She Said, He Said: When you jump on the fitness train, don’t leave your spouse at the station
She Said, He Said
Dear Jeff and Lori:
My wife doesn’t want me to be healthy. When we met 12 years ago, we loved spending our free time having happy hour beers or grabbing burgers with friends. When we moved to the valley a few years ago, it was a shock to see how active the community is. For me, it was a welcome change. I wasn’t feeling great in my body with the extra weight I was carrying, and drinking in my 40s was wearing on me much more than it had in my 20s. I jumped in pretty quickly to biking and hiking and learned how to ski. I’ve invited my wife every step of the way, but instead of joining me, she just complains that I’ve changed and don’t want to spend time with her. I also think she tries to sabotage me by constantly offering me junk food when I’ve asked her 100 times not to. When I try to tell her how great I feel after losing the weight and getting fit, she tells me I’m shaming her for being overweight. I don’t want to have to choose between taking care of myself and my marriage. What should I do?
Signed, Fighting For Fitness
Lori and Jeff: Growth in relationships requires change, and change can be scary. It’s easy to focus on what you think she needs to do differently in order to be a good, loving and supportive partner for you. But for this marriage to have staying power, you also need to look at what you can change to show up for her.
Lori: The first step is to really look at your stories. You could assume that she’s just trying to keep you fat. And that assumption will likely take you down a path of anger, resentment and blaming her for being selfish. In reality, you don’t know what your healthy choices represent to her. It’s important to recognize with empathy that you’re rejecting the old version of you and in doing so, she may be experiencing you as rejecting her as well. She is a mirror image of the old version who you are working so hard to move away from.
I’m not making excuses for her unsupportive stance, but if you each stay locked in your stories about each other, you’ll only create more hurt and distance. It’s time to initiate a more emotion-based conversation about what this change represents to each of you and to share your fears and vulnerabilities. Express to her what getting healthy, and more importantly, what being healthy together means to you. Then be willing to truly listen to what feels scary about this for her. Is it that you spend less time with her, or have less energy when you are together? Is she afraid that even if she wanted to, she couldn’t keep up on a hike or a ride? Once you actually know what’s driving her vulnerability, you can work together to build her confidence and repair the connection.
Jeff: At the beginning of relationships, the connection we feel with our partners is often based on things that are fun and spontaneous. Going out with friends, dining, partying, travel and adventure are all activities that quickly build a bond and sharing these experiences brings us closer together. As relationships progress, we may start to have different preferences (or be limited in our choices due to the demands of jobs and families) around how we choose to spend our time. When we’re exposed to new lifestyles and mindsets, as in your situation, the desire to grow can be accelerated more quickly.
While the transformation you’ve begun is commendable, it’s important for you to understand your ‘why’ for making them. Did your values change? Are you experiencing an internal shift in the goals you have for your life? Or are you simply trying to fit in to a new set of external standards that, if you don’t step up your game, will make you feel left behind? If the drive is internal, you will need to help explain the shift to your wife and help support her in possibly taking that leap along with you. If the motivating factors are external to the relationship, it makes sense why your wife is the one feeling left behind and why she may be subconsciously trying to derail your progress.
Jeff and Lori: One partner’s growth within a relationship needs to be accompanied by a clear understanding of why those changes are being made and how those changes might affect the other partner. If your wife has resistance or hesitation to jump on the health train with you, take some time to understand what is keeping her at the station.
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.
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