Here's What We're Supposed to Say...
Marriage is about a lot more than looks. It's shallow to use fitness as a criterion for mate material! Marriage is about communication, bonding, friendship, and intimacy, not abs and clean eating!
With That Out of the Way...
Now that we've virtue signaled and let the world know that we're not superficial narcissists, can we get real for a second?
Fit people make great wives and husbands. 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 lists.
Hey, divorce sucks. And if this quality helps keep the odds forever in your favor, then it's not at all shallow or selfish to add "fit" to your list of wants when it comes to selecting a spouse. Maybe it isn't at the top of the list, but it should be in the top five. Here's why.
1 – Fit marriages are less likely to become fat marriages. And fatness can lead to divorce.
Okay, that does seem shallow, doesn't it? But it's really not. 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. Yeah, yeah, beauty at every size... but here in the real world 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 and 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 finding I'm not attracted to him and thinking of leaving him."
Damn, girl. That's cold. But let's dig deeper.
Weight gain can lead to, or at least exacerbate, depressive symptoms and low self-esteem. Those things can lead to mood and behavioral changes, resentment, and arguments. In short, 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.
2 – Fit men make more money.
Women are often criticized for wanting to marry a man who either has money or has the kind of intelligence and drive that would allow him to make money in the future. This criticism is, as the saying goes, so much bullshit.
Husbands are usually the primary sources of income, especially after kids come along. And since arguments over money (or the lack thereof) is the number two indicator of impending divorce, not marrying a lazy guy is a perfectly acceptable and smart criterion for husband picking.
Despite the hip hop mantra, "Mo money, mo problems" and phrases like "Money doesn't buy happiness," new studies show that people with comfy bank accounts are generally happier. (It's not so much about the stuff they can buy, but the security that money provides.)
What does this have to do with fitness? Well, one study 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" – one that transcends the gym, like climbing up the career ladder and having a strong work ethic.
The math is simple: More money = fewer problems, or having the financial resources to solve those problems quickly. Fewer problems = happier marriage. Fit dudes usually make more money. As Forrest Gump said when he found out he was rich, one less thing to worry about.
3 – Fit people know how to stay fit.
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 a divorce. The researchers cited incompatible lifestyles as one possible cause, but sometimes jealousy (on the part of the fatter spouse) and nagging (on the part of the leaner spouse) were issues too.
Head these problems off at the pass and marry a person who knows what to do if weight gain sneaks up on them.
4 – Sex is more frequent and more satisfying.
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.
Who would've thought that a passionless marriage where you and your spouse have become nothing but co-parenting roommates could be troublesome?
The good news is, several studies have shown that fit people have more sex than unfit people. And married people actually 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 of course.
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.
5 – A fit spouse is the world's best motivator.
You know that Jim Rohn 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 groups of five. And if he or she is serious about staying healthy and strong, their 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 attractive or desirable than a non-fit person... and other people may notice. This is a little scary for the 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" then 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.
6 – Fit spouses live longer.
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 his or her best to make it to that front porch swing with you.
7 – Fit people are usually happier.
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 – either to a gym, a class, or CrossFit box, or to the greater "fitfam" 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.
8 – You want to marry someone who shares your passion.
Australian researchers wanted to find out the key to long marriages. After studying thousands of happily married geriatrics, they concluded that it all comes to 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 and trains together often gets frisky together. You know, the most fun shared experience.
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 the other person to adopt our fitness lifestyle. Sometimes we can and that's great. Try it, by all means. 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 his or her 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, Young. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 7, October 5, 2004
- Bruze et al. Weighty Dynamics: Exploring Couples' Perceptions of Post-Weight-Loss Interaction. Health Communication, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.736467