I’m hearing a common theme from my clients and friends.
“Oh, I could never serve this kind of meal to my husband. He won’t eat it.”
“I can’t exercise because my husband won’t take care of the kids.”
“I can’t join a gym because it would take too much time away from my husband.”
“I can’t change the way I eat because it would be too much work to cook a separate meal for my husband.”
In fact, an unsupportive partner has been one of the biggest hurdles with the majority of my clients, and friends, and friends of friends.
I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile because I am always scared to offend or cause trouble, but this trend is becoming overwhelming in my work and I feel passionately that this is a HUGE problem. So here goes…
Dear Unsupportive Partner,
I am pretty sure this will come as a shock to you. I’m almost positive that you have no idea that your words or actions may seem unsupportive, and I don’t hold it against you. Sometimes we don’t realize the power of our words and actions. So I’m going to spell this out for you.
Your wife wants to change her life. She’s come to the point where she’s realized that she can no longer pour from an empty cup. That she needs to put on her oxygen mask first before putting yours on you, or your children’s on them. She knows now that if she continues the way she has been going – surviving on little to no sleep, eating your children’s leftover grilled cheese, and spending every waking moment in the service of your family, she is going to burn out and have nothing left.
For a time, her priorities are going to have to shift. She may need to put herself first. (GASP!) It is completely healthy and necessary for her to take time for herself, and she needs your support and help. I’m pretty sure that you’re willing to give this to her, right? Because here’s the thing. You know that saying, ‘happy wife, happy life”? It’s true, but not in the selfish way it sounds.
If she is given the space and the support to be her best self and enjoy a healthy way of life, she is going to be so much more enjoyable to be around. She will be happy to see you and the kids when she returns from the gym (or a walk, or a coffee by herself, or whatever she needs to improve her health). The way she eats, when she doesn’t have to worry about you complaining, will make her body thrive. She will feel strong, confident, and sexy. And I’m pretty sure you can guess how you will benefit if your wife is feeling strong, confident and sexy.
Here are some ways you can support your wife or partner in this life change:
- If you’re lucky enough to have your wife cook dinner for you, eat whatever she cooks. I don’t care if its weird. I don’t care if you don’t like vegetables. Eat it. Eat it because it’s hard enough for her to change her way of eating, cooking, and enjoying food, and the last thing she needs is for you to complain, sigh dramatically, and make this change in her life any more difficult than it already is. ESPECIALLY if you have children watching. (If you seriously cannot stomach the healthy food your wife cooks for you, smile, kiss her, praise her for her hard work, and make your own damn dinner.)
- Give her the gift of time away, guilt free. If you’ve never handled the kid’s bedtime alone before, ask her to teach you so she can miss it sometimes. Find a babysitter for her to use when you can’t be there. Make it as easy as possible for her to get out for walks, runs, hikes, or whatever she needs to work towards a healthier lifestyle. I promise you she already feels (unnecessarily) guilty for leaving you and the children, so making this easier for her will really help show her that you will all survive just fine without her for an hour.
- I’ve heard many women say that they just can’t fit a gym membership into their budget. If a gym membership is going to help support your wife, please do whatever you can to make this fit into your family budget. Less Starbucks for both of you. Sit down together, look at the finances, and try your best to make it a priority and make it work. (I do understand that sometimes a gym membership is just not manageable, and I fully understand that situation and in that case, ignore me.)
- Be involved in her change. Encourage her healthy movement, but do it gently. If she’s feeling tired and lazy, suggest a nice, brisk walk for the both of you. I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life walking side by side with someone. Suggest fun, new activities that both of you could do together. (Rock climbing, hiking, swimming, kayaking, partner yoga, etc.) Help her notice and celebrate her non-scale victories.
- Take notice and praise her for her hard work and dedication. Do not praise her for weight loss. Do you see the difference? Since meeting my husband about 10 years ago, I’ve swung from a size 0 to a size 10 and all over in between, and NOT ONCE has he ever commented on my size, and that has been a gift that I will never forget. Of course you can tell her the different parts of her body that you love (in fact, stop reading this and go tell her how much you love her thighs right now), but avoid things like “Wow, you look so great now”, insinuating that she didn’t look great before. Stick with noticing and commenting on things you may have noticed like how strong she’s becoming, how happy she seems after exercise, how proud you are of her for tackling a difficult life change, how impressed you are with her new cooking skills. Be her encourager.
You don’t want to be on the outside of this time in your partner’s life. I promise you. Rather than watching your wife struggle to change her life from the outside, throwing in some complaining about the new food and a few deep sighs, get right in there and plant yourself beside her through it all. When she is successful, she will look at you the way I look at my husband, overflowing with thankfulness. She’ll view you as a partner in her lifestyle change, rather than a stumbling block. This in itself will end up being a gift for you as well.
So this Mother’s Day, let your unconditional love and your unwavering support be your gift to her. I promise you won’t regret it.
Eat well, move your body, and have a great week,
Disclaimer: 1) Not ALL of my clients and friends feel this way. 2) I’m writing to husbands/boyfriends only because so far, in my practice, this has been the case. I’m 100% sure this situation is reversed in some partnerships, so this is in no way a man bashing session. 3) NONE of these are direct quotes from any certain client. That would be a huge breach of trust. These are conversations I’ve had with so many women, in my work, in my friendships, with strangers, etc.