being in a happy relationship can make you fat
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
January 23, 2024 ·  4 min read

Being in a Happy Relationship is Making You Fat, Scientist Confirms

This article was originally published on October 24, 2018, and has since been updated.

If you’re married or have been in a long-term relationship, someone over the years has probably half-joked about the weight gain they experienced in the first year or two (or ten). Some people chalk it up to routine, some say they eat (and snack) more, others stop going to the gym and cozy up to their comfortable routines.

Whatever the reason, researchers wanted to know if relationship weight gain was a real thing – and apparently it is. Over the last few years, there have been two studies in particular suggesting that, yes, the thing(s) you love most in life will lead to extra pounds and love handles to prove it!

Can Marital Satisfaction Predict Weight Gain?

Some believe it can, but others aren’t convinced. Earlier research seems to suggest that people who are satisfied in and with their relationships are generally healthier. In other words, happy wife, healthy life. Researchers call this the health regulation model.

But, researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas joined 169 newlywed couples on their marital journeys for four years and found something quite the opposite. Over the course of the study, spouses shared information eight times about their: [1]

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Stress
  • Steps toward divorce

In contrast to the health regulation model, something called the mating market model turned out to be truer of the couples’ weight gain. This model suggests that people who are less happy with their relationship are more likely to try to lose weight. Researchers say this is because they have a desire to attract a (new) mate. [1] Therefore, spouses that are satisfied with their relationship are actually less likely to watch their weight because they are aren’t looking to leave their partner – they’re happy and comfortable with how things have gone so far in their marriage.

“Satisfaction is positively associated with weight gain,” says lead researcher, Andrea Meltzer. [2] “Spouses who are more satisfied tend to gain more weight, and spouses who are less satisfied tend to gain less weight.”

At the beginning of the study, husbands had a slightly overweight body-mass index (BMI) of 26 and wives had a healthy BMI of 23.

“For each unit of increase in satisfaction found, either by the person or the partner, a 0.12 increase in BMI occurred every six months, on average,” said Meltzer. [2]

Happy in Marriage, Heavier on the Scale

Pigs - Weight gain meme

Another study spanning 10 years was published February 2018 in PLOS One and collected data from 15,001 Australians. [3] Researchers wanted to find out if people in relationships were more likely to gain weight (and potentially become overweight or obese) than individuals who were single.

From a bird’s eye view, lead researcher Stephanie Schoeppe and her team found that single individuals had an average weight gain of 1.8 kg a year, whereas couples had an average 5.8 kg weight gain. [3] But, why is this the case?

Interestingly, the data from 2005-2014 revealed that although couples smoke less, drink less alcohol, watch less television and eat less fast food than single people, couples still weighed more. Schoeppe also suggests that not having to date and constantly “look your best” may contribute to relationship weight gain.

“When Couples don’t need to look attractive and slim to attract a partner, they may feel more comfortable in eating more, or eating more foods high in fat and sugar. When couples have children in the household, they tend to eat the children’s leftovers or snacks.” [4]

An overweight man and woman exercising

Of course, there are many factors that come into play when determining the cause of one’s weight gain – as a single person or a couple. This could include:

  • Stress
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Amount of daily physical activity
  • Everyday habits (e.g., sit-down job, lots of television)

Whatever may the root cause(s), it’s important for people – especially couples – to create an environment that helps foster a healthy lifestyle. It may seem challenging, but it will likely increase not only the longevity of your relationship, but your life.

Being in a happy relationship is making you fat - Cartoon Poster


  1. [1] Meltzer, A. L., Novak, S. A., McNulty, J. K., Butler, E. A., & Karney, B. R. Marital satisfaction predicts weight gain in early marriage. Retrieved from
  2. Doheny, K. Happy in Marriage, Heavier on the Scale? Retrieved from
  3. Schoeppe, S., Vandelanotte, C., Rebar, A. L., Hayman, M., Duncan, M. J., & Alley, S. J. (n.d.). Do singles or couples live healthier lifestyles? Trends in Queensland between 2005-2014. Retrieved from
  4. Beres, D. Relationships really do lead to weight gain, study finds. Retrieved from