My Kids Aren’t the Problem…It’s My Spouse (His & Her Perspectives)

Our kids often get blamed for undermining our healthy dietary goals, but even more frustrating is when our significant other – an adult – that person who vowed to support us in sickness and in health – sabotages our efforts. This is a difficult place to be, and if I were to guess, I bet that individual is probably unsupportive in other important areas as well. (A problem beyond my scope of practice, I’m afraid). If you have a spouse who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for healthier living, I want you to know you still have some options. Here are two approaches for you to consider…

  • Benefit of the Doubt – Instead of assuming your spouse won’t get on board with your clean eating goals, make a point to have that conversation intentionally. You could try bringing up the topic spontaneously when both of you are rested, content and relaxed, and it might go smoothly. But in my marriage, I find difficult conversations are more successful when I give a little advanced notice. I still wait until our moods are stable and lighthearted, but instead of dropping a bomb, I’ll lead with something like, “You know, I’ve been thinking of making some changes with the foods we eat, and I would really appreciate having your input and support. Can we set aside 30 minutes tomorrow night after kids go to bed to talk about it?” This gives the other person a chance to prepare some thoughts of their own. Maybe you could turn it into a friendly competition, or better yet – set an incentive that motivates both of you. If your spouse is agreeable, AWESOME! But if not, you take it to the next level. And this is where I’ll rely on my husband’s Tough Love approach, because I tend to use a lot of words and am always concerned about the other person’s feelings. Tim…um, not so much. Sometimes his approach is downright aggravating, but other times I find it amazingly refreshing. Here’s his take on it…
  • By, Through or With – When you don’t have time for back and forth shenanigans, here’s the route Tim recommends (aka, “Suck it up, Buttercup!”).
    • BY – If your spouse isn’t willing to hop on board, move right on by and carry on with your bad self. Maybe enlist a good friend or neighbor to partner with instead. Do what you planned to do, but also be prepared to treat your spouse with kid gloves (“Honey, just take one bite….ok, just lick it…”). If at some point he or she begins to show some interest, welcome them on board wholeheartedly and leave all those sarcastic comments you want to say, unsaid.
    • THROUGH – Eyes on the prize, baby! If your spouse opts out, let them know you’re not a short-order cook, and if they choose not to eat what is provided, they are on their own. Chips and salsa followed by a beer chaser? Knock yourself out, my friend. I’ll sit here quietly and enjoy a feast made for a king (or queen).
    • WITH – I can and I will do this alone, but it would be a whole lot more fun and sustainable if you would join me. How can we work together to make this happen? If nothing else, can we make this combined effort for the sake of our kids?

I’m not licensed in any kind of family counseling or marital therapy, but if there’s one line I would defend – it would be an individual’s right to good health. It’s one thing if your spouse doesn’t want to participate. That’s their prerogative. But if they insist on sabotaging your efforts, that’s worth a mature, and perhaps uncomfortable and tense conversation. Find some professional assistance if you need it. My 2 cents.