Your partner just started their fitness journey. Alone. You’re not quite sure why, where you fit in or how to react. Here’s five things you can do to support your fit partner.
Ask them why they want to get fit.
I tried calling this bullet point a few different things, including, “Realize it’s not about you,” and “Don’t project motives,” but I didn’t want to be negative, and more importantly, those headings only represent part of the picture. Your partner probably isn’t getting fit to get the attention of someone new they want to hook up with or even so you think they’re hotter. They’re probably doing it to get healthier and feel better about themselves. But knowing that isn’t enough. It’s helpful to really understand the deeper “why” your partner wants to get in shape. Because 5 family members died of a heart attack before age 60, and at 40, your partner is starting to get nervous. Because she was teased about being the “fat girl,” as a kid and always got picked last in gym, and even though she’s comfortable with her weight now, she’s still self-conscious that she can’t run a 5K.
Let them have alone time if that’s what they want.
We spend a lot of time thinking about what other people are doing for us and very little time thinking about what they’re doing for themselves. In my experience, spending a little time doing something just for you without having to think about someone else is a good way to get to know yourself and feel refreshed. Take a moment to think about that before you make your partner feel guilty about not heading home right after work or about later dinners. I’d even think twice before saying something like, “I miss you while you’re at the gym.” You may have good intentions and genuinely miss them, but try to survive that extra hour without making them feel like they should have stayed home instead.
Positive vibes only.
Say encouraging, positive things to your partner about their fitness journey. The obvious way to do this is to compliment how they look, but I challenge you to try some other forms of encouragement.
- Tell them they seem more energetic or confident lately.
- Congratulate them on a recent fitness victory or challenging workout they completed. (That means you have to ask about those things.)
Don’t be negative or a know it all. Avoid telling your wife she’s going to look manly if she trains chest and shoulders. Don’t tell him that dessert is going to ruin his progress. Don’t tell her she’s doing something all wrong or that you know the better way to get in shape, even if you’re pretty sure you’re right. Especially don’t do these things if your partner is newer to fitness. Part of the journey is navigating on your own and being proud you did it. The only exception I can think of is if you see your partner doing something in the name of health that’s actually dangerous.
Ask how you can get involved.
If you’re feeling left out because your partner started their fitness journey without you, ask if you can workout with them or get involved in some other way. Brace yourself. Your partner may not want to workout with you – see my second point. If that’s the case, talk about how you can start your own parallel fitness journey or be a supporter of theirs. Maybe your partner doesn’t want to run with you every day, but if you’re interested in running, you could sign up for the same 5K. She may not want to lift weights with you but she’s okay going to the gym at the same time. You have completely different exercise styles, but once or twice a week you can deviate from your normal routine and bike together. You can learn to prepare healthier meals, stand at the finish line of their race or make sure you’re home at a certain time so your partner doesn’t have to haul to children to the gym Kids’ Club.
Address your own insecurities.
Shall we address the big tomato in the room? (Any Parenthood fans?? Anyone?) Some people struggle to support their partner’s fitness journey because of their own insecurities. “He’ll realize he’s too good looking for me.” “She’ll like all the attention from other dudes.” “I don’t understand why my partner started this without me.” “My partner doesn’t like spending time with me anymore.” If this is you, please try to own it and admit it instead of being negative and unsupportive of your partner. Please don’t try to take something positive your partner is doing and make it something negative about you. I know this will be hard to do, but an honest conversation is the best way to address insecurities. You and your partner can work through insecurities together (everyone has them!) before they put a big strain on your relationship.
How do you support your partner through their fitness journey? How does your partner support you?
Photo credit: Pexels stock photo