Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: I Can’t Stand My “Know-It-All” Spouse!

Q&A Wednesday: I Can’t Stand My “Know-It-All” Spouse!

by Erika Nicole Kendall


I’m writing to get some insight on a problem that I’m having with my spouse regarding my weight loss.  My husband thinks he knows it all when it comes to exercise, specifically and each time I “fail” at some attempt to lose weight, he thinks he has the right to tell me about my lack of consistency, dedication and the like.

Some background:  When I met my husband, I was 225lbs. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any major health complications but I was uncomfortable at that weight because it was the biggest I had ever been.  After about 3 or 4 months of dating, I told my husband that I wanted to start back with my exercise and eating better.  My husband is an ex-British Army officer who at his peak used to do runs with 50lbs packs on his back.  When we met he was in good but not great shape and offered me advice on how to train.  I did tell him that I knew how to exercise but I just hadn’t done it for sometime because of school and work but I was open to his suggestions.  He seemed put off that I said I had previous exercise experience (I was a former high school athlete and had lots of experience with weight training, kickboxing, step aerobics, etc).

He thought all I needed to do was lots of cardio.  But I was 30 years old at the time and told him that I needed to do some weight training because women lose muscle over 30.  Bad idea!  For the next hour, he told me in painstaking detail how he helped a 300+ woman lose weight by showing her how to do mostly cardio workouts.  I should have known right then this wouldn’t be the end of his exercise “advice”.

I eventually did my own thing and dropped a size or two using a combo of weights and cardio. While my husband didn’t outright discourage my solitary efforts, he didn’t seem satisfied or even very supportive unless I was following his exercise advice.  We did 1 round of P90X together last year and I dropped another 2 sizes.  My husband almost seemed like he did all the work pushing me to stick with it and while he did dispense some tough love when I was backsliding, I did all of those lunges, push-ups and plyo jumps.

If I start a new training program and decide to either tweak it or switch to something more enjoyable, I have to hear his mouth about my lack of discipline and consistency.  I was diagnosed with ADD primarily with inattention issues so that explains but doesn’t excuse my constant switch in plans but I often feel like my husband reverts back to being an Army officer and forgets I have choices about how to lose this weight.

If I say I’m doing something new, he fires off a speech.  If I try to explain my rationale, I’m being defensive.  If I don’t respond while he’s nagging, I don’t respect his opinion.  He is a wonderful man, a great provider and protector but it’s as if his support of my weight loss efforts comes with a price – his incessant criticism when I want to do something different.

I have actually considered counseling but something about it and Black men (regardless of country of origin) don’t mix.  I’ve suggested it and he balks saying the problem is with my lack of follow-through.  Any advice?

Your husband sounds so… so very awesome. Then again, you’ve got to know you’ve got some culpability, here.

First and foremost, let’s establish a few things. I know I’ve written about my support system before – my Mom, my Sorority sister, and one of my best guy friends? Well, that guy friend is a Marine.

They don’t play. They just… they don’t. If your hubby is anything like my dear friend, the Marine, then I pity you. It’s just… it’s a long road to hoe, and your hoe ain’t never big enough. (Pause?)

There are a lot of intermingling problems in here, but the biggest of which is the fact that he seems more invested in this than you appear to want him to be… and perhaps that’s because he’s not telling you what you want to hear. It’s not a matter of him simply wanting you to submit to his military expertise and know-how, it’s a matter of him critiquing the fact that you seem to have difficulty picking a program and simply following what you have in front of you.

A lot of times, people pick programs and tweak them before they dive in nose first, but then question why they’ve not yet received results. You don’t tweak before you get to see whether a program can work for you – you tweak as you progress through a program and realize you’re reaching a plateau. This may see something that he can see, and you can not – you’re working hard, committing the time, not getting the results you should be and getting discouraged… and can’t see why.

Sometimes, we fail to realize that our spouses are able to see things we cannot. Once I moved to NYC, I was instantly frazzled and frustrated. Felt like stress was causing me permanent anxiety all throughout my limbs, and was constantly feeling that tingly anxious feeling. I was all ready to blame it on the city, pack it all up and move back, and sure enough my fiancé came at me with the one sentence that said everything I’d forgotten:

“When’s the last time you practiced yoga?”

In all of the finding a place, getting my kindergartner (!) registered for school, reshaping my business, planning a wedding, combining our assets, and the other things that come with building a family…. I’d forgotten about the one thing that kept me sane, but he hadn’t. We keep our spouses around for a reason and, if they’re good to us, they prove it when they spot the things we can’t – or don’t want to – see. They don’t do it because it’s fun to nitpick us (unless you’ve got a total jerk for a spouse), they do it because you have to identify a weakness in order to strengthen it. If I (and my mister) know that my worst habit is that I procrastinate, terribly, then he does what he can to make sure that I stay on task.

