A shocking new study says being skinny is not in fact the most important factor in a healthy marriage. Nope — the wife just has to be thinner than her husband!
In what is certainly the most obnoxious lead I've seen all day, Tom Jacobs of Miller-McCune asks, "Ladies: Are you nervously watching your weight to stay attractive for your husband or boyfriend?" Well of course we are! But now we can start force-feeding our guys instead, because "a couple is more likely to experience marital bliss when the wife is at least somewhat thinner than her husband." Psychologists at the University of Tennessee studied 165 newly-married couples, most in their twenties, for four years. They found that both husbands and wives were more satisfied throughout the marriage if the wife's BMI was lower than the husband's.
The study authors think the explanation is that dudes like thinner ladies, while ladies do not care about weight but do want to please their men:
Several studies indicate that partner thinness is more important to men than to women, possibly because BMI is more strongly correlated with women's physical attractiveness than it is with men's. In contrast, because partner BMI is relatively less important to women, relative BMI may affect them only through its effect on men. [...] That is, women who have lower BMIs than their partners should maintain higher levels of satisfaction with the relationship because their partners are more satisfied.
None of this really addresses why it's the ratio of BMIs that matters, and not just the wife's BMI. I can think of a bunch of depressing, socially-conditioned reasons for this, but one sticks out: men are told that masculinity is all about being big, and so maybe being smaller than their wives harms their self-esteem. Overall, the study seems like yet more proof that our society needs to reexamine our attitudes toward weight, gender, and attractiveness. Or, you know, ladies could just "put down those salad forks" because "it turns out you don't have to starve yourself - unless he's doing so, too."
Thinner Wife, Happier Marriage [Miller-McCune]