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The Impact of Obesity on Male & Female Relationships in Adulthood

By Erin Beck ; Updated July 18, 2017

Seventy-four percent of men and 60 percent of women report they would be uncomfortable dating someone who is obese, according to a 1998 study published by Jeffery Sobal and Mark Bursztyn in "Women and Health." Obese people who are in relationships also face unique challenges. See a counselor to work through relationship issues if you and your partner are having problems.


Obese husbands tend to be less happy with their marriages than other men, according to a 1995 study led by Jeffrey Sobal, Barbara S. Rauschenback and Edward Frongillo, and published in "Obesity Research." Meanwhile, obese women tend to be happier with their marriages than other women. Men who gained weight were more likely to report marital problems compared with men who lost weight, while women who gained weight were more likely to be happy compared with those who lost weight.


Sobal, a Cornell nutritional sociologist and study co-author, suggested that obese women may be more happy in their marital relationships because they have internalized negative societal views of obesity. They may value their marriage more because they believe their dating options are limited. In comparison, men may be unhappy because they haven't internalized these negative views, or because their wives pressure them to lose weight.

Sexual Health

Obese women have more trouble finding a sexual partner than normal-weight women, while obese men don't have this difficulty, according to a 2010 French study led by Nathalie Bajos and published in the journal "BMJ." Obese women were 30 percent less likely than normal-weight women to have had a sexual partner in the last year. Obese women are also less likely to ask for birth control services, so they are four times as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. Obese people are at higher risk for diabetes, depression and urinary stress incontinence, all of which can lead to sex-related problems. Obese men also reported a higher rate of erectile dysfunction. For both genders, being very obese may result in muscular or skeletal problems that may make sex challenging.

Mental Health

Obesity can trigger depression, distorted body image and low self-esteem, all mental health problems that can be detrimental to a relationship. Depression can cause several problems in a relationship. If a depressed partner "gives up on life," the non-depressed partner may find themselves picking up the slack and being charged with any mutual responsibilities, such as dealing with finances or child care. This can to resentment and anger. Distorted body image can hurt a relationship. A person with distorted body image may go to great lengths to hide her body from their partner or feel uncomfortable being sexual. Low self-esteem can damage a relationship because the obese person may suffer from constant worry and often look for reassurance.

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