As far as the therapy goes, hmm… as much as I want to tell you to go to therapy anyway, you’d still be paying for it with the family money and that’s relatively dishonest, at least in my eyes. You do appear to have a lack of follow through but more often than not that is compelled by something else, and a therapist could help you identify and address that issue. Often times, that fiddling with the program and only experiencing minimal results comes from our own fear of succeeding, more so the results of that success – unwanted attention, being ostracized (because many of us know we picked on and clowned the thinner women when we were heavier… how many of us want to be told “Boo, you need a sandwich!” hmm?) – and instead of achieving our goals, we pretend to actually be pursuing them while still sabotaging ourselves on the sly.

Now, dealing with the hubby… I think it’s time you simply exercised some silence in regards to this. Start working out outside of the house. Go for walks, jogs or runs in the morning time or later in the evening, but go alone. Express your need to do some soul searching – since he seems to turn his nose up at the idea of therapy – and do it on your daily excursions. I understand his desire to see you succeed, but I also understand his inability to understand that life isn’t as easy as it is in [whatever the British equivalent of the Corps is], where you simply fall in line and do what your fellow struggler is doing. Real life is far more fluid, and we take the shape of our environment. Your task is to figure out how to incorporate fitness into that life, and him barking at you about “failing” isn’t going to help. We don’t fail – we trial and error, and when our efforts don’t bring results, we change the experiment.

Oh, and as far as that 300lb woman he helped lose weight? I’ve been that woman before. Cardio is great, but so is muscle. To me, that feels more like he “doesn’t want you bulking up like a man.” Yeah, because that happens overnight. This is why you can’t tell everyone everything, and after you realize you’ve made that mistake, you’ve got to just do whatever you can to not make it again.

The bottom line is you clearly need some time alone in your own brain with your own thoughts to figure yourself out, and as much as we love our spouses, yours isn’t making this any easier on you. As much as people harp on the necessities of “tough love,” not a single member of my support system practiced tough love. We laughed, cried, shed tears together, got chills together, but not once was i berated, made to feel bad because of my alleged “failures,” or made to feel like my thoughts or opinions were invalid. Even with my mean ass Marine friend, he pushed me when it came time to test my limits, but when I came up short, he’d tell me “What did you do? What were you supposed to do? Did the two match? Do you think that is why you didn’t achieve results?” You may be like me, and simply not respond well to that snarky kind of criticism, and that’s okay.

Silently advance on your goals. Keep both your victories, and your struggles, to yourself. Trust me – just like hubby can see you’ve got a few self-sabotage issues, he’ll see that you’ve dropped a few sizes. And, like most spouses, he’ll simply tell you “Dang, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I like it!”

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Patti January 25, 2012 - 4:00 PM

I agree with Erika. Maybe you need to find a fitness partner that isn’t your love partner too. I was here once also, my ex- had all the answers and I didn’t even have to ask. So one day I did ask myself, was it the message or the messenger? Did I still feel the same about him or had that ole’ feeling changed to disdain in part because he was a booty in other areas? Did his help smack of rudeness (in my case he said very hurtful things about my heft while bringing me doughnuts and icecream cones in general, I realized I was being toyed with). But perhaps that’s not the case in your life. I’m jus’ sayin’ examine the problems you have with the messenger, or perhaps any person who has an intimate knowledge of how you eat, how you live and what you’re not doing. Maybe it’s an authority thing or his voice matches your little inner critic a bit too much. Sometimes we can have those bold conversations only in our head, but when someone else notices we’re too fat…and then has the nerve to say it, that’s a horse of a different color, ain’t it?

Diandra January 26, 2012 - 4:42 AM

When I started exercising, the BF tried to share his expertise with me. However, much of it did not match other expertises I had read, and I simply tried what works for me and what doesn’t, and kindly asked him to shut up. (He did. He is a great guy.) If I need advice on something, I may go and ask him, or I may not. If I find some news that I think might be interesting for him, I share. We do not work out together because our goals simply don’t match, and that is okay, we are still very supportive of each other (like, “Honey, don’t forget to grab your exercise bag, you might want to go to the gym after work.”)

D.J. January 28, 2012 - 6:02 AM

I’m the poster of the question and Erika, I really want to thank you for taking the time to write such an insightful response. I have really been struggling not to tell my hubby off because something about not only the tone but also the frequency of the critique was starting to get on my nerves. However, the fact that he has made the critique so often points to a fundamental problem that I need to face. I’m glad to have some objective 3rd party feedback because even though I know my husband’s criticism was coming from a sincere desire to see me succeed, it made me feel like I was living under a microscope. Yet, I do see my culpability and responsibility in this.

I believe the constant tweaking comes from the fact that I’m always looking for a way to make the workouts ‘perpetually enjoyable’. When they get too long or hard, I start losing interest. I did well with P90X because I was consistently doing hard work and I got great results. Yet once we finished that first round, I reverted back to those old habits. This is what my husband is seeing and that’s my willingness to workout and eat relatively well but also my unwillingness to push myself beyond my comfort level for any sustained period of time.

I know that I am very fortunate to have someone who not only cares about my health and my goals but also doesn’t actively sabotage my efforts but I do think we need to do separately so that it doesn’t create problems in other areas of our marriage. Plus, having him one day realize that I’m wearing smaller clothes and feeling good because of all of my own hard work would do alot to stop “Mr. Know It-All” in his tracks. Thanks again!!!!!

