BOSTON (CBS) – Couples often fight about money and chores around the house, but a new study has found another source of conflict.
A weight difference between partners is increasingly becoming a source of conflict.
Not exercising and working at an Italian restaurant are the reasons Matt Brouwer put on 50 pounds. He knew his weight was becoming an issue. “It doesn’t feel good when you have someone in your family that is in shape and you aren’t.”
His wife Jessie agreed it was becoming a problem. “When he gets home from work and the kids and I want to go to the park and he doesn’t have the enough energy because he’s exhausted, that could negatively hurt our relationship.”
The Brouwer’s experience is becoming more common. Couples are fighting because one of the partners is overweight.
The study found so called “Mixed Weight” couples have more daily fights, and greater levels of resentment.
Problems can particularly flare up when the couples eat together.
But there is a key difference in the way these issues can play out. A couple like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who is overweight and his normally proportioned wife hypothetically would not have the same problems that plus sized actress Melissa McCarthy would have with her normal weight husband.
The study found gender plays a big role in whether weight is an issue in a relationship.
Couples in which only the woman is overweight experience the most problems. Couples with just an overweight man were no different than all other couples.
“The husband could be 10 pounds overweight and the wife could be 30 pounds overweight and that could still be a huge issue at that point,” said psychologist Charles Foster of the Chestnut Hill Institute.
Weight is always a touchy subject. Dr. Foster believes it has to be addressed honestly, but gently. “For the guy, that conversation needs to be preceded and followed by a statement that he loves his wife, and thinks she is wonderful,” he says.
That can work both ways. Getting support from his wife made a huge difference for Matt.
“I wanted to make a change in my life and in my family’s life to get healthy. I could see from looking back at pictures that I was not going in a good direction in being there for my family and kids,” said Matt.