Skinny Wife; Happy Life

Are skinnier wives happier?

Maybe.  If they are skinnier than their husbands, the answer might be “yes.”

Research conducted by the University of Tennessee (and published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science) shows that marital satisfaction is higher for BOTH partners when the wife is at least somewhat thinner (as measured by BMI) than her spouse.

The study shows that the weight of the women doesn’t matter:  they don’t need to be thin in absolute terms.  Just thinner than their hubbies.  The research author suggested that there is an evolutionary basis to men’s initial satisfaction with a relatively thin wife because women with a lower BMI may be more fertile.  As for why the wives are happier, the author suggests it is because their husbands are.

Husbands were found to be more satisfied when their wives had lower BMIs than they themselves and that wives with lower BMIs than their husbands stayed more satisfied over time.

After I heard this, my immediate reaction was to calculate and compare my BMI to my that of my own dear husband.  Mine’s lower:)  But maybe it wasn’t always that way.

I met my husband in grad school.  I was reasonably “thin” but he was downright “you can see his ribs if you look hard enough” skinny at the time.  We were in our early and mid-20s, respectively.  Once we started dating and eating together, I gained weight because I was eating what he was eating, foods and quantities I hadn’t eaten on my own, like pizza and tuna noodle casserole.  But, at some point I took off that extra weight and I adapted to eating as part of a couple, without it leading to further gaining.  Then, not long after our official engagement, boom, unexpectedly my dad died.  And for the first time in my life I lost weight because of stress, rather than gaining.  The honeymoon brought a couple extra pounds back.  Then, over the following years, up and down and up and up and down and up and down.

My husband, probably due in large part to joining corporate America and no longer exercising like he had while in school, slowly gained weight himself.  And had his own ups and downs in the decades since.  I haven’t seen his ribs in years:)

I love my husband regardless of what he weighs.  And I’m pretty sure he feels the same about me.  Do I wish we were both fit and trim?  Sure.  Do I wish we could eat whatever we wanted and still be fit and trim?  Yes.  Do I also wish that my husband followed the same eating plan as me and didn’t bring “crap” into the house.  Indubitably.  But I also wish we’d win the lottery.

Let me be very clear – in no way do I intend this post to blame him for any of my own issues with weight or dieting or food or the like.  Over the years he has been both my partner in crime, like when I wanted to go for frozen custard and/or a fattening meal, and a tremendous support, like when I asked him to avoid bringing certain tempting foods into the house.  I’m sure it’s been hard for him.  Having a yo-yo dieter for a wife.  But, without a doubt, I’d find maintaining healthy eating easier if he didn’t still bring “off plan” food home (even though he often does his best to hide them from me).  Sometimes I can easily resist.  Sometimes I fall prey to the siren call and give in.  Sometimes I struggle so hard to resist that I eat all sorts of other foods instead.  But I think what might frustrate me most, right now, is that he is somehow managing to slowly lose weight while indulging in (what I think most people would agree are) large portions of “unhealthy foods” like pizza and ice cream and candy.  Oh my.

He’s doing his thing.  I’m doing mine.  My thing would be easier if his thing was the same thing.  But, marriage is all about compromise and we each already do plenty of that.  This post, which admittedly digressed a bit into our different “diet” lifestyles, isn’t about that at all.  It’s about asking myself if his – or MY – size matters.  Not what we eat… but the end result to our respective bodies.

Would it bother me if he was thinner than I?  I can honestly say I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  But, maybe.  Or maybe it would be motivation.  Weight aside, what I can tell you is that being a petite woman with a tall husband has always made me feel safe and protected.  But maybe that’s more because of the person he is than his size:)

What are your thoughts about that study?  Do you ever consider anyone else’s size relative to your own?  Do you know your BMI?





