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

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.

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