Ir­rec­on­cil­able Dif­fer­ences?

You’re one-up­ping your part­ner on all health fronts and now your re­la­tion­ship has more ten­sion than your new re­sis­tance bands. Here’s how to get over the hur­dle of mis­matched goals

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Kristin Can­ning

What to do when you and your part­ner can’t see ap­ple to ap­ple


You or­der a salad at the sports bar with your guy; he or­ders a cheese­burger. You’ve re­cently sworn off fried foods, but he gets a side of onion rings any­way. “Just have one,” he tells you. Thir­teen rings later, you’re stuffed with grease and guilt. And him? He’s as happy as can be. It’s not un­com­mon to feel your SO is ig­nor­ing your health am­bi­tions or giv­ing you grief about them. “I’ve seen plenty of cou­ples go through this,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Chloe Carmichael. “When you’re in a re­la­tion­ship, you start to func­tion as a unit and if you sud­denly change the dy­namic, your part­ner can feel a lit­tle aban­doned.” This is es­pe­cially true if you both used to be meh about work­ing out and eat­ing well – and you bonded over those pref­er­ences. The mis­match can prompt a rip­ple ef­fect of dis­con­tent: a new sur­vey found that peo­ple who tried to clean up their eat­ing in­de­pen­dently of their mate were less sat­is­fied in their re­la­tion­ship than those who teamed up with their part­ner on the diet front. Re­search also shows that well­ness shifts in one half of a duo can cause a rift that po­ten­tially rup­tures the re­la­tion­ship. In fact, mar­ried peo­ple who had bariatric weight­loss surgery were 41 per­cent (!) more likely to di­vorce than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, per one Swedish study. The prob­lem goes deeper than not be­ing able to share an ap­pe­tiser. “In­sti­tut­ing health changes for your­self can make your part­ner feel judged and in­se­cure, as if you’re mov­ing on to an­other life­style with­out them and they won’t be able to keep up,” Carmichael says. What’s more, nu­tri­tion ad­just­ments, even more so than fit­ness, can be a su­per-touchy sub­ject for dudes. Many men, Carmichael says, tend to value tra­di­tion­ally mas­cu­line eat­ing styles (steak and po­ta­toes, for ex­am­ple), which, for the most part, aren’t in line with di­ets. “Ul­ti­mately, he just wants to know you’re hav­ing fun to­gether, but if or­der­ing a salad is a downer for him, he might not un­der­stand that you en­joy it.” Never fear! A lit­tle in­ten­tional ac­tion can make your pos­i­tive changes good for ev­ery­one in­volved.


First things first: talk to your part­ner about the al­ter­ations you want to make be­fore you start – your guy will feel bet­ter if he knows what to ex­pect. Bring it up in a neu­tral mo­ment, like when you’re driv­ing and see some­one run­ning, not right af­ter he’s cooked you an Al­fredo pasta din­ner, says cou­ples ther­a­pist Liz Hig­gins. “Be as as­sertive and hon­est as pos­si­ble about your goals and the changes you plan to make to reach them.” Get clear on bound­aries too – if it irks you when he makes fun of your new in­ter­est, tell him. “Say, ‘When you made a joke about CrossFit look­ing stupid, I felt em­bar­rassed. I want to feel sup­ported by you and hold­ing back the jabs would help,’” says Hig­gins.


You might think the best way to make your man feel less judged is to do your own thing and let him do his, but that can back­fire: he may think you don’t be­lieve he’s up for the chal­lenge and he’ll feel even worse when he sees In­stas of your run­ning club. So ask him in a no-pres­sure way to come with you. Try, “I wish you would work out with me be­cause well­ness is some­thing I’m in­vested in for both of us. I’d love to share this ex­pe­ri­ence with you,” Carmichael sug­gests. If he’s still not into it, sway him with a swap: if he goes rock climb­ing with you, you’ll see a movie of his choice with him. Or pitch an ac­tive al­ter­na­tive that’s more his speed, like paint­ball, so you’ll bond over sweat. “It means a lot to a per­son when they know you’re do­ing some­thing you wouldn’t nor­mally do and it in­cen­tivises them to do the same,” Hig­gins says.


New rou­tines mean new restau­rant go-tos and week­end ac­tiv­i­ties are of­ten the big­gest cause of tiffs. If he wants to spend Satur­day Net­flix­ing and you want to be ac­tive, let him know you’re cool with his not join­ing, but that he can’t hold it against you for go­ing with­out him, whether that means run­ning solo or meet­ing up with friends at your fave cafe while he’s chill­ing at home. When plan­ning dates, take turns de­cid­ing. “If you ex­pect him to com­pro­mise, you have to be will­ing to do so too,” says Carmichael. For ac­tiv­i­ties, present three op­tions and let him pick one (and vice versa). Same for din­ing out: make sure there are at least three menu items that each of you would eat so nei­ther feels un­con­sid­ered. And if he’s still pick­ing on you for not eat­ing a burger? Call him out. “Ask him why food is such an im­por­tant part of your con­nec­tion,” says Hig­gins. If he can’t ad­mit it’s an is­sue he needs to work on, then it may be time to re-eval­u­ate the re­la­tion­ship or to get pro­fes­sional help to en­sure you can even­tu­ally see eye to eye (or ap­ple to ap­ple).


Mak­ing changes can feel as if you’re los­ing some­thing, but it’s bet­ter if you both view your new life­style as hav­ing given you many cool op­tions. Try in­sti­tut­ing a Taco Tues­day night at home, when you both get cre­ative and com­pet­i­tive in com­ing up with the health­i­est, yet tasti­est fill­ings. Or join a fun sports team to­gether. It feels more like a so­cial com­mit­ment than a fit­ness one and will still help him shape up and un­der­stand your en­deav­ours. As Hig­gins says, “You don’t need him to un­dergo a well­ness makeover, but any small things you can do to en­joy your new life­style to­gether will get you closer to your goals and to each other.”


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