Filed under body and/or body image, dieting, emotions/emotional issues, family, influence of others

76 responses to “Skinny Wife; Happy Life

  1. I don’t know my own BMI – I can’t even think to estimate it, I sometimes try to estimate my weight but give up, its just too hard to do.I’m just not interested enough to weigh and find out.
    I can totally connect with the idea of being protected by a taller man but its not just for the petite. My ex is 6’4 and I am just under 6′ and no bit of me has every been described as petite but he made me feel safe in his arms, always
    I never blamed him for my food choices – he too was my partner in some fitness drives, my partner in crime in bad food choices and must have found my yo-yo dieting a challenge but never ever said so.
    My issues with food are my responsibility alone
    Great post

  2. Miz

    dont know my BMI
    I disagree with the study but am a weetad sad the older I get the more I “get” the ‘if mama aint happy aint nobody happy’
    that one can play out here with some frequency.
    and that one, when it plays out here with some frequency, is NOT weight related 🙂

  3. I’m no expert, but you both look fit and healthy (and happy!) in that photo.

    I know my BMI, but I don’t know anyone else’s (and don’t want to.) Life is easier for me that way. 🙂

    • Karen

      🙂 That was on his 50th birthday trip last year and I was at a very comfortable weight. AND, I had a new swimsuit for the trip since we were traveling with other people.

  4. Honestly, when I first read about that study, I thought we were back to the fifties. ^^

  5. Is that the two of you in the photo Karen? You both look great (though it could be complete strangers!!!)

    I’m single so don’t have this issue but DO very much have a problem with my weight in relation to potential partners. When I used to date and go to bars etc I felt very uncomfortable around men, feeling fat and revolting and knowing they had little interest in me.

    I hope that changes sometime….

  6. Popped in from SITS! My husband just lost 60 lbs and wants to lose 5 more, so it’s been a long road. It’s hard for me because I like cooking and I have to stick to healthy things, no more treats or fun meals like when we cooked when we were married. And lunches out ar emore healthy than treats….but the constant talk about weight and dieting screws with my head, esp. around that time of the month when I retain water like Shamu. It makes me feel like because he’s so proud of how trim I am that 5 lbs is a disaster.

    • Karen

      That’s quite an accomplishment for him! He’s lucky that you are there to cook healthy meals for him. I wish I liked to cook:(

  7. John always says he is a “Fit to the Finish failure” because he does need to lose weight. I love him no matter what, but I do wish he would take time to exercise and eat better when he’s not at home. So difficult! You look amazing!

    • Karen

      My husband kicks “you know what” with his exercise:) I consider him a lifelong athlete; unlike me he was big into sports in school and growing up.

  8. I’m not in a relationship right now; so, it’s hard to say. But I can say that as I consider who I’d get involved with now, it would have to be someone committed to living a relatively healthy life. I’m all for working toward the 85%/15% plan of mostly healthy with some indulgence. So I don’t need a health freak, but I certainly couldn’t be with someone who wanted to eat fast food. That stuff is just plain deadly. I would love someone no matter what, but in embarking on a new relationship, it would have to be someone who’s on at least a similar path… one that’s generally healthy.

  9. Karen, you two look GREAT! But like you & your hubby, same here. My hubby & I eat totally different but it had always been that way so I am used to it & we do our own thing. He does eat healthier now than when he was younger but he still likes different things.

    I read & hear a lot about this & the stats always show that way more men would leave their wives than women leave the husbands if the wife got heavy … why does that not surprise me…

    • Karen

      Thanks:) That was a new swimsuit for the trip and I felt much better in it than I have in other suits. Maybe thanks to the bit of padding up top:) Makes the middle look smaller with some boob action going on, IMO.

  10. My husband is always the “friendly saboteur.” He always constantly encourages me to eat more. He says, “you look hungry,” to me every day. When I tell him that he sabotages my effort, he says, “I just care about you.” I reply, “Well, if I thought you were an enemy, I wouldn’t listen to you, would I!”

