It seems like the longer relationships last, the longer the list of stuff you can fight about gets. And a big stumbling block for many couples these days are differing attitudes about food and fitness. He’s a yoga-loving vegan; she swears by the paleo diet and CrossFit. But disagreements over how you view being healthy don’t have to blow up your relationship. In fact, says Alisa Ruby Bash, LMFT, a relationship expert in Beverly Hills, California, it can even bring you closer together.
The fix: The good news, according to Bash, is that if athleticism is important to your partner, it will come up early in the relationship at a time where you can easily take it or leave it. If you’ve been together for a while, this worry probably says more about you than him. “You need to check your insecurities. He picked you! Don’t project your own issues onto him,” she says, adding that if he (or she) had wanted a partner as into competitive dodgeball as he is, he would have dated one of the girls from his team. And if you’re still worried? Just ask him.
The fix: We’re just going to say it: Men seem to lose weight a lot easier than women and that, frankly, stinks. It’s easy to turn things into a competition but in the end if one of you gets healthy then you both win. This is why you should try and make it a team effort, Bash says. “Getting healthy together is a great idea,” she says. “You can work together as a team to keep healthy food in the house, cook meals, support each other and even enjoy rewards together.”
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The fix: Being dedicated to your favorite Zumba class isn’t a bad thing; everyone needs to do something for themselves. The problem comes because we all have limited time, Bash explains. But you don’t have to quit to keep your significant other company on the couch with Netflix. “Try inviting him to come with you,” she suggests. “And if he’s not interested, make it a priority to schedule time together doing something you both enjoy.”
The fix: Men often have a lot of expectations about the way a woman “should” eat (thanks a lot, Carl’s Jr. commercials!) but there is no one set way for ladies to get sustenance. Some girls thrive on salads, others like to splurge on a pizza and wings, while some of us hoard chocolate in our underwear drawer like squirrels preparing for a chococalypse. It’s all good, Bash says, adding that if your man teases you about what you eat or don’t eat, the best way to handle it is to tease him right back. “Turn the joke around on him and don’t take yourself too seriously,” she explains. “If you don’t think it’s a big deal, then he won’t either.”
The fix: We’ve all heard that “boys like a little more booty to hold at night” but whether you’re all about the bass or the treble (or a happy symphony of both) what your body looks like should be up to you. Bash encounters this issue a lot with her clients, and she says that while some women may see it as complimentary or even liberating, others feel scared. “Of course you want him to find you attractive but ultimately you have to be true to yourself,” she explains, adding that you need to just tell him how his comments make you feel and it’s likely he’ll cut it out.
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The fix: Nothing is more frustrating than starting Day One of your new healthy lifestyle, having just cleaned all the junk from your pantry, than to turn around and find your partner standing there holding a gallon of mint chip. If it just happens once, address the issue—Does your weight loss make him feel insecure about the relationship? Was he just trying to do something nice?—and agree that it won’t happen again. But if it becomes an ongoing problem, it could actually be a sign of emotional abuse, Bash says. “If one person is struggling to lose weight and the other is constantly trying to sabotage that, it means they’re trying to manipulate that person and can even become an enabler of a food addiction,” she explains. “If he won’t stop and won’t go to counseling with you, it’s a deal breaker.”