Time for a lifestyle change? How partners can help each other through it.

By Barrett White

Supporting your partner in a lifestyle change journey is a love language in and of itself.

 

Maybe it’s a different sleep schedule, an exercise regimen, or a new nutritional plan. Tackling a significant lifestyle change can be difficult, so proper support from the individual’s partner is crucial. So, if your partner has decided to undergo one such change, what can you do to help them along?

 

Ask what they need. Don’t make assumptions. Instead, ask how you can be of assistance. Even if this is a lifestyle chance you have already completed yourself, it might rub your partner the wrong way if you begin to dictate how they can make the change based on what worked for you, rather than what is actually best for them. Remember: Everyone is different. What helped you (or what you think would help you, if it’s not a change you’ve already pursued) might not be what would help your partner through it.

Ask if they want that well-intentioned emotional support. While some people might flourish if you tell them every change you notice, others might find it suffocating. Does your partner want to know when you notice that they’ve stuck to their changes all month? Alternatively, if you notice that they haven’t stuck to their changes, would it be appropriate to say something, and to ask how you can help them? The best course of action would be to discuss this with your partner ahead of time.

Does your partner want an accountabilibuddy? An accountabilibuddy – or, a buddy you hold yourself accountable to – is the person you check in with from time to time when making those dietary choices, or when you’re on your way to the gym and so on. Having someone like this during a major lifestyle shift can be incredibly helpful in preventing burnout. As their partner, you’re kind of the built-in go-to person for this job! But check in with your partner first: They might prefer an unbiased, objective third party like a dietitian, coach, or trainer.

Rewards pave the way to success. Rewards – not punishments – are the best way to encourage results. We already know that lifestyle changes are difficult, so why are we going to make an uphill battle worse by punishing someone for faltering on their journey? That helps no one. If your partner wants to kick a sugar habit, maybe you can support them by planning a weekend getaway for the two of you when they hit a milestone, as opposed to showing disapproval when they reach for a Snickers on a stressful day. Let them have that Snickers, they’ve been doing so well. Get back to planning your weekend road trip for when they reach that first goal.

Be aware of the environment. While they are important, support is more than the affirmations and rewards. Are you helping to create an environment for your partner’s success? For example: If your partner is on a nutritional journey, it might be helpful when planning that dinner with friends to consider restaurants with healthier nutritional value. Is your partner giving up alcohol? Consider a range of sober activities for that Fourth of July party instead of your coworker’s pub crawl.

 

Supporting your partner in a lifestyle change journey is a love language in and of itself. You’re their partner, and they should be able to count on you as you should them. Communication – for both parties – will be key, so be willing to talk before and during the change so they know you’re listening and that you’ve got their back. They can do this and you, as their rock and confidante, can, too.