How to Increase Relationship Success
Marriage is about a lot more than looks. It's shallow to use fitness as a criterion for mate material and relationship success. Marriage is about communication, bonding, friendship, and intimacy, not abs!
Okay, now that we've let the world know that we're not superficial narcissists, can we get real for a second? Fit people make the best spouses. And if you're into fitness, lifting, and healthy eating, you'll avoid a lot of future problems by marrying someone who also puts these things high on their priority list.
Hey, divorce sucks. And if this quality helps put the odds in your favor, then it's not at all shallow or selfish to add "fit" to your list of spouse goals. Maybe it isn't at the top of the list, but it should be in the top five. Here's why.
When one spouse gains a lot of weight, this often cascades into several other marriage-straining issues. The first issue is obvious: most people aren't attracted to very overweight individuals. We're biologically hardwired to be more attracted to health. And getting too fat is unhealthy.
Google one of those "Top 10 Causes of Divorce" lists. Money and infidelity issues are always at the top but look further down the list. What do you see? Weight gain.
When relationship columnist David Eddie scoured anonymous relationship-help forums, he found something surprising. Most of the people who were unhappy with their rapidly expanding spouses were women. Here's an example:
"I love my husband, but he's become a tubby hubby and refuses to do anything about it. Now I'm not attracted to him, and I'm thinking of leaving."
Damn, girl. That's cold. But let's dig deeper.
Weight gain can lead to or exacerbate depressive symptoms and self-esteem issues. Those things can lead to mood and behavioral changes, resentment, and arguments. The person you married may start acting like someone you didn't marry. So it's not entirely a superficial issue.
The overweight spouse might also lose his or her sex drive. Women can become so self-critical that they don't feel attractive or even worthy of your attraction. For men, getting too fat and out of shape can cause erectile dysfunction. And a dormant sex life leads to the erosion of intimacy and feelings of being unwanted.
While physical attraction isn't the most important thing in a marriage, it sure doesn't hurt. So marry someone who hits the gym and cares about nutrition and you'll avoid many of these problems down the road.
Women are often criticized for wanting to marry a man who either has money or has the kind of drive that would help him make money in the future. It's an unfair criticism.
Husbands are usually the primary source of income, especially after kids come along. And since arguments over money (or the lack thereof) are the number two indicator of an impending divorce, not marrying a lazy guy is a perfectly acceptable and smart criterion for husband pickin'.
Despite phrases like "Money doesn't buy happiness," new studies show that people with comfy bank accounts are generally happier. It's not about the stuff they can buy, but the security that money provides.
What does this have to do with fitness? One survey conducted by Freeletics showed that fit people generally make more money than unfit people. And the more aggressive their training style, the more money they earn.
It's a bit of a chicken/egg scenario, though. Working out hard doesn't automatically mean your income will increase. But the discipline and drive it takes to kick butt in the gym often shows that the person has an "achievement attitude" that transcends the gym, like having a strong work ethic.
The formula is simple:
- More money = fewer problems (or having the financial resources to solve those problems quickly).
- Fewer problems = happier marriage.
Most people gain some weight after marriage, even fit people. That's not a marriage ender, of course, but when one spouse loses the weight and the other doesn't, it can lead to problems.
One Swedish study found that when one half of the marriage loses weight and the other doesn't, the couple has a higher chance of getting divorced. The researchers cited incompatible lifestyles as one possible cause, but sometimes jealousy (on the part of the overweight spouse) and nagging (on the part of the fitter spouse) were issues too.
Head these problems off at the pass and marry someone who knows what to do if weight gain sneaks up on them.
As much as polite society tries to downplay sex when it comes to marital happiness, the sexperts have all concluded that a sexless marriage – or dissatisfaction in the marriage bed – often leads to the kind of trouble that involves hiring two lawyers. A passionless marriage where you and your spouse have become nothing but co-parenting roommates gets troublesome.
The good news is that several studies show that fit people have more sex than unfit people. And married people have MORE sex than single people, despite all that right-swiping that singles do.
Fit people usually feel better about themselves and are more likely to get naked. All their parts work better, too. When you exercise regularly, all the healthy hormones (testosterone, dopamine) are ramped up while the trickier hormones (cortisol) are tamped down if you program wisely.
