For the study, Meltzer said she did not separate out men and women, but the effect held for both genders.
The average weight gain over the four-year period was not great, but Meltzer noted that it could add up to a substantial amount over time.
At the study's start, the husbands had a body-mass index (BMI) of nearly 26, defined as slightly overweight. The wives' average BMI was 23, defined as a normal weight.
"For each unit of increase in satisfaction found, either by the person or the partner, a 0.12 increase in BMI occurred every six months, on average," Meltzer said.
For example, a woman who is 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds has a BMI of 20.6. If she gains a half pound, her BMI would increase to about 20.7.
"At the end of the four-year study, they [on average] are still in a healthy weight range," Meltzer noted. "But we don't know what happens after four years yet."
One expert said the findings make sense.
The idea that less satisfied partners may be watching their weight to pave the way to search for a new partner and that more satisfied partners may be slacking off is ''very plausible," said Charlotte Markey, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University, in New Jersey.
However, she said, other explanations may help account for marital weight gain. "It is also possible that happily married couples see each other more and eat together more [dining in the company of others can lead people to eat more]."
In her own research, presented at the same meeting, Markey found that partners compare themselves to each other when making assessments about their own weight. She studied more than 100 heterosexual couples and 72 lesbian couples for her research.
"This is pretty intuitive, but never documented," she said. "People in relationships seem to be comparing themselves to t
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