It’s true: the secrets to all of humanity’s mysteries are within romance novels. Srsly. Including where your keys are hiding. And your odd socks.
Today’s letter is from Running Hard, who writes:
Recently I joined a gym, got in shape, and have joined a competitive cross coutnry team in my area. My husband is not as attentive to his physical health, and recently was told by our doctor that unless he changes his schedule to make room for exercise, he’ll have major problems soon from high blood pressure to diabetes. I know he needs to work out more. He knows it, too. The problem is, he doesn’t show any interest in doing it, no matter how many times I invite him to join me or ask him to take better care of himself. I’m at a loss as to what to do, and he’s increasingly grumpy and uncommunicative about it. What would you suggest?
Consider the subtext of your letter: “I know better than he does what’s best for him.” When heroes display this attitude and behave accordingly, we call them alpha heroes and chuck the book at the wall. I’m not saying that if your husband jumps a fence too high you’re going to spank him, but you might want to reconsider how you’re approaching the issue. When heroines display too much alpha tendency, they can kick too much ass to the point that they are entirely unsympathetic and they cut off their noses with their katanas to spite their intriguing faces. Either that, or they alienate everyone around them, including the reader, by being irritating as hell. Confidence is good. Being in shape is good. Kicking ass is good. Presuming you know best because you got all three? Not good.
Examine the situation from your husband’s perspective. In this area, you’ve left him in the dust. Literally. You have an entire aspect of your life that he doesn’t share, and while that’s healthy and normal, you’re also telling him that he ought to join you – when that might mean you leave him in the dust again and again. While most men won’t mind watching the back end of a woman leaving (though they hate to see her go), your husband might be feeling left out, left behind, and just plain low about the entire situation.
So in essence, you’re right. But you might be losing ground in how you go about being right. My advice? Treat him like a hero. I’m not saying your husband is an alpha male to beat all chest pounding alpha males and can’t handle being beaten at anything by a woman let alone his wife, but he might need encouragement and admiration in equal doses, without condescension. Instead of examining the things that he’s not doing, focus on some of the things he is doing, and doing well.
But as for specific exercise, depending on your husband’s personality, he might benefit from a completely different activity that interests him, something solitary like biking or something group-oriented like a sports team. He might not like gyms and cardio machines, and prefer something outside. My point is that his choice has to be all about him – not all about you nagging him or telling him to model his activity on yours.
Furthermore, working out isn’t something that you’re done with. As soon as you finish, you have to do it again the next day, or the day after (much like writing a blog—huh. I have to look up how many calories this burns). So from his perspective, it might be an impossible obstacle. So give him space to figure out what might interest him, and quietly, gently encourage him to do things that might combine activity and tasks he enjoys.
Bottom line: his doctor has told him he needs to work out. You’ve told him the same and you’re doing it yourself. The ball, so to speak, is in his court. You can’t make him work out, or work out for him, and insisting, cajoling, or even delivering ultimatums means you risk emasculating him before he can get to the net.