Erika Nicole Kendall January 28, 2012 - 12:35 PM

I have to wonder…do you find ANY workout enjoyable? I mean, most of them are not going to be appealing or even something to look forward to as a beginner. Whether or not it’s enjoyable has no bearing on its ability to present results, though, and the results are what matters most.

All in all, commit to a program outside of your hubby’s “supervision,” and when he brings it up and asks why he’s not more involved, then be up front with him about what you think he does and how it makes you feel. But until then, girl do your thing in silence. ROFL

D.J. January 28, 2012 - 2:06 PM

Erika, I find a good number of workouts enjoyable such as circuit style weight training, Zumba and the elliptical. When we canceled our gym memberships to save $, I went back to my exercise dvds and got caught up in a “shiny new toy” syndrome where I was buying the newest hottest system, trying it out for a few weeks and then abandoning for another shiny toy. Sort of defeats the purpose of canceling the gym membership if I am spending money on stuff the ends up in a cabinet, hardly used. After your response about keeping some of my journey to myself, I realize that with my flexible work schedule, I can workout without hubby’s prying eye and do those things that I like that can still produce results. It is about consistency moreso than anything else that I need to work on.

Rooo February 16, 2013 - 10:34 PM

Something else jumped out at me here. I don’t have inattentive ADD, but I sure do have family members that do (you have to learn about the difference between “H” and “no H” and “inattentive” and “ring-of-fire” some kind of way, LOLsigh).

I have to Nth the support of having a different workout partner than just the hubby – if you’re nagged at *too* much you run the risk of that dopamine level dropping waaaay down, and neither you nor he wants that (even if he doesn’t understand why he might not want that … the UK at large has some catching up to do WRT those dopamine-centered executive function challenges).

Also, since you are working … is there any chance you could put some of your earnings toward individual therapy? Hubs doesn’t have to go with you in order for you to benefit, and I can’t imagine you couldn’t use the support in order to do your consistency.

/keep on keeping on

Candis April 18, 2012 - 5:34 PM

Wow, this hit home. Except I’m the “know-it-all-wife”. I’m sure that’s how my husband feels about me now, with my weight loss, and his lack thereof. He hates that I’m constantly reading your articles and preaching to him about all that I’ve learned from you. I actually got him to follow you on Twitter, but I doubt he’s clicking the links. He really doesn’t seem to care. Maybe I should pull back a bit, but it’s only outta concern….he’s damn near 400 lbs.

Cassandra August 15, 2012 - 9:33 AM

Hey Erica… I can certainly relate. My husband fit, eats very clean, works in construction. He probably burns about 1000 calories a day. Lol! And then he comes home and maintains the lawn among other things. He is 6 ft tall and weighs 175lbs. Absolutely no fat on his body. 3 months ago I decided to eat clean, exercise, and practice mindful eating. I dropped 2 sizes and lost about 35lbs.

I notice that my husband monitors everything about my Weightloss. It drives me crazy… So I just stop reporting. I go to the gym during the day, do some core training in the bedroom in the evening and maybe yoga. I do it all, cardio, weights, core, circuit, Zumba, barre, yoga, and recently looked into The Firm. I’m not ADD but I like variety. I like doing something different everyday. My husband enjoys the benefits of having a healthy wonderful wife while I secretly track my progress. Of course I have other friends who celebrate every pound gone. I know husbands mean well… But support doesn’t have to sound like criticism. My husband recently said, “honey you’ve lost like 60lbs…” lol! Keep him guessing…

Cathy October 31, 2013 - 12:34 AM

This is from a blog post I wrote three years ago…but rings just a true today:

Okay, can I just say something? My husband is full of crap.
It is beyond frustrating for me to listen to this man who has just within the last 3 days started working with a professional dietician and personal trainer to lose weight to tell me the KEY to success. Are you FREAKING kidding me?? I spent the entire summer and well into the fall following an extremely responsible eating & exercise plan that the man couldn’t give to farts about. I actually lost 30 lbs. Me for goodness sakes. I lived the success. Right here in the very same house. If you include the four people in the conversation of weight loss (being the dietician, trainer, my husband, and me…) I’m the freaking expert!!!!!
My husband tells me of his personal experiences surrounding the whole 3 days he’s been on the diet – he tells me all this nutrition information and the “sound science” described by the 23 year old dietician wearing a fitted white lab coat with the laminated name tag. He tells me about the information gleaned from the stubble-free trainer whose expertise is proven by the dot-matrix certifications taped to the wall…but he never has once asked me how I lost 30 pounds! Not once.
Now…lest I give the wrong impression, I’m just temporarily angry at my husband because the man has a serious listening problem. He’s not a good listener. We’ve been married for 18 years, so I’ve come to terms with it – plus he has so many very good qualities that make up for this one flaw I can overlook it. But tonight….I’m focusing on that flaw…because right now, that flaw is taking up the whole side of the house. I’m having trouble looking past it. It’ll pass.

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