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I struggle knowing how to best motivate my husband to exercise. I find him attractive, but I'm concerned for his future health and I admit I also want to be attracted physically to him as we grow older. He has been willing to work out occasionally throughout our marriage, he even trained for and ran a marathon, but his body doesn't seem to change a whole lot. I've encouraged him to try different workouts and push himself, but he just gets mad at me for saying anything. I wish he would catch fire with diet and exercise, just because he wants me to be more attracted to him. Your advice would be very appreciated. I know I’m probably shallow and need to change myself, but is there anyway to motivate someone else to change too?
There are a couple ways you can motivate your spouse to lose weight, but before you try them, you must first step back and look at the story you are telling yourself about his weight. There is definitely a lesson here for you.
(Whenever something about someone else is bugging you, it's a sign you have some changing to do too.)
It sounds like you have created a story that says “I will only be happy if my spouse loses weight,” meaning you will be unhappy if he doesn’t. You have created a story, which attaches your happiness to an outcome. This is a problem.
One of the most powerful things Buddha said is, “It is your resistance to what is that causes your suffering.” This means when you wish things were different than they are, you are creating optional misery that doesn’t have to be there.
This is truth because everything you experience is nothing more than perspective. No situation means anything (nor has any power to affect how you feel in any way) until you give it that power. Reality is objective. It is what it is and it means nothing and does nothing.
Your husband has genes that make him a larger person. That is the objective reality.
This situation cannot make you unhappy now or in the future. It’s the story you have created around the situation that determines how you feel. You’ve created a story that says you can only be attracted to a thinner person and if your spouse doesn’t work out and get thinner you won’t be attracted and therefore happy, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Whether you are happy or unhappy (in any moment) is a matter of choice and focus in that moment. It has little to do with your situation. We know this because in every single moment of your life you will have reasons to be unhappy and reasons to be happy. You will have things you don’t like and you will have things you are grateful for. There will be people who have it worse than you and others who have it better. These conditions will always exist in every moment. It is the nature of life.
The question is, what story are you telling yourself right now? Are you telling yourself a victim story about how bad you have it? Are you telling yourself a fear story about how bad the future might be? Are you telling yourself a shame story about how inadequate you are?
You will be a lot happier if you live in the objective present, stop creating misery stories and focus on what is right in your life. Stop worrying about how you are going to feel about your husband in the future. Choose to feel good about your life right now. Look at all the things that are right in your life and marriage, and focus on those. Create a story about how wonderful it is to be married to a person who has your spouse’s good qualities. Fill out the Nature of Life worksheet on my website, it will help you focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.
If you are still struggling with control over your mindset, I strongly encourage you to find a coach or counselor who can help you.
If you want to have a better marriage and better intimacy, I can tell you exactly how to create that right now. Build your spouse up and tell him constantly how amazing and wonderful he is. Never make him feel he disappoints you on any level. The more admired, respected, appreciated and wanted you make him feel, the more he will love and adore you. This kind of loving behavior is what will create real happiness, connection and great intimacy — much more than weight loss will.
If you are really worried about your spouse's health and you feel you must talk to him about his weight, make sure it is a love-motivated conversation, not a fear-motivated one. If you approach him because you are afraid you aren’t going to be attracted to him when he’s older, that’s fear. Fear is selfishness (it’s about you) and your spouse will feel this and will immediately feel the need to protect himself. Fear breeds fear and selfishness. You can't approach your spouse from this place and expect a good outcome.
If you approach him because you want him to be healthy, strong and happy, and you are coming from nothing but love, he will feel this and the conversation will go better. Spend a lot of time validating him and telling him how wonderful he is first, though. These kinds of conversations trigger anyone’s deepest fear — the fear of failure that they might not be good enough. They will need a great deal of validation to go with your advice.
Follow the Mutually Validating Conversations Worksheet on my website to have this conversations in a validating way. Do more asking questions and listening than talking. Find out what he wants, what his fears and concerns are and what kind of support he wants. No matter what he says, don’t let your fears come into this. You have nothing to fear. Ask how you could support him to get healthier so you can have an amazing life together. Be his support and cheerleader, not his critic or coach.
Then, make sure if he tries to make changes you mention everything he is doing right and give him lots of positive encouragement along the way. Especially compliment who he is, his dedication and strength — not just what he looks like.
Most importantly, choose to be happy and grateful for what’s right in your life in every moment. It is the real secret to happiness.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.