Q: Now that I’m more active, I notice that my partner is… well… not. In fact, it seems like the more active I become, the less active he tries to be. He fakes like he wants to do stuff with me, but then complains about it the entire time. IT DRIVES ME NUTS! How do I deal with this without killing him?
A: I think, first and foremost, you have to ask yourself a hard question: is this a serious enough issue that you’re willing to leave your mate over it? If the answer is yes, then just simplify everything and be out. If the answer is no, then recognize that your partner deserves your compassion and understanding, and this should be in the forefront of your mind when dealing with him regarding this issue. You want to get your point and your needs across, but you want to be sensitive to his feelings, too. He does have them, regardless of how he acts, and if you truly want things to work out you’ll remember that hurting their feelings today will result in lots of problems down the road.
Honestly, talks like this have to happen, because the way things are currently is resulting in you feeling some kind of resentment. No matter how petty [you or he may feel] it is, you should feel comfy with sharing your thoughts and feelings, so long as you remember the other side does have feelings, too.
The next time you decide to engage in an activity together and he starts complaining, ask him, “What’s wrong? Do you not want to do this? You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, [insert pet name].” If you get push back on it, say “No, really… I can tell you’re unhappy, and I don’t want you putting yourself through this if you don’t want to, so really… just go back home, relax, and I’ll be back soon, okay?” and if you get more push back, tell ’em “Alright, now… but if you’re going to stick around, you’ve got to chill with the complaining. None of us truly “loves” putting ourselves through this, but we just suck it up, y’know?”
I feel like people who do things and complain about them the entire time are doing it because they’re not comfortable. They may be uncomfy because they don’t know enough to feel comfy, they may only be doing it because they feel some sort of obligation to do things you obviously enjoy, they may be doing it because they feel like they have to go with you in order to let “the competition” know you’ve already got a significant other in your life… or they may be there begrudgingly because they fear that if they don’t work out, they’ll lose you.
Considering these four reasons, we can take them one by one. If they fear they’ll lose you if they don’t try to work out too, it’s in your best interest to tell your mate that they have nothing to worry about. You’ve already decided, by this point, that you want to maintain your relationship, and it isn’t healthy to have one partner be constantly afraid of losing you for no reason. If you can quelch their concerns, then you should. If you can’t, then that is a-whole-nother issue in and of itself.
If your partner simply believes that they have to let others know that you have a significant other, then you can tell them – often, if necessary – that they have nothing to worry about. On top of boosting their ego a little bit – and who couldn’t use a little ego boost every now and again? – you’ll reassure them to the point where this becomes a non-issue. If it doesn’t become a non-issue, again, that’s a-whole-nother issue in and of itself.
If your partner feels obligated to like the things you like, let ’em know: “Listen, you can try anything I do, but if you don’t like it, you don’t like it… and that’s okay! Trust me – I don’t like your [insert really annoying thing they do] and I love the fact that you don’t make me struggle through it… so I don’t want you to feel like you have to struggle through this.” Two people don’t have to be eternally adjoined at the hip just because they’re in a relationship with one another and it is, in fact, healthy to have interests that don’t involve one another. If you get the “but this is something that I really wanna like!” response… I’d simply come back with “Then you have got to relax with the complaining… I know it’s hard and the learning curve is steep… but that complaining is making it hard to help you out..”
The last one, to me, is the easiest. If your partner’s complaining simply because they don’t really know what’s going on or how to use anything, tell them – “Look, if you want, I can show you the ropes… all you’ve got to do is ask me.” For your partner to admit they don’t know something is a pretty vulnerable place to put themselves in front of you, so you’ve got to be gentle with it. Don’t lord over them and assume they know nothing about exercise. Leave them alone in the gym or on the field, and whenever they’ve got a question, answer that question as thoroughly as possible. Let them know that you can be their resource and that it doesn’t bother you to give them the tools and tips they need today, because tomorrow, it’ll be different questions… or – even better – less questions. It’s an investment – you might have to deal with being A Human Google for now, but eventually they’ll be knowledgeable enough to hold their own during your workouts… and both of you will be more fit for it.
It’s all in how you handle it. You just have to approach the situation calmly, and ready to get down to the bottom of the issue. Let your mate pour their heart out, let them explain and diagnose it accordingly. Being “the fit one” in the relationship has its responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is acknowledging that while you may have already had your “come to fitness” moment, your partner may not’ve… and you can’t force that on them. All you can do is strive to be the change you wish to see in your mate, and wait patiently. Before you know it, your partner will either slowly come around or learn to give you your space free of their negativity. Just remember that their feelings shouldn’t be ignored, and you shouldn’t try to force anything on them that they don’t want. If you’ve decided to say, you’ve decided that your partner is worth the emotional investment and respect for their feelings. As long as you remember that, very little can go wrong here.