A University of Hawaii professor who lectures and researches on the topic of eating disorders and obesity has recently released an article about the quality of the romantic relationships of overweight men and women and has disclosed the existence of a surprising difference between the partners’ perception of the quality and longevity of those relationships.
The professor, who had previously lectured at university in New Zealand, teamed up with a practicing female New Zealand clinical psychologist to study if body mass index (BMI), actual body weight, and body image had an affect on the quality and longevity of romantic relationships of overweight men and women, and how each of the partners in those relationships perceived those factors. They studied 57 New Zealand couples for relationship quality and for the perceptions that each partner had of the other partner during the period of the relationship.
They found that the majority of heavier women did not perceive that their relationship with their male partner would be long standing. The researchers also found that heavier women partnered with less desirable men, although the study summary did not provide any details on how desirability was measured, and they also perceived that their male partner’s rated them as less warm and trustworthy.
Either as a self-fulfilling prophecy, or because the perceptions of the women who participated in the study were correct, the male partners of the heavier women rated them as a poor match for their idealized female companion although the male partners did not tell the researchers that this poor match was a factor in their perception of the longevity of the relationship. A surprising finding was that the body mass index of the male partners was not equally determinative of self esteem or of the male partner’s perception of the potential longevity of the relationship.
Since the researches had concluded that the male partners’ BMI were were not directly causative of relationship functioning, they suspect that their findings could point to a psychological mechanism that contributes to the relationship difficulties of heavier women.
The researches admit however that their results are not the final say on an area of research that has received relatively little attention. Although prejudicial feelings are commonly directed at overweight individuals across society and in almost every social situation their study is one of the very few to examine what role body weight may play within an established romantic relationship, if any. The results of this study suggest that body weight does play a role.