Valentine’s Day is here again with its rose-colored promises of love. Cupid-covered cards, heart-shaped chocolates and romantic dinners can be nice, but successful marriages, partnerships and even friendships have ebbs and flows and take a constant, concerted effort to thrive.
Sometimes couples drift in different directions. Do any of these hypothetical dilemmas sound familiar?
Matt wants to start training for a marathon, but his wife wants to continue binge-watching old movies after work and on the weekends.
Anna is interested in calming the clutter in her home, but Jack wants to add to their accumulation of stuff.
Jessica wants to eat healthy home-cooked meals, but her partner wants to eat fast food on a regular basis.
These are all potential problems for partnership bliss. What can be done?
Well, we asked the experts — 14 of them.
Leading influencers and national best-selling authors share their wisdom to the following question:
What can a couple do if only one wants to commit to a healthy lifestyle change?
1. Courtney Carver — Be More With Less
You can be in a loving relationship without doing everything together. If you want to make a healthy lifestyle change, but your partner isn’t ready, do it anyway. Ask for their support and get started without pushing them into doing it too. Chances are you will be an inspiration to a future change for them.
2. Brian Gardner — No Sidebar
One key element of a successful relationship is the complimentary roles that each partner plays. The phrase “opposites attract” is quite common, which ultimately means outlooks on life can be different in varying degrees. With that said, I think the approach in which a couple takes on lifestyle changes needs to incorporate a give and take element. I think compromise is huge when it comes to making decisions, especially when they are larger in consequence.
3. Berin Kinsman — A Minimalist Abroad
People in relationships still need to have lives independent of one another, and not be codependently joined at the hip 24/7. My wife Katie and I have a lot of things in common and many shared interests, but we also have our own hobbies, activities, and friends. We do things together, but when she goes off to do things I’m not particularly enthralled with it gives me the opportunity to do things that would bore her to tears.
If you apply that philosophy to the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, it will be much the same. There are things a couple can do together, things they’ll do separately, and things they’ll have to compromise on. If one person commits to a vegetarian diet and the other person won’t give up their bacon, maybe they agree to eat less meat overall, and they can eat their foods of choice when they’re not together.
A big step is to set boundaries with time and resources. If one wants to join a gym and the other doesn’t, just be sure gym time doesn’t cut into together time and the gym membership doesn’t require cutting joint activities from the family budget. As long as it isn’t having a negative impact on the other person, or on the life that they’re sharing, everything should be okay.
4. Kendra Wright — Hey Kendra!
Our relationship to fitness is just that, OURS. It may be easier with a partner on board but it isn’t impossible with out them either. Your goals don’t have to equal theirs — they are on their own journey.
The best way to “motivate them” is to lead by example — show them what life looks like when you’re proud of your progress, fitting back into your jeans, and able to keep up with the kids.
There’s a life changing inner confidence that comes from learning to chase our dreams (and fitness goals), without waiting on others.
It’s your life — it’s your journey. It’s always more enjoyable WITH others, but sometimes you need to go down the path on your own before they decide to join you.
5. Masha and Michael — The Minimalist Vegan
It’s really hard to make someone do something if they are not committed or ready to make a change in their lives. Our suggestion would be for the individual to continue on the journey they wish on their own. In many instances, the partner will then see the positive changes that they are experiencing and will be much more open to trying it out themselves. Small steps is key, as overwhelm will make them run the other way!
6. Dan Erickson — Hip Diggs
In short, nothing.
We can’t force anyone to make changes in their lives. I think the best thing we can do is continue to make healthy habit changes in our own life.
It’s been my experience that practicing good health is contagious. In the past, when I’ve started an exercise program, those closest to me take note and often begin to follow suit. The same goes for healthy eating. The worst thing we can do is try to force change on a loved one. It rarely works and almost always leads to negative feelings.
Let your loved one know that you care about their health and well-being. Tell them your plans and invite them to join you. Encourage them, but don’t push. If they say, no, accept and respect their decision, and continue to tread your own path. Continue loving your partner for who they are. It’s your continual support that will eventually lead them to join you in healthy habit changes.
7. Crystal Barton — Happily Ever Uncluttered
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if our significant other would just do what we want to do when we want to do it? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I have learned from years of being married NOT TO PUSH. If you are struggling with your significant other not wanting to get on board with becoming healthier, I suggest you to take the lead. Do what you feel is right in making your life healthier. Whether that be eating better, exercising more, or just being more physically active. You never know, once they see the results with your healthy lifestyle change they may just jump on board with you. That way it is their decision and they weren’t being pushed into anything. Be sure once they do come on board that you don’t rub it in their face, though. They may be liable to quit.
8. Anne Mauney, MPH, RD — Fannetastic Food
This is a hard question — I’d honestly say that if only one person in a couple wants to commit to a healthy lifestyle change, then they shouldn’t force the other person to join them. Certainly they can encourage the other person to be healthier, and lead by example in terms of fitness, and make healthy recipes to share, but ultimately unless someone is ready to change, you can’t make them.
9. Jessica Dang — Minimal Student
I think the best thing to do is show compassion and understanding by living your own minimalist lifestyle and show by example. The worst thing to do is to preach, or to force somebody to do something that they don’t understand the reasons why. Unless your underlying values are very different, over time, your partner may realize that you are much happier without worrying about having lots of stuff, and they will slowly come around too.
10. Andrea Dekker — Andrea Dekker
Start Small! Pick one thing you’d like to do to live a healthier life and start doing that every day and every week. Don’t worry about drastically improving any other parts of your health, just stick with your one small change until it feels like second nature (which will probably take several months). When you’re ready, add in another small change. These small changes could be something like eating more nutritious breads and grains, or eating fruit for one snack a day instead of cookies, or going for a walk every afternoon. Something small that will stick!
11. Tor Refsland — Time Management Chef
It can be very challenging being in a relationship when only one wants to do a healthy lifestyle change.
I tried that and well, to be quite honest, it didn’t work…
When you want to lose weight and you sit at the dinner table gnawing on salad leaves and cucumber, while your better half is enjoying a perfect steak, can only be described as…
This leads to the person who wants to make the positive change feels that the other person is not supporting the change, while the other person feels that he/she is being forced to change.
When we started to work together and decide that either we both do the healthy lifestyle change or we don’t do it at all, everything changed.
We realized that we were both on the same team and that we supported each other. That led us to deciding that we wanted to live longer and become healthier. We both started to eat healthier and exercise together.And another additional bonus was that our relationship became stronger. It’s all about communication and doing important life choices together as a team.
12. Sue Anne Dunlevie — Successful Blogging
When I decided to lose weight five years ago, my partner didn’t want to change any of his habits (even though he needed to lose 30 pounds). I decided that I would do what’s best for me and my health and started cooking healthier foods and began taking online yoga classes.
The funny thing? Because I was cooking healthier, he lost weight also! So we both hit our goals and we have kept it up since then.
Just start for yourself — you never know what those changes will indirectly do for your loved ones.
13. Eric Handler — Positively Positive
It’s hard enough to change our own habits, imagine trying to change someone else. Focus on yourself, lead by example, and don’t be pushy. If it’s meant to be, once your partner sees the positive impact this healthy lifestyle is having on you, MAYBE they will get on board. The key is to not pressure them to change.
14. Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus — The Minimalists
The Minimalists sent us a clip from their “Podcast 2” in response to the question.
We can’t force change on loved ones, but we can feel free to work on ourselves.
How about you? Have you made a healthy lifestyle change that your partner wasn’t interested in? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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