When Healthy Living and Love Don’t Mix

by Kim on September 28, 2012

My husband and I are lucky that we take a similar approach to health and fitness. We’ve both always made working out a priority–sometimes it’s not a high priority, and we don’t always get to do it as regularly as we’d like, but it’s always been something we both do to some extent. We’re also both interested in keeping an eye on our diets, while still enjoying the things we love.

So we’re a pretty middle-of-the-road couple as far as healthy living goes, but at least we’re in the same place.

workout couple We are so on the same wavelength that I can actually feel your muscles burning. And I can taste your breakfast.

The Greatist recently published an article called Is My Partner Bad for My Health? that got me thinking about this. The article talks about what to do when you and your partner have wildly different healthy living philosophies.

The basic scenario is: Partner A is obsessively healthy and works out constantly, while Partner B takes a more relaxed approach to health/fitness. The results:

1) Partner B feels inadequate and resentful, and tries to sabotage Partner A with fatty foods and comments about misplaced priorities.

2) Partner A starts feeling disdain toward Partner B and tries to “encourage/help” him/her with little suggestions and advice.

No one is happy.

So what do you do?

The Greatist article doesn’t go into much detail about actual solutions beyond “talk about it”–and maybe bring in a therapist. Well, sure, communication is always nice. But my fear is that if one of you puts a spotlight on the situation and tries to “fix” it, you might end up just creating a monster and driving the two of you even deeper into your separate corners, rather than reaching a solution.

biceps Hey, honey, want to compare biceps? Here’s a 2-pound weight for you to hold.

Like I said, I haven’t really had to deal with this, so I’m no expert on the topic. But I can think of a few things that would almost definitely not help:

–Offering suggestions. Aka “nagging,” although most of us don’t actually recognize this activity when we’re doing it (hi! *waves*). Little comments and ideas that we think are coming from a “helpful” place are perceived as digs, which leads to defensiveness and an innate urge in your partner to do the exact opposite of what you’re suggesting.

–Fixing. We want our partners to be healthy, so we think we have to suck it up and “be the bad guy” sometimes because we ultimately just want them to live longer. But to our partners, it just sounds like they’re not good enough. A little compromise can help bring the emotions down a bit: I’ll sit on the couch and eat potato chips tonight if we can go for a hike together tomorrow. (After all, to be fair, finding middle-ground means Partner A has to get a little less healthy while Partner B is getting more healthy.)

–Assuming the “healthier” partner is the right one. Maybe the real problem is not that Partner B needs to step up his/her gym time, but that Partner A needs to chill out a little. Things like rest days, occasional indulgences, and healthy fat are all important parts of a balanced healthy lifestyle, according to today’s experts. If my husband spent two hours in the gym everyday and frowned at me when I snagged some late-night chocolate, we would definitely have A Problem.

cuople I’m serious, Bill, STOP grabbing my butt while we’re running!

And a few things that might help:

–Recognizing the source of the problem. Partner B is mostly mad at Partner A’s motivation because of how it makes him/her feel. Partner A can’t stop thinking “Partner B is going to die at 50 unless I step in and show him/her the light NOW.” The real problems are in their own heads, not in the other person.

–Knowing your partner. You know what your partner will respond well to and what will drive him/her up the wall. Avoid anything that you know will trigger a Red Alert defense, since that will do nothing but set you back and potentially turn a little difference of opinion into a Huge Relationship Conflict.

–Steering clear of sensitivities. We all have them. You probably know some of your partner’s–and the chances that at least some of those involve physical characteristics is probably good. Just don’t go there. 

creepy coupleUm, can you take a step back, please, weirdo? It’s a large gym.

The good news is that I think the longer a couple is together (like the more time they are a couple, not the number of hours in a day they’re together), the more that minor differences seem to naturally merge into some middle-ground place. Of course, the key word is “minor”…if the situation blows up into a source of major contention in the relationship, it’s much less likely to be resolved at all, much less naturally.

(Side note on naturally merging in relationships: do you ever think that couples often look more like brother/sister than husband/wife? It blows my mind sometimes!!)

Have you ever experienced this with a significant other?

Have a great weekend!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

caitlin barry September 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm

my favorite part = the captions. :) Nicely done.

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Kim September 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Haha, thanks :)

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