Can being in a relationship make you gain weight?

When you are in a steady relationship, do you tend to let yourself go?  That is, do you stop brushing your hair and/or teeth and skip the gym more than you used to?  Or are you the kind of person who continues to take care of your appearance and physical health no matter who you are in a relationship with or what stage of the relationship you’re in?  If you agreed with the latter, you could be in the minority.

There’s a common notion that people in relationships can (and do) let themselves go.  Researchers who study this idea call it the “marriage market hypothesis” (e.g., Ortega et al., 2010).  The idea is that single people (people in the market for a date or marriage) need to look good and be physically fit in order to attract a mate.  Once they are in a relationship or even married, the pressure to be more attractive subsides.  And if you return to the dating game after a breakup or divorce, then you get back to presenting your most attractive self.

There is actually some support for this idea, although the evidence is a bit inconsistent.  For example, in one study tracking Americans across a 10 year span, single women who got married within the 10 year span gained more weight compared to those who were already married at the beginning of the study and remained married (Sobal, Rauschenbach, & Frongillo, 2003).  The same study found that divorced men and recently widowed men were more likely to lose weight.

But is this really about finding a mate or is there something more?  Click here to keep reading and find out more.

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