A lifestyle change is any situation involving a journey of self-improvement such as eating healthier, exercising more, becoming vegetarian, going back to school, trying yoga or meditation, joining a health club, quitting alcohol, taking up cycling, dancing etc.
But what happens if only one partner wants to make a lifestyle change?
While we believe it is always best to have our partner participate in major lifestyle changes, this may not always be possible, and we can’t force our partner to do anything they don’t want to do. By pressuring our partner to participate in the change, we lay the foundation for resentment and unnecessary conflict.
Dealing with a partner who doesn’t want change
Sometimes a lifestyle change involves one partner stopping an activity that was previously enjoyed by both. The most common one we see is with drinking. This is particularly difficult because their prior drinking created a bond and a mutually satisfying activity.
The resentment in this case is usually from the partner who does not want to lose their drinking partner and has a hard time supporting it. Resentment and anger are common emotions that show up and conflict avoidance becomes difficult.
Ways to resolve your lifestyle differences in relationships
A common mistake couples make with lifestyle changes is to insist the other partner join in. If your partner is not interested in participating this could lead to a lot of unnecessary conflict.
How to resolve conflict?
Our advice… go it alone. This is for you and respect your partner’s right to make their own choices. The less resistance that is created, the more love and support that is allowed to enter. When you support your partner in a lifestyle change that they desire, they feel loved, supported, respected and as a result, more loving in the relationship.
Also watch: What Is a Relationship Conflict?
Putting it into practice
As with almost all our relationship tips, communication is key. Think about a lifestyle change or habit that you have already made or plan to make in the future. (If you’ve already made the change, revisit it with your partner.)
Let your partner know that you’re making a change and discuss when and why you’re making a change. If you already made the change, revisit why you made the change in the first place.
Give your partner time to adjust to the idea and understand the reasons you’re making the change.
If your partner is resistant to the change, find out why. For example, they may be angry that you’re not spending the time with them, or insecure about the other people you’ll be spending time with.
Tell your partner what you need from them to feel supported. Be absolutely clear. For example: “I need you to prepare meals for the kids on the nights that I go to the gym so I don’t feel pressured to run home and have to feed them.”
Ask your partner what they need from you so they can feel more supportive
These tips should help you make a positive lifestyle change without much resistance from your partner. When your partner is taken into loop about the change and they are not forced to do the same, they would be more supportive of your decision and morever, will help you stick to it.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Craig Lambert is a marriage counselor in San Diego with over 30 years of experience dedicated to helping couples rekindle their love, deepen their intimacy and strengthen communication. Craig is proud to incorporate Imago therapy into his work as a marriage counselor in San Diego. Craig is also an Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) certified practitioner which, paired with his Imago background, sets him apart as someone who has deeply integrated the two highest forms of respected therapy to provide his clients with the most effective techniques available.