The Secret to Getting Your Partner to Ditch His Unhealthiest Habits

couple running togetherMaybe you think your partner should eat kale salad for lunch rather than five energy drinks. Or that his exercise routine should consist of more than just watching football. Perhaps you feel strongly that he should go to the doctor more than every 6-10 years. The only problem: You now feel like a nag because, well, your nagging is getting you NOWHERE.


That's the thing with nagging. It's pretty unsatisfying when you do it and then still don't get results.

You're only trying to take care of your partner, of course. You love him and want what's best for him. So why aren't your fancy kale salads/reminders/inspirational Post-it notes on the fridge working?

Generally speaking, "men don't want to believe they need help," explains Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a Los Angeles–based psychologist who specializes in relationships. "It's an old-school mentality, but many think they're supposed to be stoic and tough, not weak and needy."

That's all well and good when, say, facing a home intruder. It's not so beneficial when he's got a pain in his chest that makes it hard for him to catch his breath. And it's been going on for days.

Luckily, Thomas has a nifty little strategy for gently coaxing your spouse to see things your way -- i.e., to actually start taking care of himself. She calls it "the sandwich approach." (Because who doesn't love sandwiches?)

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Here's how to do it:

Start the conversation by saying something positive. (And true.) "Nagging will just shut them down," says Thomas. To that end, "You've gained 50 pounds since we married!" ain't gonna get you far. But "I love you and want to make sure we're together for a long time" may get his attention.

Bridge into the heart of the matter. For instance: "You haven't worked out in four years. I think going to the gym would give you some great stress release." Don't condescend. Don't push. "Just reach out in a loving way," Thomas says.

End on an up note. Let your partner know why this is important not just for him, but for your whole family. In this scenario, maybe you'd reiterate, "I want us both to be as healthy as we can for the kids. Plus, I can't imagine my life without you."

"This isn't about being manipulative or 'sweet-talking' him," clarifies Thomas. Instead, you're giving him valid reasons why he should change.

Hopefully, this gently persuasive approach will finally coax your man to stop eating sticks of butter for breakfast or only getting two hours of sleep each night. But if his habits get worse and start to seriously jeopardize his physical or emotional health, you may have to take a more drastic step and issue an ultimatum, says Thomas.

"Tough love has to come in at some point," she says. "Otherwise, you become a silent co-conspirator, enabling his behavior."

"Let your partner know that you've been trying to work with him, but you don't feel comfortable waiting any longer," says Thomas. "You need to know that he's going to take care of himself."

You can offer to go with him to the doctor, start running with him on weekends -- heck, you'll even eat kale for lunch, too.

However you offer to help, Thomas says, "[He] needs to know that you'll respect him more for having the courage to change."

Image via © RuslanDashinsky/iStock

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