My dear husband is one of the most easy-going people I know. He handles my ideas, my mood swings, and my flights of fancy with grace and calm. In turn, I do what I do best — I keep our life interesting (at least that’s how I like to view it *wink-wink!*). In general, I tend to be the higher-energy half of our marital whole. I prefer adventure vacations with hiking and active-activities; my husband would rather chill out on the beach with his iPod. He is, most definitely, the yin to my yang (or is it the other way around?!).
Although we’re very different, my husband has told me that I keep him motivated when it comes to his activity level. Unfortunately, our efforts at exercising together have always been short-lived and unsuccessful. At one point we tried training for a marathon, and due to my history with long-distance running I was deemed the “coach.” Keep in mind, we rarely fight. But marathon training brought out the worst in us and we bickered and dug at each other like children. He felt criticised when I tried to “coach” him and became snippy and short with me. I felt like he was constantly try to “outdo” me since we run at different speeds — he’s faster but has less endurance, whereas I’m fairly proud of my “slow and steady wins the race” approach. After we realized that the marathon training was undermining our relationship, we put a nix on the training and settled for a half-marathon. It went well, but my hubby vowed never to run a roadrace again.
We decided that we do best when we do our own things; honing our own interests yet still supporting one another in each persons’ personal endeavors. Lately I’ve been on a “paleo” kick (one of my many efforts at keeping life interesting). I fully embrace the concept that “the family who plays together, stays together” (and stays fit together), and I’ve started to make our leisurely Saturday morning walks fun and “paleo” through impromptu bouts of tag, squats, kicking, and hopping. On one of these recent walks, my husband was NOT into it. He was schlumping along, looking bored and faintly annoyed each time I tried to cheerleader him into a round of tag with our son. I felt annoyed that he wasn’t “into it,” and wished that he could be a more active, enthusiastic role model for our child. I catastrophized about him becoming sedentary as he got older, thinking “why can’t he be more like Mark Sisson? Why can’t he be more like Robb Wolf? Why can’t we be more like Sarah Fragoso’s awesome paleo family?” I pushed and I pushed until he finally snapped. “Why are you doing this?” he said. “I feel like you’re always nagging me to work out more! Thanks a lot. Now I feel fat and lazy.”
I made a decision to make a change, and I created a new rule that I now follow: don’t coach family. I decided that unless I’m being paid to help someone lose weight, get in shape, or otherwise improve their health (in the capacity of a physical therapist, fitness instructor, author, or otherwise) I will generally leave loved ones alone and simply lead by example. This rule of mine doesn’t necessarily apply to parenting, since I’m a firm believer that sometimes a gentle (or not so gentle) prod is necessary to keep a kid growing smoothly and steadily in the right direction. Really, this plan applies to my husband and my most immediate inner circle of loved ones (friends and family). If advice is solicited, I will give it. But I will not push or prod or nag them into following my personal “rules” or any new “plan-of-the-moment.” It’s not worth it for me to feel personally affronted when they don’t follow my directions, and I certainly don’t want them to feel criticised when I push too hard.
Leading by example can be hard for someone (like me) who likes to be in control, but I think it’s probably the most effective way to create lasting change that feels positive for everyone involved. There is a happy ending to this story: over a month after I made my decision to quietly lead by example (rather than nag), I have found that my hubby is more receptive to my rounds of “paleo play.” He happily partakes in games of tag with me and my son and he chows down my paleo fare without a complaint. All of us feel better and look better, and we’re closer as a result of the positive energy that surrounds us.