She Said, He Said: ‘Recalibrating’ relationships is important, but stay strong in resolve to help yourself
She Said, He Said
Dear Jeff and Lori,
I want to use the new year as a fresh start to begin living a healthier lifestyle. My husband and I met in our 20s, and we both prioritized going out and having a good time. We’re in our 30s now, and drinking several nights a week just doesn’t have the same appeal for me. I don’t like how tired I am all the time and want to feel better in and about my body. It’s always been hard for me to motivate myself to make positive changes, and I’ve only ever been successful with someone else doing it with me. My husband says he likes our lives as they are and has no intention of doing anything differently. He’s even gone as far as even giving me a hard time about not wanting to go out so much. Please help.
New Year, Less Beer
Lori and Jeff: Relationships are always recalibrating the point of harmony. You and your husband have been operating at a steady frequency for some time, and your personal instinct to evolve is going to create some discord. The hope is always that the relationship will evolve and create a new equilibrium, but that cannot come at the expense of taking care of yourself.
Lori: Making the change to be physically healthier may be secondary to your need to find your identity in the context of the marriage, and not just in terms of shifting away from being the “fun wife.” The fact that you let your husband have so much influence over your lifestyle means that you’ve lost connection with (or have never fully developed) your own autonomy. You’re mentally positioning him to set the standards and norms to which you need to push against. Just stop. You are separate individuals. If he wants to drink, he can. If you want to live healthier, you need to find that foundation within yourself to stand on.
There are two key components to creating positive change. First, the change has to be important. You need to have a solid “why” for pushing yourself out of the cozy familiarity of your comfort zone. Feeling and looking better are a good start, but you might benefit from diving deeper into clarifying your values and exploring your own meaning of life in order to give your desire to change deeper roots. Second, there needs to be a base level of confidence that you could successfully make the change. Here is where, with substance use in particular, it’s crucial to have a support system. If your husband can’t be that, you’ll have to seek it through friends and other parts of the community.
Jeff: There is no question that change can be hard and uncomfortable. And, as the iconic comedian Carol Burnett said, “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” So it’s time to take action. Contemplating your own “why” for wanting to change things, as Lori said, is absolutely essential to getting started, but also understanding your husband’s “why not” might help clarify some of the roadblocks. Be curious about why he might be resistant to changing. Sure, the party lifestyle can be appealing, but it also might be an excuse to avoid dealing with the doubts and hesitations around “growing up” and setting out on a new, more specific path — especially if there is uncertainty about what that path might be.
If you’re feeling motivated to begin a new journey, invite your husband to come along, while being mindful of his fears and insecurities. Ask him what he wants his life to look like in another five years and offer your perspective of improved health and well-being. If he still declines to join you, get started anyway and don’t feel bad about the potential of leaving him behind. His ambivalence shouldn’t get in the way of your happiness.
Lori and Jeff: If you compromise yourself to preserve the marriage, you’ll end up losing both. We fully support you in taking better care of yourself, but you need to find the courage to love and honor yourself. Don’t wait for permission; become the example and show your husband what is possible.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.