Divorcing over weight gain

Let’s take a break from talking about politics, religion, the Casey Anthony trial, and everything else to focus on a question about relationships.

Let me ask you a question: what would cause you to leave your significant other or spouse? Now if you quickly rise up and shout "Nothing!", then you really need to really think about things. So let me ask a question that is a little more pointed: if your significant other started doing things that you know either is or would have serious adverse effects upon their health, would you leave them if they refused to change? This could include significant and seemingly uncontrolled weight gain, drug use or out-of-control drinking.

This question comes from a user contribution to Yahoo! Shine: "Is her weight gain good reason for his goodbye?"

Basically the question comes down to this: if your significant other refuses to change away from their knowingly self-destructive behavior, would you leave them? "Letting yourself go", typically meaning putting on a significant amount of weight, is self-destructive behavior. Now the definition of "significant" is certainly up to you.

One thing that rather boggles my mind is how many people are ready to demonize the guy mentioned in the above linked article, who is referred to as "Bob", who left his wife "Jane" after she put on a significant amount of weight. Now he allegedly referred to her in less-than-kind terms. One person, named "annie", did withhold judgment because of the lack of details:

I couldn’t possibly judge Bob until I knew how Jane ‘let herself go". I knew a similar couple. Married twelve, together 20. With the successive and ever increasing weight gain came a cyclical depression from Jane. (we’ll call them Tarzan and Jane). She would no longer allow Tarzan (a visual guy: what Dude isn’t?) to view her body: she changed in the bathroom. Sex was once monthly and a chore. No doubt very embarrassing for Jane but Tarzan was probably dying for the intimacy. She would NOT touch Tarzan or hold him not even his HANDS for fear it would be miscontrued [sic] as an "invitation" for sex. She got to where her clothing would not cover her properly. She couldn’t fly, wouldn’t go to the movies, or go to the beach and be partially naked. He is a boater and a scuba diver and she used to be his first mate. She is divorced now, on disability for her manic depression and her arthritic knees. Agoraphobic. Angry. Bitter. And ONE HUNDRED pounds more.

Now if your wedding included the typical vows, then you likely said that you’d stand by them "in sickness and in health". And as we can see by the current divorce rates, less people are doing that today than in times past. But let’s set aside just for a moment the fact that they were married and focus purely on the circumstances.

Allegedly in the circumstance we have presented in the article, we have a woman who, after getting married, "let herself go" and "got fat". Now the question not answered in the article is this: how much weight did she put on? How many sizes did she go up? There is the mention of a child as well, and it is not unusual for a woman to put on weight during a pregnancy. But by "letting herself go", I’m going to interpret that to mean that she kept putting on weight, basically showing that she had lost a significant part of her self control. In other words, she had fallen into a very unhealthy lifestyle.

He gave her an ultimatum: lose the weight or face divorce.

Again there are too many details missing from this circumstance, so it’s difficult to tell if Bob is in the right. If the circumstance is like the one "annie" describe above, then I am inclined to agree with Bob, that he was in the right for leaving her, but only if Bob was otherwise maintaining his self control and didn’t let himself go. As nothing is said about Bob’s weight in the article, we must presume that this is the case.

That being said, let me summarize just to be clear. We have a woman who "let herself go" and, it is implied, put on a significant amount of weight. This, as we all know, shortens your life span and leads to a whole host of other health concerns. He was likely keeping his weight and health in check. There were likely numerous confrontations over this as well; I highly doubt he just woke up one morning, noticed she was now 50 or more pounds heavier, and said "lose the weight or lose me". Weight gain is rarely sudden; almost always is it gradual, and rarely does it escape notice.

As such Bob was in the right to demand that she reverse course, to demand that she regain her self control and start losing weight, even seeing the need to go so far as to provide an ultimatum: threatening divorce. She allegedly refused to change and reverse course, so he left her.

And I feel Bob was in the right to do so.

This question lingers in the back of my mind: what if it was Bob who let himself go and Jane who threatened, then pursued divorce because he refused to reverse course? Would those commenting equally demonize Jane for doing so? Somehow I doubt that.

Relationships, including marriages, are about give and take. Marriage does not mean that you agree to put up with whatever the other throws at you. We all have only so much patience. And if your significant other starts him or herself down an unhealthy and self-destructive path, you have right to demand they change or reverse course, and threaten to leave and actually leave the relationship if they refuse to do so. Doing so does not mean you are not committed to the relationship, nor does it mean you don’t love them. It means you recognize they are no longer committed to holding up their end of the bargain.

Now the one thing we need to also realize is that everyone’s weight fluctuates. Insignificant weight gain, such as 10 or maybe even 20 lbs, should not raise alarm, especially if the person’s lifestyle is otherwise healthy. However if they are clearly on a self-destructive path of significant weight gain with no sign of any control over it, or any desire to bring it under control, then that is certainly cause for concern and, I believe, even cause for divorce.

Let the flame war begin!