Studies show that the divorce rate after WLS is high. Then again, other studies report that patients report greater satisfaction in their marriages. So who’s right?
They probably both are.
Undergoing weight loss surgery is just a first step. Over the next year or two, the dramatic weight loss has ramifications for every aspect of your life. And since it happens so quickly, it’s really easy to lose touch with reality.
Imagine living in a funhouse for a year or so. All the mirrors are warped, so you have no way of knowing what you really, truly look like. You may even begin to lose sight of who you are. It’s as if a new person is emerging from beneath the layer of fat.
Meanwhile, the world around you starts treating you differently. Every relationship you have will change in some way simply because you are changing.
You start being noticed by the opposite sex. Even flirted with and hit on, by strangers or even people you’ve known all along. This new attention can be frightening, but it can also really turbocharge your ego. (Some egos can grow to monstrous proportions!)
All of this change can be very difficult for your significant other. Not to mention that you probably bonded over food before, but now that option has been taken off the table, so to speak.
So suddenly, your partner loses the old, comfortable spouse, and gains a new, confident, attractive and outgoing one. And just like the change is a bit of a mind-bender for you, it can be overwhelming for your spouse as well.
Some gastric bypass patients get so excited and full of energy that they just can’t wait to get out and enjoy life. We want to go for walks, socialize, see and be seen. We want to get out and live. The last thing we want to do is sit around and watch TV all evening.
Unfortunately, that may be exactly what your spouse wants. And he or she may feel real insecure about the idea of you going out alone. Enter Conflict.
If you had a healthy marriage to start with, chances are good that you can weather these storms. Be open and honest with each other and respectful of each others feelings. You’re both going through a huge change. Be patient with each other and chances are you will end up with a stronger marriage in the end.
Unfortunately, not everyone had a healthy marriage before gastric bypass surgery. Being morbidly obese makes many people feel inferior and undeserving. So we often settle for less than what we truly deserve, thinking it’s the best we can do.
Some people put up with abuse, infedelity or just a bad marriage because the weight has killed their self esteem. They just don’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves and demand respect.
Still others blame problems on their weight, believing that once they are thin things will automatically change for the better.
After gastric bypass surgery, the excess weight is no longer there to take the blame. And confidence and self esteem begin to rise. All of these things together can make many take a long, hard look at what may be an unhealthy marriage.
Now I personally am a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage. I don’t believe “I’m just not happy anymore” is grounds for divorce. But abuse of any kind most certainly is, and sometimes the weight loss that follows gastric bypass surgery is the only thing that brings an abused spouse the confidence they need to leave.
The bottom line is that gastric bypass surgery will have a dramatic effect on your marriage. My pre-op therapist said that it makes good marriages better and bad ones worse.
What you want to remember is that it’s not always smart to make major decisions during the middle of the upheaval. If you feel your marriage is collapsing during the first year or two after surgey, for goodness sake don’t call in the lawyers. Get counceling. Wait until the dust clears before you decide that your marriage isn’t salvageable.
And if you haven’t had surgery yet, be sure you talk these changes over thoroughly with your spouse. Find out what they’re concerned about and what they think about how your lives will change.
Then be prepared for a very wild ride.