Is Getting Our Spouse to Make a Healthy Change "Mission Impossible"?
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The Team Valentine Project mission is to help you empower yourself and your family to find simple, realistic, and science-based ways to make wellness work. Well, I have some bad news. Sometimes, no matter how simple a healthy change may be, our spouses may not be as willing or open to jump aboard our healthy train.
I’ve been there. My husband, now an ultra-runner, was one of the only ROTC cadets who refused to join the group runs I hosted in college. So how did he go from an “I hate running, my ankles are bad” fast food enthusiast, to a plant-based athlete who voluntarily races a jogging stroller up the side of mountains? Let’s talk about it.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is, "How we can encourage a loved one to join us on a mission to improve our health?" After all, we want our partners to live a long, healthy life too!
Unfortunately, the answer is we just can’t force it. Behavior changes are hard enough for us to implement when we WANT to. It can be frustrating, especially when we know if we have the support of our partner we are more likely to succeed. However, all hope is not lost!
Here are some things we can try:
1. Practice Acceptance, Patience, and Planning.
One of the best things we can do for our relationship is recognize that right now our spouse may not be able to serve a supporting role. Rather than being resentful, we can focus on the other wonderful ways they contribute to our life. As was the case with my husband, it may simply just take time.
In the meaning time, start by focusing on you. Work to clearly define what you want, why you want it, and how you will get there. Since support and accountability are still important, make sure to find an alternative source of support as a part of your planning process.
Here are some alternative ways to find support:
✅ Surround yourself with a tribe of people on a similar mission.
✅ Join a challenge.
✅ Find a go-to mentor or buddy to join you.
✅ Listen to podcasts to motivate and inspire you.
✅ Share your goal on social media and hold yourself accountable to “showing you can do it.”
2. Lead by Example.
Let others see what you are doing and how good you feel, without being overly vocal about “why they should do it too.” Respect the fact they may not be interested right now. Over time they just might ask a few questions if you are looking/feeling/performing better. Work to find ways to demonstrate how your new health habit positively affects your life. Before long that curiosity may just turn into inspired action!
3. Stay Consistent.
Most of us won't admit it, but when we see someone on a mission to meet a health goal, a part of us may be silently waiting to see that person go back to what they were doing prior. Show others this is a permanent change, anyone can do it, and it's even kind of fun!
4. Don't be the Messenger.
Really feel the need to share some great health information with your loved one? Don’t be the one to deliver the message. Instead, hand them a resource. Even my own husband would rather read sports nutrition and performance advice from Runner’s World than his own Health Educator/Exercise Physiologist wife. I’ve also had success in gifting a book to my father about Alzheimer’s prevention through dietary changes instead of delivering a lecture myself. Guess Dr. Amen is a lot more convincing!
(One day, little man decided to get educated.)
5. Informed Teamwork
Are you and your partner teamed up to make some healthy changes, but now butting heads as you try to see them through? Just like we may have different love languages, you and your partner may also have different ways that you are motivated to meet expectations.
One of the best tools I’ve come across is a concept created by happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin. She has an online quiz to help us troubleshoot why we don’t do the things we “commit to” or “really want” to do for ourselves. The framework offers practical answers if you’ve ever wondered, “How do I get people – including myself – to do what I want?”
By having yourself and your partner take the quiz you can determine how you tend to respond to inner and outer expectations. Perhaps you’ve never stopped to consider that while you are motivated by researching why you should do something and learning about all the benefits, your husband might be perfectly content making a behavior change as long as he has an accountability buddy by his side. This framework can help us find ways to better communicate and support one another throughout the behavior change process, as well as help us identify what types of challenges are most likely to prevent us from making our changes permanent.
And finally, if you’re still convinced you want to inspire your spouse to make a healthy change, this framework may also be useful in helping you determine the best way to reach them. For example, do you think your husband is a Questioner? Probably best to try #4 from above! Is your wife a Rebel? Maybe aim to start with #1.
Regardless of how you plan to make it happen, I wish you much success in bringing your partner on board to make a healthy change! When in doubt, stay focused on your goals and ensure you have excellent support until they decide to join your journey.
If you loved this article and have an important health or fitness goal you want to accomplish, you'll enjoy my free advanced masterclass training from my health & performance academy! Learn simple, science-backed strategies to expedite your success, stress less and maximize your health without a complicated journey or endless search for answers.
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