    The whole point of that above: It’s the friendly saboteurs who are most convincing. We’d never let a spiteful enemy convince us to do anything. We’d instantly be suspicious of why an enemy wanted us to eat a high calorie food.

    So, when I am tired, husband is extremely convincing. I did not have a person encouraging food (i.e. gooey pizza and other high-cal treats) all the time before getting married. When I am not tired, I tend to think more for myself and eat rationally. Being married to an all-you-can-eat-buffet-everyday guy has taken a toll on my weight. If I was a stronger person, I’d deflect all the food offerings better.

    🙂 Marion

    • Karen

      It’s so hard! The smell of pizza. Ah. And for me it is sometimes that I almost resent that there is ice cream in the freezer and I know it. Sigh.

  11. KLA

    Right now I’m heavier than my husband, but I’m closing in on that goal. I absolutely hate weighing more than my hubby, but then again, he didn’t go through two pregnancies either.

    I’m lucky though, weight has never been an issue in our marriage, I can’t imagine how much worse my anxiety related eating would be if he did care.

    I don’t consider my BMI at all. It’s a measurement intended for populations rather than individuals. The part about the study that irritates me is the conclusion, “As for why the wives are happier, the author suggests it is because their husbands are.” Was the author of the study a man perchance??

    • Karen

      I have to really give mine props for never ever making me feel uncomfortable about my weight or appearance. That is something I did all by myself:(

      I have to admit that I get the part you don’t. When my husband is happy, it spills over into everything. Makes me feel better too.

  12. I think there is some truth in that study just because when we are at a healthier BMI, I believe we are overall more satisfied with the path of our lives. We can do more fitness and activity wise and have more stamina.

    • Karen

      It would be interesting to study couples who exercise together. I think that’s been something I’ve really enjoyed in the past couple of years since my husband and I have been doing that.

  13. I must confess to feeling extra shame at being heavier than my husband, especially because he is a full foot taller than I am. I was so relieved to pass him on the scale. I bet his BMI is lower than mine, but pound-wise, I’m lower than he is, and determined to stay that way.

    I feel torn – he ate out tons while I was on my liquid-only diet, which made him gain weight. On the other hand, he’s an adult, he knows how to cook (and even likes it), and I can’t take responsibility for what he eats any more than he can take it for what I eat. We do our best to support each other, we struggle, and sometimes, we do better than other times. He’s always loved me no matter my weight, and tells me I’m beautiful. I’m not sure he’s beautiful 😉 but I’d never let his weight, up or down, be something that came between us.

  14. I told 65MD before we married that I didn’t care how much he weighed as long as it was more than me. Once I realized I passed him, it was time to get serious.

    I mentioned at work recently that I’d made that remark to my husband. We all got a big laugh, but everyone seemed to agree they felt that way too.

  15. You gotta love drawing inspiration from Lois and Peter Griffin. 🙂 Whether from vanity or just not being attracted the rail-thin guys, I’ve always had a rule about never dating a guy who was skinnier than me. Back when I was at my heaviest, my husband at the time was just as overweight too, so I think we probably prompted each other to overeat like crazy. My boyfriend now outweighs me by 80 pounds, but he’s 8 inch taller and rows on a crew team, so much of that is muscle. BTW, cute photo of you and the hubby!

  16. You both look great in the picture! You look positively petite, and he is quite handsome! My husband is much leaner than I, though he’s added about 10 pounds in the last few years that actually make him look less severe…softer around the edges (which he totally is anyway, but now he looks it!). 🙂

    • Karen

      Thanks:) I think men gain differently too than women. Okay, some get that beer belly thing. But most seem to gain all over so it is not as obvious as with women where it seems to go straight to the hips or belly, pear or apple.

  17. I don’t know what my BMI is. I knew what it was when I was obese but now I don’t care. I’m fit, I’m healthy. I’ve maintained my weight loss for over 3 years now. I care less about the numbers than I used to.

