The Great Divide


“I thought he would be more appreciative,” Sally muses. “I put so much effort into it. Waking up at five in the morning, five times a week, to go to the gym, eating more vegetables, and not going out to party every day of the week. Now I’m slimmer, healthier, and honestly, I feel so much sexier! But he acts as if I betrayed him, somehow,” she laments.

Sally is talking about how her relationship has been affected by her quest for a healthier, fitter self. Over the previous year, she has lost over 10 kilos but is dismayed that her partner, Pete, isn’t as stoked with her transformation as she’d hoped. On the contrary, Pete seems to resent it. It’s weighing Sally down.

“I mean, staying committed to a healthy fitness routine and diet is hard enough as it is. But it’s almost impossible when your partner isn’t supportive!”

Sally’s experience isn’t unique; it’s far more common than most people realise. As more and more women take up health and fitness, differences in health goals is fast becoming an issue in relationships. A 2014 study at North Carolina State University found that when one partner lost at least 13 kilos, many couples experienced negative consequences including arguments over food, nagging about exercise and diet, as well as annoyance about time spent working out and prepping meals.

Conflicting health habits can be quite a contentious issue- one which is, fortunately, manageable. Honestly, you are more likely to stick with your fitness habits if your partner is your ally in working out and eating healthy meals. What’s more, sharing exercise can make you feel more connected, give your sex drive a boost… and even burn more calories. But should divergent health habits be a relationship deal breaker? Not necessarily.

According to Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., couples’ therapist and author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up “Different lifestyles or exercise habits don’t matter when you have a strong emotional connection with your partner.” You can tactfully navigate this issue and come out stronger and happier. However, bear in mind that as in any other relationship trouble, you might have to compromise here and there. That said, here’s how you can work things out with your significant other without giving up your healthy lifestyle.

Explain Yourself­

Part of why your partner might resent your health habits is that they feel threatened. For all they know, you might be trying to get healthier and sexier only to ditch them for a more gorgeous guy. Make sure you explain that you are getting healthier for your own sake, and to be more attractive to him. This way, he is more likely to be supportive of your goals and you might even spark a desire in him to join your health and fitness journey. If your explanation is met with resentment, explain that you’re not dissatisfied with either the relationship or your partner.

Ask for Support­

The health journey isn’t easy, and you’ll probably need all the support you can get. Even if your partner doesn’t accompany you for your Pilates sessions, you can still enroll him as your cheerleader. Ask him for his advice and for compliments on your progress. You can even get him to reward you when you achieve certain goals. This way, he will feel like he’s part of the process.

Don’t Assume the Worst­

When your partner has brought home a mega tub of ice cream for the third time in the week, it’s easy to assume that he’s maliciously trying to sabotage your goals. But it’s likely that he has no hidden agenda. In fact, he might see it as him doing something nice for you. After all, unlike you, he isn’t obsessing about his diet 24/7. Instead of accusing him of “trying to make me fat,” opt for a less accusing approach. For example, tell him “Honey, I really enjoy your ice cream treats. But I’m trying to stick to a healthier diet and I find it impossible to do that with such temptations in the house.” Then you can ask him to opt for healthier treats like dark chocolate or exotic fruit. Be ready to compromise a little.

Get Him on Board­

This can be tricky; you can’t force your partner into working out or making healthier food choices. However, you can plant the idea that they should get healthier for their own sake. Find ways to be active together. For instance, instead of cuddling on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, you can go for a hike or a run. Make it competitive and playful- he’ll be more eager to participate next time. Make sure you acknowledge and appreciate any positive changes he makes towards becoming healthier.

Stand Your Ground­

Ultimately, you shouldn’t let anyone stop you from enjoying your healthier lifestyle. Remember, you are doing this for you; if a partner can’t support that, then he doesn’t have your best interests at heart. No relationship is more important than the one you have with yourself. Compromise where you can, but not at the expense of your health and wellbeing.

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