What do you do when your partner doesn't support your health habits?
This is a question that comes up time and time again on this blog, when I speak at events, hold classes, retreats and workshops, in my Facebook community, and among my students at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
When we change our lifestyle - including our diet, personal care products, home cleaning products, kitchen cookware and equipment, bedding, and many other elements that contribute to a healthy home, it isn't just us that's affected. It's our partners, children, parents, friends and other family members. No person is an island - and the choices we make ripple and spread outward.
Making shifts in your diet and lifestyle aren't always easy, but they are simple to do. And in my view, kind of a no-brainer. If there are things we can do to support our wellbeing and thrive with happiness and optimal health, why wouldn't we do them as much as possible?
One of the biggest challenges people have is getting family and friends on board when they make both small and major lifestyle changes - especially the spouses and partners. Change is exciting, but it can also be scary. Sometimes, the people we love become frightened that we will morph into someone unrecognizable. Maybe our health changes magnify our partner's own insecurities or health worries. Sometimes partners resist because it's more comfortable to stick with what they know - even if what they know isn't serving them.
So is there anything you can do if your partner doesn't support your health habits? While you can't change people or convince them to bend to your will, there are ways you can address this issue with your partner to create more harmony in your home.
What To Do When Your Partner Doesn't Support Your Health Habits
1. Listen without judging
If your partner doesn't support your health habits, it's important to have a two-way conversation about it. Listen to what your partner has to say, as his/her feelings are valid and true.
Instead of constantly thinking of rebuttals to what your partner is saying and attempting to prove that your view is right, try to listen without judging your partner's opinions, and be kind and compassionate.
2. Lead by example
The best way to inspire others is to lead by example and live your life in a way that is true to who you are and what you believe. So go ahead and eat your kale chips and meditate and skin brush and do yoga in the living room or whatever else helps you feel your best.
Often when partners or family members see what you're doing (or smell the deliciousness you're cooking), they'll begin to have questions, enjoy taste testing or join in on the fun. If they don't, that's OK too. But don't let your partner's views drag you down or alter what you want to do. We should never compromise our health or eat anything we don't want to just to be polite or make someone else feel better.
Now, I'm not saying we should never compromise or negotiate in our relationships - that would be foolhardy. What I mean is if your partner is chowing down on deep fried Twinkies and you don't want to eat them, you shouldn't have to in order to keep the peace or make your partner feel better.
The important thing about leading by example is being as consistent as possible. You can't eat deep fried Twinkies with your partner one day and then say they're disgusting and criticize him/her for eating them the next day. That's sending very mixed messages and will confuse your partner about what you value and what you want. Be clear about your 'never evers' and stick to them.
3. Don’t offer unsolicited advice
When we feel excited and passionate about our health and nutrition, we often want to share everything we know at all possible opportunities. This can quickly become irritating and can feel like criticism or nagging to your partner, even if you have the best of intentions.
Don't tell your partner he/she shouldn't eat potato chips or candy bars or French fries. In all likelihood, he/she already knows that these aren't the most heath supportive choices. Don't tell your partner to go for a walk or lose weight or whatever else you don't like and want to change about him or her. This isn't helpful or constructive.
I know it's hard to keep your mouth shut, but unsolicited advice isn't going to change anything or improve your relationship. If your partner's health habits are worrisome, there are alternate ways to express this - giving unwanted advice isn't the way to go.
4. Don’t take your partner's behaviour or eating habits personally
Let's say you've had open and honest discussions with your partner about your diet and lifestyle choices, you've refrained from giving annoying advice and have mastered your own health habits like a boss. Shouldn't your awesome example mean that your partner will soon follow suit?
Not necessarily. Sometimes our partners get it immediately and jump on board. Others might take months or years - and some may never come around. Don't view your partner's decisions as a personal insult or affront to you, or that you've failed as a spouse/partner to help. Your partner's health choices are about him or her and not about anything you've done or not done. As I mentioned earlier, we can't force people to change or convince them to do what we want. We can only lead by example.
Everyone has their deal breakers and you may decide that healthy living is one of yours. If it is, it's important to communicate this with your partner. Don't give ultimatums, but let them know how you feel. Most couples I know are able to find common ground and give and take in this area, so don't worry that your relationship will be destroyed!
5. When asked, offer help/advice in baby steps so you don’t overwhelm your partner
Most of the time, when one partner makes a health change it inevitably influences the other partner. Remember that if your partner asks you for help, he/she is not as practiced and adept at this whole healthy living thing as you are.
So when asked, offer help in baby steps rather than demanding your partner make drastic changes. Assess what your partner is willing to take on, what they need most and where you can be the most helpful. Don't guess at this - ask!
Your partner might feel ready to eat a more nutritious breakfast, add a few fermented foods to meals, install a shower filter or experiment with a new potent spice. Be encouraging and meet your partner wherever he/she is at, and then work up from there.
When your partner doesn't support your heath habits, home life can be challenging. By implementing some of these tips, you can work it out with your partner and come out on the other side with a stronger relationship.
If you have any tips to share that have helped you in your relationships, please post below.