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How to Encourage Your Partner to Take Better Care of Themselves While Strengthening Your Relationship

You are on the fit track, eating healthy, and working on being the best you can be. You would love nothing more than to have your partner on this journey with you. In fact, when they aren’t on the same page, things can become challenging. It would probably be easier for you to stay true to a healthy lifestyle if your partner was by your side for the trials and joys of this journey. There are ways you can effectively encourage your partner to take better care of themselves and strengthen your relationship in the process, regardless of the specific outcome.

You may have already tried to get them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. By now you should know when you want your partner to take a desired action, the worst thing you can do is nag. What happens to you when someone nags you? Your defenses go up, your walls are strengthened, and most likely you will dig your heels in going deeper in the opposite direction. Nagging will only create distance and will surely upset both of you. Giving ultimatums—not really a good choice, especially if you love them and want to be in the relationship with them. Criticize them—again it will create discontent and start your relationship on a treacherous slippery slope downward. Okay, so you’re clear on what definitely doesn’t work.

First you want to step into their shoes, be empathetic.

When someone takes a stand to do something that is clearly not good for their overall being, like choosing to not workout, typically their reasons are fear based. Explore what those fears might be—it’s too difficult, I will only disappoint myself and my partner if I don’t succeed, I don’t love myself enough to take care of myself. If your partner has a trait that they don’t like in themselves, the thought of changing it is scary and often larger than life. It’s often easier to gloss over it and pretend it doesn’t exist. So when they make the decision to shift in a positive direction, they will definitely fair best with your loving support, encouragement, and the knowledge that you will accept them no matter what the outcome. Their knowledge that you will be by their side every step of the way will help your relationship grow stronger.

Kicking fear to the curb together is a great way to strengthen your relationship.

To begin this journey with your partner, you need to back way up from the specific thing you want them to change. You need to look at the bigger picture together. One of my favorite celebrity couples, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith create annual plans for their businesses, their family life, and for their relationship. They create a mission statement, set goals and create a game plan to achieve these goals together. This is one of the reasons they remain solid and continue to grow individually and as a couple.

The rewards for pushing beyond your comfort zone and creating a plan to make your relationship the best it can be and you the best partner you can be is a powerful way to manifest the life you’ve always wanted. Your relationship is an incredible vehicle for your personal growth. If you view your partnership as an opportunity to aid you in moving toward being the best person you can be, more connected to your true self, and more loving, you will grow by leaps and bounds into the person you have always wanted to be.

If you are ready for the challenge, make a date with your partner for at least two hours, some time when you both aren’t exhausted, to be in a non-distracting environment. Have some pens, a journal or a pad of paper for each of you to write on, and a calendar. Begin by separately writing down answers to the questions and finishing the following sentences:

  • What are some of the reasons I want to be in a loving, supportive relationship?
  • The purpose of our relationship is…
  • My goals for us as a couple are… (Make sure to include goals around emotional, physical, spiritual, family, career/retirement, and overall well-being)
  • My goals for myself are… (Again touch on all areas of well-being mentioned above)
  • If I was the best me I could be, how would I describe myself? What can I do to move forward in my goal to be my best?
  • What can I do to make our relationship even better?

Review your answers aloud with one another. Feel free to add additional notes to your answers if you really like some points your partner made. Now together, create positive “we” and “our” based-statements that represent the traits you would love to have your relationship emulate. This will be your relationship mission and vision. Some of the important reasons for being in your relationship probably include: Our relationship supports both of us. We help one another enjoy life together. We chose to have a passionate and thriving relationship. We view each other as allies, never adversaries. We are grateful for our relationship and one another. We emphasize the positive traits in our relationship and in each other. We practice thoughtfulness.

Now that you have heard your partner’s answers and have co-created statements around what matters most for your relationship’s success, take a few more minutes to answer the following questions first aloud and then write the answers down:

  • Each individual, ask your partner: What can I do to help you in your pursuit to be your best?
  • Our specific goals as a couple are… (Make sure to include goals around emotional, physical, spiritual, family, career/retirement, and overall well-being)
  • What can we do together to make our relationship even better?

Review your answers, pull out the big goals, look at your calendar, and put completion dates associated with each one. Write down the specific actions you can take individually and as a couple to help you advance toward the desired outcomes. Put a timeline together for the year. List the goals you want to achieve this year, quarter, month, week, and day. For example, one of your goals might be that you want to lead a healthy life so you can have a long and rewarding time together stretching far into retirement. From this overarching goal, create an annual goal for each of you and as a couple. Think of the things that you would have to do individually and in your relationship to achieve that goal. They might include: eat healthy, make time to workout, go to the doctor and dentist for regular check-ups, check in with one another weekly and daily on your tasks around this goal, and individually it might include losing a certain amount of weight or having the ability to run a marathon. Whatever the steps are to achieving your end goal, brainstorm and get them all down.

Now for the fun part, when you achieve your goals how are you going to reward yourself and your relationship.

Attach mini-rewards and bigger rewards around each of the goals. For example, if we workout three times or more a week for the next month we will book a couple’s massage together. For the end of the year reward, maybe you can take a vacation to an island destination. Whatever it is make sure you reward yourself for a job well done!

This is also an important component of this work to help understand one another’s perspective more clearly. Ask what fears, if any, come up for you around this process. Be empathetic toward your partner’s point of view. Both you individually and your relationship will always be a work in progress. Strive to have a spirit of empathy, goodwill, and commitment flowing throughout your interactions with one another. You will see in the process that your partner is doing their best for where they are at this time. Your loving support will do more to expand their potential to be their best than nagging ever will. Positive change will occur when you accept, support, and understand your partner’s needs and you will both in turn benefit from a solid, loving relationship.

You will never be able to change your partner.

You can only encourage them to be their best in a way that they can hear you because they know they are loved and supported wholeheartedly. So the next time you aren’t getting the desired effect from your conversation with your partner, stop and listen to your internal dialogue. Are you asking questions like: How can I fix this problem? How can I get what I want? If you are make a shift and start asking yourself: If I am going to behave in accord with my highest self, what will I do right now? When you can use the challenge with your partner as an opportunity to grow into the person you want to be, you will be influencing the overall quality of your relationship.

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh, “…If you take good care of yourself, you help everyone. You stop being a source of suffering to the world, and you become a reservoir of joy and freshness. Here and there are people who know how to take good care of themselves, who live joyfully and happily. They are our strongest support. Everything they do, they do for everyone.”

Joy Nordenstrom, CMM, MBA

Joy Nordenstrom, CMM, MBA

Joy M. Nordenstrom is founder of Joy of Romance, Inc., a certified matchmaker, relationship coach, love story historian and a romantic event and vacation planner. Her MBA and undergraduate degrees are from Mills College in Oakland and she attended the Matchmaking & Behavioral Sciences Institute in New York City.

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