PhotoAmong your average circle of guy friends—around the time everyone hits their late-20s, mid-30s—a noticeable divide begins to take place within the group.

A portion of your buddies will remain as you’ve always known them—single, free-spirited and experts at dodging any real commitment in a relationship.

But the other half of your group will start to change, slowly, without you even knowing it, because one day you’re going to their house and you’re greeted with loud music, a messy apartment and utter bachelordom and the next time you visit, the loud music is off, the untidy apartment is cleaned and their single status has evaporated only to be replaced by a new girlfriend.

And it’s a serious girlfriend too. One he’s now living with, which in many cases signifies the beginning of the end for that circle of guy friends, who stayed out late, didn’t have to check in with anyone and navigated their days in more carefree fashion.

I mean, the guy circle may not be totally broken, because you’ll probably still see each other from time to time, but things will never be the same.

Piling on pounds

Another change that happens to some guys in a circle of friends, once they're in a new relationship, is they’ll start to put on weight, which is most times a clear sign of improved living, since many guys go from pizza dinners in front of the Laker game, to having actual meals on an actual tables, with vegetables even. And several times a day at that.

Clearly, there’s something about being in a relationship and living with a woman that adds a higher level of quality to a guy’s life sometimes, since many women tend to master the art of good living far earlier than guys do, which is probably related to the whole women mature earlier than men thing.

And according to a new study released by an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, cohabitation—particularly through marriage—can cause spouses to gain weight and open themselves up to new health risks, which dispels the common belief that married couples are generally healthier than single people.

Andrea L. Meltzer, who led the study, attributed the weight gain and the potential drop in health to happy newlyweds, suggesting that a blissful union often includes blissful meals and many times a person’s level of contentment in a relationship has a lot to do with how comfortable their home life is, and that feeling of comfort is often attached to a lot of good food.

“On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight over time,” said Meltzer. “In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time.”

Physical appearance

PhotoIn addition, Meltzer says that many times, satisfied married couples aren’t as concerned with their physical appearance—since they’re not looking for anyone else—which leads to not only weight gain but an overall drop in their concern for healthy living and daily exercise.

And although married couples tend to encourage each other to do things like take medications on time and keep up with doctor visits, their personal health choices at home aren’t that great.

Again, Meltzer says this is due to marital satisfaction, which is different from unhappy couples who may ponder leaving a marriage. These types of couples are more likely to stay fit and be more mindful of not gaining weight, just in case they meet somebody else, say researchers.

“So these findings suggest that people perhaps are thinking about their weight in terms of appearance rather than health,” said Meltzer, which can certainly lead to a bunch of problems for both people in the relationship down the marital road.

“We know that weight gain can be associated with a variety of negative health consequences, for example diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Meltzer noted. “By focusing more on weight in terms of health implications as opposed to appearance implications, satisfied couples may be able to avoid potentially unhealthy weight gain over time in their marriage,” she said.

Meltzer and her team learned of these findings in a four-year study that included 169 happy married couples, all newlyweds and married for the first time.

Extra effort needed

The results of the study suggest that newly-married couples, as well as couples who’ve been married for a long time, should put a little extra effort in trying to stay healthy, because as many of us know, there’s a fine line between marital comfort and inactivity, and that same line exists between relaxing at home with your partner and piling on the food.

And for those people who aren’t married and are merely living together, these findings can certainly apply to you too, because being comfortable in a relationship and not recognizing that you’re gaining weight could easily happen while you’re cohabiting before marriage, especially since more and more people are doing it these days. 

According to the CDC, 48% of women between the years of 2006 and 2010 said they lived with their mate before marriage, compared to 34% who said the same thing in 1995.

Additionally, 40% of those women between 2006 and 2010 said they were married within three years of moving in with their mate, 32% said their relationship remained strong and 27% said their relationships ended.

In addition, 20% of women who said they lived with their partner before marriage became pregnant within the first year, which certainly adds even more change to that circle of guy friends you’ve grown to love, because kids change things up immediately.

And there’s no doubt that women experience that same shift in their group of friends too—probably in more dramatic fashion—but either way most would say moving in with someone, getting married and having a baby are just parts of growing up.

And even if you decide not to do those things, your life is going to change anyway, because late nights, fast-food and fast relationships can only take you so far, and after that, it doesn’t become just a fun period in your 20-something life, it becomes a permanent lifestyle.

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