Even in the most communicative relationships, it can be hard to broach certain topics with your partner. Voicing your concerns about your partner’s health can be particularly awkward because when it comes to unhealthy habits, we’re all pretty sensitive.
At the same time, talking openly about health and wellness is incredibly important because when you love someone, you want them to live a long and fulfilling life with you. If your partner has turned into a couch potato who never exercises, has started eating lots of junk food or can’t seem to quit smoking, it’s time to have that tricky chat. But it doesn’t have to be tricky – and here’s how.
1. Prepare yourself for the conversation.
Write a list of your key concerns so you can stay on topic when you do chat to your partner. It’s also a good idea to chat to a health professional so you can arm yourself with facts. Your pharmacist will be able to give you the latest stats on how weight, unhealthy food and a lack of exercise contributes to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. This might help you explain to your partner that your concern is coming from a place of love – you want them to enjoy a long, healthy and happy life.
2. Prepare your partner for the conversation.
Psychologist and relationships expert Melanie Schilling recommends giving your partner a heads up that the conversation is coming.
“It’s important that your partner isn’t completely blindsided,” Schilling tells Mamamia. “Let them know that on your next date night you want to chat about where you are in your lives and where you are both heading. Ask them to have a think about where they’re at, what they’re happy with, what they’re not happy with and say that you’ll do the same.” Schilling adds that by forewarning your partner, you’re giving them the opportunity to reflect on their current lifestyle and how it may be affecting their (and your) life goals.
3. Chose the right time and environment.
Think about where your partner is most at ease. If they would feel embarrassed talking about personal issues in a public space, have the chat at home. If they feel most calm outdoors, go for a walk together. It’s also important to pick the right time. If your partner is feeling tired and grumpy after a long day and just wants to chill, it’s probably not a good time to launch into a lengthy conversation. Opt for a time when you are both feeling relaxed and calm with minimal distractions. If you have a toddler that interrupts you halfway through every sentence, wait until they are tucked in bed and turn your phone and the TV off so you can really listen to each other.
4. Frame it with love.
Speak to your partner respectfully and avoid any blunt criticisms. Instead of saying, “You’re getting fat,” say “I want us to work together to get your BMI in the healthy range because I love you and I want you around for as long as possible.”
Schilling says it’s essential that your partner doesn’t feel condescended and feels free to participate as an equal. “It’s important that it doesn’t feel like an interrogation or as though you’re telling them off,” she adds. “You need to both come into the conversation with equal levels of power, equal input, equal value and equal opportunity to make changes. Take the blame out of it. Don’t say ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’. Rather say, ‘Let’s take stock of our lives and work together to make positive changes’.”
5. Accept that your partner might not be self-aware.
Don’t assume that your partner will have self-awareness and will be immediately willing to take your advice on board. If your partner is in denial about their weight, how much junk food they eat or how many cigarettes they smoke, you need to be ready to back up your concerns with evidence.
If they’re smoking a pack a day and telling you that they’re a ‘social smoker’ or if they’ve put on 30kgs and tell you it’s all muscle despite not doing any exercise, try and urge them to see the reality without becoming too confrontational. According to Schilling, there are five stages of change – precontemplation, contemplation, determination, action and maintenance. “If your partner is in the precontemplation stage, it means they are not thinking seriously about changing their habits and may become defensive,” she says. If the conversation starts to derail, say you’d like to end the chat and revisit it later.
6. Focus on the outcome.
Ideally, your partner will reflect on their health choices before you sit down for a chat and their lifestyle changes will come from them rather than you. If that’s the case, work with them to develop an action plan. Start with a few small changes and work up to big ones. If a sedentary lifestyle is the problem, plan for a 20-minute walk together three times a week and work up to a 5km run. If eating lots of junk food is a problem, develop a weekly meal plan together. Accept that change might take time and there may be several set-backs along with way.
Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult. When you love someone, you want the best for them and you want them to be by your side for as long as possible. No matter how awkward you feel about it, have the chat and always approach it with love, compassion and care.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.
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