Bariatric Divorce

Bariatric Divorce

I was listening to a couples therapy session conducted by the amazing Esther Perel when I first heard about the high rates of divorce associated with weight-loss surgery.

Esther was working with a couple where the husband had lost a tremendous amount of weight after bariatric surgery and then declared to his wife suddenly that he was leaving her. Neither of them had been prepared for this potential side effect of weigh-loss surgery.

In the session, the husband described that after he loss weight, he not only felt like he had a new body, but that he was also a new person and he wanted a new life. A life that apparently did not include his wife. This is actually very common after weight-loss surgery.

One of the first things usually told to couples during orientation is that the divorce rate for bariatric patients is extremely high. I’ve seen numbers as high as 80 to 85%.

Often the person who had the surgery was not happy with themselves, had low self-esteem, poor self-image and not the best health. They may have been introverted and passive because of this.

Effects on Marriage After The Surgery

After the surgery, when the person has loss such a large amount of weight, not only do they began to become healthier, they often begin to see themselves as more physically attractive as well. Mentally, they tend to gain more confidence, courage and experience a rise in self-esteem. The once introverted person may become more extroverted and energetic.

In an already healthy and stable relationship, these improvements can be a plus and help create a more fun, romantic and passionate union. However, in a relationship that was already unstable, these outcomes may lead to the marriage falling apart.

The person who underwent weight-loss surgery may now feel motivated enough, confident enough and attractive enough to leave the marriage. The person may feel like they have more options available to them than they did before the surgery.

Some people report that the emotional changes they go through after weight-loss surgery is more like a change in mindset. They often go from someone who would put up with a lot to someone who chooses what they will and won’t put up with. They go from passive to assertive and sometimes even aggressive. Often as their perspectives change,  they start questioning their relationships and the people that are in their lives.

Many discover a new sexual energy and may begin to crave new sexual partners and experiences, especially if they have been overweight for most of their lives.

Some call this change in perspective an honest life assessment. They feel like losing so much weight so quickly forces them to question why they chose to be unhealthy in the first place both physically and mentally. They began confronting not only their food choices, but their lifestyle choices including the people they have around them. They may feel like they can finally be the person they’ve always wanted to be, but didn’t feel confident enough to be.

Affects On The Partner

Often times couples are overweight together. Having an eating problem, emotional eating or just enjoying food may be the one thing they have in common that has kept them together.

Following surgery, if the spouse that had the weight-loss surgery suddenly stops wanting to sit on the sofa watching Netflix while eating junk food and starts wanting to go out and socialize more or exercise, the partner who did not get the surgery may become angry, jealous and insecure. The marriage that may have once been largely centered around food and staying home may not survive that change.

One person has the surgery, losses a large amount of weight, usually starts looking and feeling more attractive, their partner either gets jealous and insecure and then leaves. Or the person who has the surgery starts thinking they can upgrade or be single and enjoy their new found sexual attractiveness and confidence. Not always of course, but in marriages that were already volatile this is common.

The end of the relationship is not always a bad thing. Often times these individuals were already in toxic or abusive relationships, but stayed because they didn’t have the confidence to leave or felt that no one else would want them. The affects of the surgery often boosts their confidence enough to end a relationship that probably should have ended anyway.

On the other hand, the partner who did not receive the surgery may have felt better than the other person as if they had the power and control in the relationship because their spouse may have been passive, depressed or extremely introverted. Once their partner losses weight, the dynamics of the relationship may start to shift to the point where the partner who did not receive the surgery decides to leave in order to find someone else he or she can feel dominate and controlling over.

Where To Turn For Help

There are support groups out there often led by a dietician and a therapist that can help individuals and couples through the emotional and mental changes that come along with the physical changes of weight-loss surgery. It is important to schedule therapy sessions after your surgery, be kind to yourself and others as the physical, mental and emotional changes occur.

Remember that people will react in some unexpected ways to your weight-loss and you may also experience emotional and mental changes that were not expected. Talk to your partner about them and if it’s something that needs further exploration, definitely seek therapy. It may save your marriage or help you go your separate ways in good conscience.

 

Conscious Uncoupling: What Is It Exactly?

rs_560x415-130724130535-560.martin.cm.72613A lot has been made about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin deciding to consciously uncouple, after more than 10 years of marriage. Many people are unsure of what exactly conscious uncoupling is and figure that it’s just a new age, more amiable way to say divorce, but is it?

The couple stressed in a statement that “in many ways we are closer than we have ever been”, they have come to the conclusion that “while we love each other very much we will remain separate”.

Conscious uncoupling is a great and healthy way to  to end a relationship, while remaining complete as a person. It’s basically when, in an ideal situation, a couple comes to an agreement that their romantic relationship isn’t working for them and that they should end that part of their relationship, leaving room for friendship or at least parting ways without bad feelings.

It sounds very Pollyannaish, but why do breakups, divorces and the end of relationships have to be so painful, heartbreaking and dramatic?

