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
What to do when you and your partner can’t see apple to apple
DATA SHOWS 56 PERCENT OF THOSE WITH UNHEALTHY PARTNERS FEEL STRAIN OVER IT.
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.
1 BE UP FRONT
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.
2 INVITE HIM TO JOIN
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.
3 MEET IN THE MIDDLE
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).
4 CREATE FRESH TRADITIONS
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.”
HIS SWAPPING SLIPPERS FOR SNEAKERS CAN STOKE YOUR LOVE LIFE TOO. STUDIES SAY SO.