Why is Divorce Rate so High after Bariatric Surgery?

Divorce Rate so High after Bariatric Surgery

In recent years, the prevalence of bariatric surgery as a weight-loss solution has surged, offering hope and improved health for those grappling with obesity. While the physical benefits are well-documented, a surprising and somewhat perplexing trend has emerged – an elevated divorce rate among couples post-bariatric surgery. 

This phenomenon has sparked curiosity and concern, prompting researchers to delve into the complexities of relationships after significant weight loss. In this article, we explore what studies reveal about the high divorce rate after bariatric surgery and the various theories seeking to explain this puzzling trend.

What Studies Show on Divorce after Bariatric Surgery

A growing body of research has sought to understand the dynamics of relationships post-bariatric surgery, shedding light on the factors contributing to the higher divorce rates observed in this demographic. 

A study found that the divorce rate after bariatric surgery is nearly double the rate of the general population. This elevated rate is multifaceted and may stem from psychological, emotional, and interpersonal factors.

Also, a research investigation involving 1,441 adults in the United States who underwent either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy procedures between 2006 and 2009 revealed a noteworthy trend. 

This study found that individuals who were married and opted for bariatric surgery had a higher likelihood of experiencing divorce.

Another examination, focusing on 999 obese patients in committed relationships who underwent bariatric surgery, discovered that within four years post-surgery, 9% had experienced divorce or separation, in contrast to 6% in a control group.

One prevalent theme in the studies is the significant impact of the transformation after bariatric surgery. Individuals undergoing such procedures often experience physical changes and a shift in their self-identity and confidence. 

The newfound self-assurance and body image improvements can lead to reevaluating personal priorities and goals, sometimes straining existing relationships.

Furthermore, the emotional toll of weight loss, while positive in many aspects, may unearth pre-existing issues within the relationship. 

The journey of shedding excess weight can be emotionally demanding, and the accompanying emotional turbulence may expose underlying marital challenges that were previously masked or overlooked.

Theories Why Divorce is So High after Bariatric Surgery

The elevated divorce rate following bariatric surgery can be attributed to various factors:

Shift in Power Dynamics

One prevalent theory suggests that substantial changes in physical appearance and self-confidence following bariatric surgery can alter power dynamics within a relationship. 

The partner who undergoes the surgery may experience newfound attention and validation, leading to a shift in the balance of power. This shift can create tension and insecurities within the relationship, contributing to marital discord.

Unresolved Emotional Issues

The emotional rollercoaster accompanying weight loss is not limited to the individual undergoing surgery. Partners may find it challenging to adapt to the psychological changes in their loved ones, mainly if unresolved emotional issues exist within the relationship. 

The weight loss journey may catalyze addressing long-standing problems, and not all couples successfully navigate this process, leading to increased divorce rates.

Mismatched Expectations

Discrepancies in expectations can also play a significant role in the heightened divorce rates after bariatric surgery. 

While one partner may anticipate an enhanced relationship and increased intimacy post-surgery, the other may struggle to adapt to the changes or harbor unrealistic expectations. 

The misalignment in expectations can create frustration and disappointment, ultimately straining the marital bond.

Impact on Intimacy

Physical intimacy is a crucial component of many romantic relationships. Bariatric surgery, while positively impacting overall health, can sometimes lead to changes in physical intimacy dynamics. 

Issues such as mismatched libidos, body image concerns, or performance anxiety may arise, causing strain on the relationship. Couples who fail to address these issues effectively may find their marriage tested.

Lack of Adequate Support Systems

The success of bariatric surgery often hinges on robust support systems. However, if a partner feels overwhelmed or neglected during the post-surgery period, it can contribute to the breakdown of the relationship. 

Insufficient emotional support, coupled with the stress of adjusting to the lifestyle changes that accompany weight loss, may strain the marital bond and lead to divorce.

Preoperative predictors

Certain studies have recognized predictors linked to both marriage and divorce. Elements like age, gender, and pre-existing relationship status have been identified as potential contributors to the increased divorce rates observed post-bariatric surgery.


While bariatric surgery has proven to be a life-changing and transformative solution for many individuals struggling with obesity, its impact on relationships cannot be understated. 

The high divorce rate observed after such procedures underscores the need for open communication, empathy, and mutual understanding among couples facing the challenges of significant weight loss. 

By recognizing and addressing post-bariatric life’s psychological and emotional aspects, couples can work together to navigate this transformative journey, fostering more vital and healthier relationships.

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