because I’d already experienced that phenomena when I was 16-years old. Of course I felt much more attractive and I could physically engage in activities with my husband and daughter that previously had been impossible. But the experience of it all felt as if my body now, finally, matched the thinner person that had been hiding inside ever since the time when I was 16 years old and lost weight. I reclaimed my life and became the woman whom my husband had married.
Happily Ever After Weight-Loss Surgery or Bariatric Divorce
Idealistically, we always want the “and they lived happily ever after” ending. We are conditioned not to accept divorce and strive for a fairytale romance.
…weight-loss surgery can provide you with the courage to get out of a bad relationship.
David Sarwer, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and member of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, said that “the surgery can have a positive effect on a solid marriage, but there is a risk that it can tear apart a marriage that is already on the rocks.” If you are in a bad relationship then the newfound esteem and confidence you may achieve after weight-loss surgery can provide you with the courage to get out of a bad relationship. This is not a bad thing for either partner, is it?
The wrap will always be beautiful. Whether the gift beneath the paper is more the stuff of life circumstance or the stuff of dreams come true is dependent upon your perspective. Weight-loss surgery offers a new beginning. The rest is up to you. Life is, after all, what you make of it.
Living life larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life