Weight loss surgery, one of the most effective ways to combat morbid obesity, may also contribute to an improved sex life, says a recent study. According to Mary Lisa Pories of East Carolina University, bariatric surgery starts a journey between couples that brings them closer together, allowing them to experience greater intimacy. Pories discusses her findings in Springer’s journal Obesity Surgery, stating that this post-surgical process not only unites couples, it ultimately determines the success of the surgery’s results.

Bariatric, or weight loss, surgery is a method used to combat obesity and lessen the health risks associated with being overweight. Once a patient undergoes one of the few types of bariatric surgery, overall quality of life, and self-confidence tends to improve along with health.

To examine how this new, positive body image affects relationships, Pories interviewed 10 couples with one partner who had undergone bariatric surgery. When asking them about their outlooks on postsurgical life, Pories claims all of her participants viewed recovery and lifestyle changes as a team effort; they saw their partner’s support as necessary to keeping them on track with their new routine. “All of the couples felt their post-operative success was due to a joint effort on the part of both members of the couple,” said Pories in a press release.

Pories found the couples tended to focus on the necessary adjustments they had to make as a result of their partner’s substantial weight loss, including adapting to a change in diet. Couples also reported that they both had more energy. When describing their emotional connection, couples said they experienced more positive moods and an increase in self-esteem. Because of this, the couples found that they were more affectionate and engaged more intimately with one another, along with being able to resolve conflict better. They even said their sexual relationships were not only improving, but becoming more enjoyable.

This is not the first study to find a relationship between improved sex life and weight loss. In a 2013 study published in JAMA Surgery, researchers examined how weight loss surgery affected the sexual appetites of women who had undergone the procedure. After examining 106 women who underwent different types of bariatric surgery, researchers found that two years after the operation, most women saw significant improvement in sexual functioning, as well as arousal, lubrication, and satisfaction.

Pories hopes her new study will illuminate how essential a partnership is to the weight loss journey, and plans to look at the post-operative experience of singles.

Sources: Pories M, Hodgson J, Rose M, et al. Following Bariatric Surgery: an Exploration of the Couples’ Experience. Obesity Surgery. 2015.

Sarwer DB, Spitzer JC, Wadden TA, et al. Changes in Sexual Functioning and Sex Hormone Levels in Women Following Bariatric Surgery. JAMA Surgery. 2013.