Are you and your partner on different pages when it comes to practicing good health habits? Believe it or not, this can be an area of deep contention in a relationship and could even lead to a break-up.
It’s not about whether one of you is eating paleo and the other is practicing intermittent fasting. It’s not about specific food choices like whether you’re vegan or vegetarian or what specific eating practices you might have. It’s not about what vitamins you might or might not take. Instead, it is about how health-conscious you are and whether you are attempting to take care of your body and optimize your health. For example, do you and your mate have regular medical and dental check-ups? Do you exercise regularly? Are you consciously making healthy food choices?
It could be that you met at the gym or juice bar or that both of you had a physically active lifestyle when you first got together. Maybe you even exercised together and challenged each other to grow stronger and better physically.
But then life happened… Jobs and careers took more and more time. Maybe kids came along and demanded more of your time, energy, and money. It has become more convenient to grab fast food or snacks high in calories and low in nutrients. One or both of you may have gained unwanted weight, and your self-esteem is dropping lower and lower as the scales climb higher and higher. Medical and dental check-ups don’t make it on your calendar. You are worried about your mate and/or yourself because you realize that stress, obesity, smoking, and other unhealthy practices can shorten life and the time that you have together.
Have a Concerned Conversation
It may be time to have an honest conversation about unhealthy habits that either or both of you may have developed. In pre-framing for this conversation:
- Timing matters! Have this potentially sensitive conversation when you’re both in a “good place” mentally and emotionally.
- Make sure that you have an open and non-judgmental mindset.
- Remember that nagging or shaming do not work – they make matters worse!
- Assume that you have good intentions and that your mate does as well.
- Agree to be respectful.
- Focus on the dream to build a life together and grow old together.
Men will often refer to the “fact” that their partner would be better off financially
if they were to die because of the payout of their life insurance policy. Let them know that no amount of money could replace them and that you want them far more than you want money.
Make it About You
What if, even after you have gently nudged them to have this conversation, they refuse to talk about it? What if they really don’t seem to care about their health? Then make it about the person that they should care about…you.
If they have been resistant to get on a wellness journey with you, you might try saying something similar to:
- I need you to care enough about me and our future to do what you need to be healthy.
- I can’t bear the thought of you becoming sick – or worse- that I would lose you. It is so hurtful to me to see you________. (Fill in the blank: eating so poorly, not getting exercise, smoking, etc.)
- I need you to care about what you are doing to yourself and the effect that it is having on me (and our family, if applicable.)
In your discussion about health, talk about each of you going through a thorough health evaluation. If your partner is reluctant to see a doctor, be empathetic and understanding. It could be that they are afraid of what the doctor might say, especially if other family members have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. For some people, it is more comfortable to live in denial than to face the truth and potentially receive treatment. In addition, they may have high anxiety about medical testing, especially if they have an MRI or other diagnostic test that is somehow physically restrictive.
It’s not easy to stand by and watch someone you love have no regard for their health and well-being. As you build a life together and you both inevitably age, it can be disturbing to know that your or your partner’s future could include illness and suffering that might have been avoided. This can lead to intense stress between the two of you.
Set Personal and Relationship Goals
Setting goals may seem odd at first, but having something to look forward to is a great motivation to stay healthy. Set aside at least a couple of hours to set some personal and relationship goals. Following are some suggestions to help you think through this exercise:
- Why is it important to me to be in a caring and supportive relationship?
- The purpose of our relationship is…
- My goals for myself are… Set a goal(s) for each area
- Family and Friends
- Overall Well-Being
- My goals for our relationship are… Set goals in the above categories
- If I was living my best life as the best me, what would that look like?
- What is one thing that I can do or change to make our relationship even better?
Once you have set your personal and relationship goals, be sure to reward yourself and your partner as you make progress toward them. Support, encouragement, and celebration are all critical components and setting and achieving your goals.
Unfortunately, nagging never brings lasting, positive change! Instead, support and understand your partner’s needs, and you will create the atmosphere for positive change to occur.
Recognize that You Can’t Change Your Mate
If you think thoughts like, “What can I do to change my partner?” then it’s time to change your thinking. Instead, it’s essential to ask yourself questions like, “What can I do or change to grow through this challenging situation? How can I be a more loving and supportive partner?”.
If your spouse really seems to not care about themselves or about you enough to get healthy, consider that they might be depressed and seek help. If they simply don’t care about themselves or about you, then seek out a relationship coach or counselor for yourself to work through your options and choices. You and your partner don’t have to be on the same leg of your wellness journey, but having a shared motivation to pursue it should be a priority.
“…If you take good care of yourself, you help everyone. You stop being a source of suffering to the world, and you become a reservoir of joy and freshness. Here and there are people who know how to take good care of themselves, who live joyfully and happily. They are our strongest support. Everything they do, they do for everyone.” —Thich Nhat Hanh,