Is This The Key to a Good Relationship?

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

The link between good relationships and good body image seems to go both ways. In a new study, women who were happy with their bodies were more likely to be in happy relationships. And women satisfied with their relationships tended to have a more positive body image.

For the study, presented at a recent meeting of the British Psychological Society, Estonian researcher Sabina Vatter polled about 250 women ages 20 to 45 years old. All were currently in a committed relationship, with 29 percent married and 71 percent living with significant others. They answered questions about dieting, body image, self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and sexual intimacy.

The women most critical of their bodies and weight were the least happy in their relationships. They also had lower self-esteem and were less satisfied with sex. Conversely, “when a woman was satisfied with her relationship, she was also satisfied with her body weight," regardless of whether she was at a weight considered to be ideal, said Vatter. “This shows that body and body weight can create general satisfaction, which would be forwarded to feelings for a romantic partner."

But I don't think the results necessarily indicate that body positivity drives relationship satisfaction. Having a generally more positive or less anxious temperament could fuel both body and relationship contentedness, without one necessarily leading to the other. Similarly, underlying issues — such as insecurity or depression — could propel negative feelings towards both relationships and one's weight; or propel health and love choices that lead to dissatisfaction in both areas. It would be interesting for future studies to explore whether women see their own happiness/unhappiness in love and body positivity/negativity as linked.