  18. I love the photo of you and your husband!
    I can honestly say that it bothered me when I was bigger than my husband. I was embarrassed by it. I didn’t want him to pick me up and swing me around like I love watching in the movies. Now- I want him to pick me up and swing away!!! 🙂 (until I get dizzy and queasy)

  19. Jan

    Great photo of you two! (Dang he is tall.)
    WARNING. Below is a critique of the study. Stop now or maybe read the study and let’s have a discussion.

    First a bias of my own. BMI = Bullsh!t Measure of Insecurity.

    The study followed 165 couples for 4 years. They were in their early to mid-twenties, 42% were full-time students, and 94% where White. (Get where I’m going? They are not very representative of the world.)

    BMI was calculated from the participants’ self-report of height & weight. The measures of marital satisfaction were mailed to the couples who completed them away from the eyes of the investigators – meaning they could have done them together, alone, who knows. (Self-reported weight/height, allowing them to do surveys in non-controlled environments = poor form.)

    Numerous fancy statistics were done and accounted for depression, education, income, and divorce. The problem I had with the stats section is that the statistical significance was interpreted with a bias. The researchers choose the direction that they expected the results to go, thus increasing the chance of finding statistical significance over time. (Table 4.) Again, poor form.

    The best thing to do is to look at the figure at the end of the study. Everybody grew more disastisfed with their marriage over time. The change for husbands was the same regardless of who weighed more. Wives worsening satisfaction over time did matter depending on who weighed more. (Husband BMI > Wife BMI, least change.) Remember these are young, White, hetereosexuals, many of whom are students. The authors had a clear bias and set out to prove it. They did – kinda of, a little bit. The amount of effect of BMI difference, even then, was not that great. Neither was the study.

    Karen, thanks for the link. I enjoy exercising my brain. Forwarding this to my friends who conduct such relational research for their response.

    • Karen

      Oh you cracked me up! I actually thought it was just a good jumping off point for a post. I did see that about the participants though. Who comes up with these things?

  20. Yes, I know my BMI, but I’ll never share it! I do think I’ll be healthier if I lower it. That’sy goal!

  21. Yes, I know my BMI a number which I think, is more important than the actual weight. I know what is the mid-point of “normal” BMI for my height and the number of pounds I need to lose to get there.

    I don’t know about the survey, but I can certainly say from personal experience that size has made no difference whatsoever in the happiness level of my marriage. I’ve been skinnier and I’ve been heavier. Sure would make me sad if I thought either my feelings or my spouses hinged in any way, on either of our sizes.

    • Karen

      I never pay much attention to my BMI but when I log my weight in fitday, there is scale that always shows. Funny that I tend to focus on the other number more than BMI. I know Dr. Oz is a big BMI fan.

  22. HAR! I was just discussing this with Mr. Munchberry. He likes to recall that we were the same weight as one another when we married. I like to remind him that I am 2 inches taller than he and that I also have dangly lady parts and a fibroid the size of a three month embryo to contend with now. For some reason it shuts him right up about weight.

    But seriously. I did weigh the same as him and then proceeded to gain over a hundred pounds. You can imagine my reticence about discussing my weight. I guess I thought not mentioning it equaled nobody noticing.

    I think it does make for a happy husband. My husband would LOVE me to be thinner than he is. Why wouldn’t he? Oh he would hate like hell what I had to do to maintain that because that would mean no beer or a parade of munchies for him. He definitely hates that part of my losing my poufiness. But he also does not like the poufiness (but is graceful enough not to complain in an ugly or hurtful way – bless him). I know he will be THRILLED at the idea of… me taking a more upper role in um a way I might not want to as a larger girl for fear of crushing him. LOL

    Yeah, I had to go there. Yeah, smaller or equal BMI would be greatly appreciated.

