This March, body-positive influencer Georgina Horne revealed on her Instagram that she has been contacted by a reporter asking her what it was like to be in a mixed-weight relationship. “A journo contacted me about being in a ‘mixed-weight relationship’… sod off,” she wrote. “My weight has nothing to do with anything apart from how much of a dent we collectively leave in our memory foam mattress.”
A mixed-weight relationship is exactly that: a relationship in which there’s a difference in body size between a couple, usually when one is plus-size and one isn’t. The term is a relatively new one but is already strongly dividing opinion. Whilst plus-size writer Kasandra Brabaw revealed she’s OK with the label in a piece for Refinery29, others like Georgina are determined not to let the term stick.
In an interview with Metro.co.uk, Georgina said: “I get that for some people, being a lot bigger than their partner is something that they think about a lot, and it does change things for them. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel self-conscious and unworthy at times. But personally, I find that the more you draw attention to these things, the more it’s made into some big deal, some strange event.”
Strangely enough, it’s always women who are being questioned about their mixed-weight relationship, as if mixed-weight dating only applies – or, perhaps, is only surprising – when it’s the woman who’s plus-size. It’s almost as if people feel curvier girls don’t deserve someone who’s not the same size, or anyone at all.
And, unfortunately, there may be some truth in that. One 2016 study found people were more prejudice towards couples who don’t weigh the same. Around 230 participants were asked to rate how they felt towards a variety of fictional couples and found the mixed-weight couples were viewed less favourably. Participants were then asked to matchmake a series of couples with a variety of BMIs and were noted to only pair couples that had similar BMIs. In a third test, researchers asked what their advice would be to mixed-weight couples and similar-weight couples, and many advised mixed-weight couples not to take their dates out in public.
A mixed-weight relationship is not considered an offensive term to everyone, but to some it’s loaded. Asking a woman about being in a mixed-weight relationship can be seen as the same as calling them “brave” for wearing a bikini on the beach – it’s meant to be a compliment, but has the power to cause an incredible amount of shame and self-awareness. So, while it’s important to see people in mixed-weight relationships, putting a label on it implies it’s not a normal part of dating.
“People who feel the need to say that a fat person who’s with a thin person is in a whole separate category to people in relationships period… That’s just stupid. We’re in a relationship and that’s that,” body-positive vlogger Gloria Shuri Henry said in a YouTube video on the subject, adding that some people believe her husband wants her to stay the same size due to a fetish. It’s an assumption that she’s only loved for her weight and not her personality. It doesn’t take her own feelings into consideration, that maybe she’s happy with her size, and perhaps her partner just loves her as she is. After all, people can find plus-size people attractive without having some sort of sexual kink.
Liam Preston, head of the Be Real campaign for body confidence, told the Independent that mixed-weight relationships only seek to highlight the differences in a couple’s shape and size. “It would seem to suggest that the couple, due to their physical differences, do not belong together, and that is simply ridiculous!” he said.
The pain of your partnership being labelled ‘mixed-weight’ is no better summarised than in this Instagram post by wedding photographer Jenna Kutcher. After receiving a message from someone who said they couldn’t believe she’d managed to bag her health coach husband, she shared a defiant image of them together alongside the caption: “Part of my insecurity with my body has stemmed around being married to Mr. 6-Pack himself. Why should I, a curvy girl, get him? I feel unworthy and when I write narratives in my head that because I am not thin, I don’t deserve him.”
Ultimately, it’s important that mixed-weight relationships are visible. Its only through exposure that we can normalise things once considered ‘other’ – recognising our differences and sharing our knowledge is how we learn acceptance. But as Brabaw says, this isn’t a term you can force upon someone – it’s up to the couple in question to decide whether they want to embrace such a label, not a way to body-shame those who fall outside of society's narrow beauty standards.
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