A decade or so has passed since you said “I do” to that virile, young, healthy specimen you fell in love with. You had a couple kids, life became more hectic, fast food became more convenient, exercise became less convenient, and a few extra pounds have settled in. Is it even possible for a wife to “motivate” her husband towards better health without shame, control or manipulation?
Choose Influence, Not Control
Wise wives already know we cannot change or control anyone but ourselves, but in marriage we influence each other all the time. We can use our influence well and set our marriages up for success by having well-timed, grounded, loving, thoughtful conversations – or we can squander and dilute our influence by nagging, dropping hints or being passive-aggressive.
If your concerns are truly about his health and longevity he will be able to discern that your words are coming from a loving, authentic place. But you have to get your own motives straight because he will be able to sniff out unloving motives. If it’s vanity, work on releasing it, otherwise he will be unmoved and further disconnected from the marriage.
Gauge His Sensitivity
Assess his emotional sensitivity or shame around the topic. If he already struggles with insecurity you have to use encouraging and supportive language to really let him know you’re in it with him and love him no matter what.
If he’s the, um, “less sensitive,” jock/dude type he may disrespect this tip-toeing and only respond to, “My precious love, I really want you to live longer than Chris Farley, your wife is ready for you to make some changes. What do you say?”
Nagging is the Enemy
Never shame, threaten, demand or issue ultimatums. This is born of fear and an intense desire to control what is outside of your control. It is SO very natural, but it makes his health a sore subject and a power struggle in which he has all the power. If you have done this, apologize. Say you were wrong and that you want to repair the hurt you caused.
Nagging diminishes the power of your voice and feeds your feelings of helplessness. Be loving and direct or let the subject rest. If he feels controlled he will move away from you. Loving him means giving him the freedom to make his own decisions, even unhealthy ones. This is why cultivating influence is a way better route.
Kelley Gray has been a private practice psychotherapist in the Denver area for 14 years. She is passionate about promoting growth, healing and making messes with her daughters. You can connect with her at kelleygray.com.