In one study titled "Sexual Desirability and Sexual Performance: Does Exercise and Fitness Really Matter?" the authors concluded:
"Exercise frequency and physical fitness enhance attractiveness and increase energy levels, both of which make people feel better about themselves. Those who exercise are more likely to experience a greater level of satisfaction and a positive perception of self. Moreover, those who feel better about themselves may perceive they are more sexually desirable and may perform better sexually. The majority of individuals who are regularly physically active are healthier, and perhaps healthier individuals may be more willing and able to have sex."
Lack of intimacy is a common cause of divorce. "Intimacy" can mean more than wrestling in the sheets, but sex is a big part of it. Fit people enjoy sex more, they look better doing it, and they're better at it. All that leads to more intimacy, more closeness, more pre and post-nookie cuddling, and more good feels about the marriage.
You've heard the saying, "We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with." Well, your spouse is your number one peer in that group of five. And if they're serious about staying healthy and strong, that kind of peer pressure, even unspoken, is a very good thing.
A fit spouse keeps you on your toes. You may hit the gym a little more often, choose foods a little more wisely, or just be influenced by your spouse's healthy behaviors.
And here's something you don't hear often: A fit person is generally more desirable than a non-fit person... and other people notice. This is a little scary for their spouse. But that's not a bad thing. It makes you work harder.
It's okay to be a little afraid of losing your wife or husband. We don't want to be too comfortable or we might slack off as spouses, and not just on the physical side of things.
If both halves of the marriage think they "married up," each will try harder. They'll appreciate their spouse more. And, being just a wee bit scared of losing that great catch, they'll make sure THEY stay desirable and healthy, too.
You're in this for life, right? 'Till death do you part? Wanting to grow old together on the porch and all that good stuff?
Well, all that's kinda wrecked if your spouse gets heart disease in their 50's or type 2 diabetes, well, any time. Choose a spouse that does their best to make it to that front porch swing with you.
Want a happy marriage? Marry a happy person. Sure beats being married to someone who's perpetually bitter, angry, or sad.
Studies show that fit people are generally happier. Even if they struggle with depression or down times, they have the tools (exercise, good food, and good supplements) to alleviate or minimize it.
Fit people feel better about themselves, have a better sense of purpose, have more positive social skills, less stress and anxiety or a better ability to cope with those things, and a pleasant feeling of belonging to a community.
Fit people also get a daily dose of endorphins, which boost their moods and contribute to a greater sense of well-being. All that adds up to "more happy," which is a nice quality to have in a spouse.
Australian researchers wanted to find out the key to long marriages. After studying thousands of happily married geriatrics, they concluded that it all comes down to shared experiences.
Going to the gym, being active outdoors, and preparing healthy meals that you eat together are all shared experiences. And since fresh sweat does have some mild aphrodisiacal properties, the couple who plays together often gets frisky together.
All that aside, ever date someone who's NOT remotely into fitness? If you're really into this stuff and the other person isn't, all kinds of problems can arise. Here's one we hear often:
"My girlfriend loves the way I look, but she's starting to nag me about spending time at the gym. She even tries to tempt me with foods that are off my diet! But going to the gym and eating right is HOW I look this way!"
Maybe it's jealousy. Maybe encouraging you to get a little sloppy is her way of keeping the eyes of other women off you. Or maybe there's just not enough of those all-important shared experiences in the relationship.
We often think we can encourage others to adopt our fitness lifestyle. Sometimes we can, and that's great. But what often happens is a mediocre meeting in the middle: your significant other starts to "kinda" get into fitness while you start to adopt some of their bad habits.
This could lead to problems once rings are exchanged. These types might be fine to date for a while, but maybe they're not marriage material if they have a problem with things you're passionate about.
- Penhollow TM et al. Sexual Desirability and Sexual Performance: Does Exercise and Fitness Really Matter? Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. 2004 Oct;7.
- Romo LK et al. Weighty Dynamics: Exploring Couples' Perceptions of Post-Weight-Loss Interaction. Health Commun. 2014;29(2):193-204. PubMed.