    • Karen

      LOL. Well, I have very little lady part weight but I do have a large fibroid so maybe I can start subtracting weight for that? Actually, I do wonder if it is part of my widening middle problem, along with the age thing. Well, I know that when I am more comfortable with my weight I am happier with myself and more comfortable with my body…

  23. My husband is tall and thin (6’4″ and around 190 pounds…his weight has been rather stable although there are times when he loses) and although he’s not in “great shape” fitness-wise, especially since he quit kickboxing. At my heaviest (~230 and I am 5’6″) I called us “spaghetti and meatball.” I’ll never forget the day when I finally weighed less than he did, although I never told him that I weighed more, UNTIL I weighed less.

    As for the happy thing, I can only speak for myself: when I lost weight I became happier with myself and more accepting of myself and my husband was thrilled because I became happier and more accepting of everything. He became more affectionate with me, not because I was thinner, but because I was more affectionate with myself.

    Since then, I have tried not to let the number on the scale dictate my happiness and I have mostly succeeded. And my marriage continues to be strong and healthy.

  24. Love the photo of the two of you!!!
    I have always managed to weigh less than my husband. Now BMI wise… I’m more. But at least the number was something to hold on to. Brief period of last year aside when I was more than him. It was awful for me.
    He doesn’t seem to care.
    Intersting study.
    And nice use of the word, “indubitably.”

  25. Interesting study. Your “Family Guy” cartoon caught my attention because isn’t this the way things are on *most* sitcoms? In that context I thinks it more woman-bashing by media–your husband can be a fat slob but you need to wear the skinny jeans in the family.

    Not only did my husb have a lower BMI than me when we met, he weighed less in actual pounds too! Obviously, that didn’t stop us from falling in love, getting married and living happily ever after. His weight may have fluctuated a bit, but he’s still slim. Now I am too, but I think the only reason that might make us a happier couple is because I feel better about mysef.

    • Karen

      I once read something about the unrealistic representation how on TV there were so many “hot” women with less attractive men. There were several sitcoms like that at the time; it was several years ago.

  26. When I was married to my practice husband he was 6 foot 6 inches tall and I am 5 foot 2 inches tall. I always felt like he was kind of like my knight in shining armor, ready to whisk me away from any potential trouble. My husband today clocks in at 5 foot 9 and I’ve realized that size doesn’t matter as much as the honesty. I will admit though, it did take a while to get used to. You and your hubby look so darned cute in that photo, Karen!

  27. Karen, I’m married to a slim guy and hate it. Funny you should bring this up! It’s one of my pet peeves! Since I’m 5’6 and at an excellent weight for me (135) I’m not really going anywhere, but, just my luck, my husband is 5’10 and weighs 155. I only have a twenty pound edge on him and when you take into account the height there’s really nothing. I should have fallen in love with a gigantic bear. 🙂 I guess since it’s been 20 years (over 18 of marriage) I’ll just have to put up with it!

  28. What an incredible picture. You guys look so happy!

  29. Maybe they took this survey immediately after he carried her over the thresh-hold?

    That would explain their results 🙂

  30. I found it just darn near perfect when I could put on Jim’s jeans and they fit. I found even more perfect when last month I put them on and I can put both my arms in there with me. But he’s 6’4″ tall and 200 lbs, I’m 5’6″ tall and 180 lbs so really he’s in better shape then me weight wise. I can run circles around him most days but he’s inside at work all day and I get to do my stuff outside/inside or where I want to be with my wee ones. I’m lucky. It is cool 18 months ago his jeans wouldn’t button and today two arms. So hummm, I don’t think I answered the question though but that’s my thoughts.
    Have a blessed day Karen.

  31. I have always been heavier than my fiance. I have gained weight since we met since I do the cooking and the man cried when I first made him dinner. Cried. (How can you not always cook delicious fattening food when you get a response like that?)

    He’s never gained an ounce and maintains about about 25 lbs underweight. I’ve got a decently sized cat around my midsection I’m willing to sacrifice, but it’s hard because he’s trying so hard to gain weight and I’m really trying to do the opposite.

