My boyfriend has recently become obsessed with health and fitness. At first, I was excited because I found myself more attracted to him. Now, though, it’s not only annoying how much it cuts into our life (he won’t go for Italian anymore and he’s always talking about his next fitness goal), but I’m also worried he’s going to attract more women, and that he might not be as attracted to me as he once was. Help!

This is actually a very common source of conflict in romantic relationships. When one partner makes a lifestyle change — even if the result is a healthier individual — the relationship can experience stress. All of a sudden, priorities shift, one partner’s attention is focused away from the couple, and activities the couple once enjoyed no longer fit into one partner’s “lifestyle”. Feelings of hurt, disconnection, frustration, and fear surface. Luckily, so long as both partners feel supported in their lifestyle choices, and secure and connected in the relationship, sharing different interests and values around food and activity level does not have to have a detrimental effect on the relationship.

From your question, I’m hearing there are three things going on for you: 1) frustration around the logistics of your relationship now that there are new rules around how time (and meals) are spent; 2) fear around your partner attracting women; and 3) insecurity around whether or not you are still attractive enough, and that perhaps he might not approve of your lifestyle. I’ll speak to all of these points, but I encourage you to really explore each of these areas (journaling or therapy are always great ways), to determine what’s most distressful to you.

Oftentimes, when our partner becomes quite “into” something, it can feel as though we’re being cheated on. Our mind starts to wander (Is there a pretty girl at the gym? Am I not as important as a workout? Is he no longer attracted to me?) Ask yourself what happens for you when he orders salad instead of pasta: What do you feel? What’s the message it sends you? That you’re not good enough? Fear? Believe he might leave you? Talk about it. Ask how he feels about you not choosing to join him in his diet and exercise changes.

A health-focused lifestyle change can be beneficial to a certain extent, but if it’s preventing you from being able to spend time together or enjoy a meal out, it can begin to have a negative effect on the relationship. With regards to the logistics of activities and meals in the relationship, discuss how you can support him in his lifestyle change without letting it take away from your quality time. For example, can he adopt a gym schedule that doesn’t interfere with your time together? Can he substitute a day or two a week with a cycle or walk with you? If he’s given up bread, can you still go to your favorite Italian spot, but you’ll order the pasta and he can get chicken salad? Can you structure date night/day where he gives you his full attention? Get creative and brainstorm how you can “make it work”. Compromise.

Next, we go a bit deeper: Fear around your partner attracting other women and insecurity around your attractiveness as a mate go hand in hand. In some ways, these feelings are positive, as they show you value the relationship and its continuation. However, fear and insecurity often breed jealousy, resentment, and manipulative behaviors. Without getting too in-depth theoretically, our romantic relationships often mirror our attachment styles with our parents from growing up. When we feel anxious or insecure in our relationship, some women respond to such anxiety with a “tend and befriend” style, where upon they require closeness and reassurance. Others respond by withdrawing, particularly men. Express how you are feeling to your partner, and clarify any assumptions you’ve made, or mind-reading you’ve done. For example, if you believe that his lifestyle shift now means he believes you’re lazy, or that he’s no longer attracted to you, or that he’s preparing to re-enter the single world. Clarifying such assumptions may help alleviate your feelings of fear and/or insecurity.

Now, this all being said, is there any part of the lifestyle shift that attracts you? Sometimes defensiveness, pride and stubbornness get in the way of trying something different. Could you see yourself enjoying eating this way or accompanying him to the gym? Is it something you could do together? If your partner has expressed desire for you to join him in making changes, being open to the possibility of enjoying it shows flexibility and support, something that he will likely appreciate. Furthermore, if you try it out, you can more legitimately state that you’ve tried it and prefer to go about things as you had been previously.

Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their romantic relationships, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.

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