Part of it is because that is what is taught and modeled to us by society, our families and the media. We are taught breakups are supposed to be destructive and negatively impact our lives, but they don’t have to be.

Imagine if when one person realizes that the relationship isn’t working for him or her, that they were able to talk to their partner and have a conversation where they both agreed to consciously uncouple. There would be less pain, less negativity and less destruction in those two peoples lives.

They wouldn’t carry the baggage from their past relationship (at least not as much) into the rest of their lives and into their new relationships. They would be overall more mentally and emotionally healthy individuals.

Sadly, many of us aren’t rational enough to do conscious uncoupling. Most of us are naturally irrational and neurotic when it comes to love and our feelings for each other. Most of us, even when we know a relationship isn’t working out, stay anyway.

Much of the time we stay in relationships out of fear; fear of being alone, fear of hurting the other person, fear of what the future without that person will look like it. We all have our reasons for why we stay in relationships we really want out of.

We stay and become bitter, or stay and cheat either physically or emotionally. We stay and withdraw love, affection and sex to punish the other person. We stay until the other person does something that makes us leave, something which usually ends up hurting us and thus we usually leave relationships wounded and go into our new lives damaged with a greater risk of entering into a new relationship baring scars from old relationships.

I wish I had the rationale and guts to at least try conscious uncoupling in my previous relationships. It would have saved them and myself much pain, heartache, regret and sorrow, but I didn’t out of fear.

Conscious uncoupling takes audacity, a healthy overall sense of self, and I think for it to work successfully for both people, it takes two people who already have not only a healthy sense of who they are as individuals, but also have an overall healthy relationship with great communication to start with.

You may be thinking, if they had  a healthy relationship and great communication, then what was the problem? The problem could be anything. We don’t have to be in bad relationships to decide that it should end. We don’t have to be in good relationships and then consciously or unconsciously make them bad so that we have a reason to leave. We can practice conscious uncoupling as a healthy way to end a relationship while keeping us whole.

For more detailed information, and if you have 50 minutes, you can watch psychotherapist and author Katherine Woodward Thomas discuss conscious uncoupling. She specializes in “the art of completion” which she says is  “a proven process for lovingly completing a relationship that will leave you feeling whole and healed and at peace”

From experience I know that it hurts when relationships ends, but conscious uncoupling reminds me that it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Absent Fathers Can Lead To Depression In Teenage Girls

0e1380145_istock000002757055mFather’s Day is coming up and I recently read a study out of the United Kingdom published in the journal Psychological Medicine that suggests that young girls who grow up without their fathers turn into depressed teenagers later in life.

It’s well known that depression tends to effect teenage girls much more than teenage boys and that trend stays the same throughout adulthood. New research is suggesting that when young girls  grow up without their fathers, the risk of depression increases with 23% of teenage girls showing signs of tiredness or sadness if they’re separated from their father before the age of five.

According to the study, it also makes them 50% more likely to develop other mental health problems compared to girls whose fathers remained in their lives.

Preschoolers are especially vulnerable with dealing with divorce and separation poorly because they generally do not have a support system of peers or family members.

I took a quick survey of five teenage girls I am working with who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, bulimia  and substance abuse and four out of five of them were abandoned by or separated from their father at an early age. Some through death, others through divorce or separation.

Many of the teenage girls I work with are suffering from “daddy issues” and are dealing with them in unhealthy ways. Some through self-hatred, others through drugs and alcohol or being extremely promiscuous and unstable in terms of dating and relationships.

Boys tend to handle absent fathers better according to the study, but I would like to suggest that they just express themselves differently and may not show signs of depression we typically look for. Instead boys may be angry, “troubled kids”, or become more withdrawn and reckless. I also think boys have more outlets to let out their frustrations through rough housing, sports and other physical activities.

Both older boys and girls tend to handle separation and divorce better with less instances of depression later in their teenage years, but working with teenagers I have no doubt that the effects of growing up without an attentive and active father are powerful and far reaching.

This is not to say that separation from their father at an early age definitely leads to depression in teenage girls. There are too many other factors such as economic  and social factors that also need to be taken into consideration. Also, girls tend to be more susceptible to personal negative events than boys which can lead to episodes of depression.

I think the take away from this research is not to stay in unhealthy or undesired relationships for the sake of the children because that can also have detrimental effects, but I think it suggests that we need to pay closer attention to young girls who have been separated from their fathers as parents and as those who work with children.

Fathers should stick around and be active in their daughters lives, even if the relationship with the mother has failed. A lot of time men think that they don’t have to be as involved with their daughters, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Mothers on the other hand shouldn’t gloss over the fact that their young girl is growing up without a father and should start looking for signs of emotional or behavioral stress or changes that may warrant attention such as individual, family or group counseling.

The most erratic and unstable young women I work with tend to be the ones who grew up without their fathers and I can only wonder that if they still had good relationships with an active and supportive father, if they wouldn’t be more stable and focused.