    Of the two of us, I’m the one who cares (and bless his bony, bony bottom for that), but I think the article is probably on point – ladies tend to be hard on themselves.

  32. what can i say everyone in my house is skinnier then me but they eat more it’s unfair

  33. Wow! What an interesting post!

    The old BF+ has always been active – strong, lifts weights, active work, burly, eats well – not “lean thin” per se – but strong/healthy. But my god – he EATS!

    It kills me…. some time with him and we’re eating out and I’m eating food that I’d never eat on my own and and and.

    I think I’ll blame him. hehehe

    What I really appreciate about him is that he’s very supportive of my working out – not cuz he wants me to have a tight little arse, but because he wants me to be happy and healthy and he knows I FEEL better when I do. In terms of the food, he doesn’t “get” that I try to cut back on carbs/starches etc cuz he doesn’t have to. He can eat ANYTHING…

    Its rotten… I think I’ll still blame him.

    Just kidding 🙂

    • Karen

      Mine is very supportive of any exercise too. AND, my workout partner for most of my cardio:) But when he tells me how many calories the treadmill says he burns I get green with envy… almost.

  34. Karen I could have wrote this post! This is practically my story. My hubby was so thin when we got married and I was at a happy weight but not exercising so I was not firm lets say. I had jiggly parts here and there!

    We were on a limited budget and so we ate lots of pasta and fattening foods -including tuna casserole! I gained weight, he didn’t. I didn’t like being wider than him – it made me feel less feminine.

    He has loved me through thick and thin – through all of my years of yo yo dieting. He never gained any weight until his mid to late 40’s. But back then he could drop 5 pounds in a week with little effort. It’s not so easy now for him to lose weight.

    I worry more about the health issues associated with our lifestyle and diet and less about appearances. Don’t get me wrong we both prefer to be at our happy weight but only if it means we are also eating healthy.

    We both have great BMI’s but we would still like to weigh a little less and be more firm with no jiggly parts!

    By the way you both look fit and healthy!

    • Karen

      You have a great focus, Tami. I do worry about the health part too… as evidenced with my recent nagging at my poor husband since finding out his Tootsie Rolls have trans fats!

  35. For the first time in…. EVER (well no maybe a long time) I weigh less than my husband. I did weigh less than him when we got together as well- but over time I gained over 50 lbs while HE stayed the same. Now that he’s up in the 210s and I’m in the 190s I won’t lie- it makes me HAPPY. For him he’s probably a few lbs overweight while I’m still quite overweight! 😦 But again- happy I weigh less than him! 😀

  36. BTW I have no idea how to change those settings on my blog you asked me to- what do you mean in a reader? What are you reading blogs with? I’d like to change it!

  37. WOW Karen you are so thin and tiny!!!

    I am married to a very thin man, he’s always been skinnier than me even now that I am at goal weight. It use to bother me, but no more. I am content and happy with myself so I no longer judge myself by others sizes.

  38. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that maybe the researchers have their conclusion backwards! If there is any genetic link to who we choose as a mate and why – it would be easy to draw the conclusion that women would naturally be attracted to men that are larger than them (in any way) because that man would be able to protect her and the family. There has been psychological musings (not sure if it’s been researched and proven but it’s been talked about) regarding men being drawn to women for certain physical attributes that represent fertility (like shiny hair, big busts, etc).

    If this is true, then choosing a bigger mate doesn’t have to have anything to do with a women’s self-esteem, confidence, or self-acceptance. It may be as natural as being attracted to a certain type of a man just because it’s an inborn preference. And, for the same reasons that we’re not all attracted to the same kind of man, this preference doesn’t apply to everyone.

    This then links directly to “if mama’s happy, everyone’s happy”, and it comes full circle to the husband’s happiness!

  39. My mind is anti-diet although my body desperately needs it. So I just feed my husband his favorite foods so he’ll always be bigger then me. LOL.

  40. Happy SITS day! You have some great posts here!

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