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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – At a Loss

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – At a Loss
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

A new year is upon us and with it comes many of the resolutions that we all make to ourselves. My wife and I have made one of our resolutions to get back in shape. She needs it more than I do, but I am happy to go along because I could also stand to trim down. I also want to encourage her to shed some pounds because she is becoming downright overweight and this is affecting her health and our relationship. I’ve tried to make light of this in an innocuous way, but she either dismisses my comments or takes offense.

We both decided it would be a good idea to begin dieting and exercising in the New Year. However, it has been only a little over a week and she is already faltering. We both signed up at a gym near our house and promised to meet there every day after work. So far she has blown off three days. She said it was because she was busy with work, but, after a little probing, I found out there were ulterior reasons.

She says she just feels too tired to exercise after work. I told her that it would be difficult at first but that, after a while, she would actually have more energy rather than less.

Unfortunately, no matter how I phrase it or what I do, she seems hellbent on sabotaging our resolution.

What can I do to convince her that exercise is important for her and for our relationship?


At a Loss

Dear At a Loss,

Although we may share a relationship with someone, we don’t always share the same interests or the same way to approach situations. It is often impossible to make our significant others do things that they are not interested in doing.  When we attempt to do so, we usually cause a tremendous strain on our relationship. Your intentions may be good, but the way you express them may very well be the problem.

Instead of expressing your disappointment, why not simply set a good example. Make her aware of how good you feel after you exercise. Let her see for herself the tremendous benefits you receive from your daily work out. However, don’t rub it in. If you are trying to win someone over to your point of view then you must be gentle. You must be sensitive to your wife’s insecurities just as she must be sensitive to yours. No doubt she is not especially happy with her weight gain. Therefore, if you gloat about how much exercise you do or make your wife feel guilty for not exercising, she will only become more recalcitrant.

You should also think about your choice of venue to begin your exercise routine. A gym is a very public place full of a lot of attractive people, many of whom are in very good shape. Dragging your overweight body into a setting like that can be somewhat discouraging. It isn’t pleasant to be surrounded by ultra-fit people who only remind you of how out of shape you are. Your wife may simply not feel comfortable in that setting and would prefer that her exercise routine be done in a more private place.

Another thing you should consider is the type of exercise you are proposing. Rather than straight up exercise, perhaps something more fun or less fitness oriented would work better. A long walk after dinner, a bike ride or a low-stakes game of tennis might be more up her alley.

If you do choose a sport, make sure it doesn’t turn into something competitive. If you can’t engage in a sport without a strong desire to beat the pants off your opponent, then you need to reassess things. Perhaps your competitive nature is what turns your wife off and prevents her from exercising with you. If that’s the case then you must either keep your competitive tendencies in check or avoid playing sports with your wife.

You may also want to couch your intentions as a desire to spend more time with her. Between work and family, there isn’t a whole lot of free time that married couples have. Make her aware that, in addition to exercising, you would like to spend more time with her. You may also want to let her choose the sport or type of exercise you both engage in. This would empower her and make her feel like she is making the decisions rather than being forced into them.

Lastly, without sounding too gloom and doom, you may want to subtly remind her that having good health is important for your future together. When you both retire, you are going to want to travel and do a variety of things that you couldn’t do when you were working. You both need to stay in shape if you want to enjoy the twilight of your lives. Neither should have to take care of the other because that person didn’t take care of him or herself. However, be especially sensitive when treading in this area.

Remember, it is only through communication and understanding that we can sort out delicate problems such as yours. Be upfront with your wife but be sure you are sensitive. This may not win her over to your way of thinking, but you’ll have a better chance of convincing her of the need to exercise if she trusts you and feels that you truly want what’s best for her.

Best of luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix


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