How We’re Finding a Healthy Balance Together

Common Ground Health

 

One of the things my fiancé and I are navigating is our difference of opinion when it comes to health and the importance of healthy eating while trying to meet our goals.  I am an experienced clean eater, studying nutrition and trying all the different dietary styles, gym routines, recipes, fitness classes, you name it. My fiancé is incredibly motivated in many ways, but when it comes to food, as long as it tastes good, he’ll eat it. He doesn’t mind if his meal is from McDonalds or homemade, and is visiting the gym regularly for the first time in his life…. And doing very well at it, might I add!

We are not on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. He enjoys a healthy salad and I always want the large popcorn at the movies, but finding a compromise about our daily nutrition and exercise continues to be a point of….growth, shall we say?

I will get upset when he’s making excuses or throwing nutritional caution to the wind, and he will shut down when I push too much with my attempts to revamp our health habits.

What to do?

This is an ongoing journey for us and I think there are a lot of other people who experience this with their partners (or friends, family, etc). I’m sharing what we’re working on to better find some common ground.

Make Your Intentions Very Clear

Making my intentions clear as well as expressing my passion has helped my fiancé to understand where I am coming from. He loves me and wants to support me and my goals, and the only way he can do that is if I clearly communicate what I am trying to do.  I want to be healthier. I want him to be healthy. I want to be more mindful of how much we’re drinking, how often we eat out, and if we are making excuses at the gym. I want to cook healthy, versatile, new food and for him openly try it.

When he sees how these small changes make a big difference in my general happiness (as well as his body!), he is more willing to support my effort to keep health alive in the relationship.

Allow for a Two-Way Conversation

Asking someone to change their entire way of life in one day is not an option. He has been very understanding and cooperative, but also not afraid to tell me when he needs a break. There are some days where just says, “No, I want to have _____ today.”

Sometimes I have a hard time not taking his choices personally, but I think that is the key. We both have to learn that one of us preferring a certain way of eating or living is not a dig at the preference of the other.

I am not perfect at this AT ALL, but it is something I’m working on.

Stick to Your Own Page

You cannot force a grown adult to do something he doesn’t want to do. It’s that simple. The only thing I can do as a partner is to lead by example in hopes that some of my healthy habits will rub off on him.

Take for example our daily gym routine: At first, it was slow-going. But after a couple months of my continually leaving to go work out, his thrice-weekly trip has become an almost every day thing. We walk there and back and we use the time to chat about what we’re listening to on our podcasts, what we did that day, what we learned, or how we’re getting stronger.

Even though he might not be hopping on the health train as hard as me, he is doing 200% more than he was doing a year ago. And that is something to be impressed with.

Don’t Critique or Offer Unsolicited Advice

This one is really hard for me, I will admit. I tend to be a treasure trove of unsolicited advice. I have so many fun facts about food and health stored up in my brain, coming from different books, podcasts or articles I’m reading, and I love to talk about it. In this particular situation though, I know it can feel critical and/or accusatory.

I am practicing positive reinforcement and encouragement when it comes to his choices. He has his own personal health goals and I celebrate every little step. As for my choices, I simply do my own thing. If he makes the decision to order the burger and fries, I will (usually) stick to my guns and order what makes me feel healthiest.

It is difficult not to gush about all the health info I’m learning, but the truth is he already knows what is and isn’t helping him meet his health goals. It isn’t my job to badger him.

Again, this one is difficult for me, but it’s something I am trying to stay mindful of as we figure out our combined method of healthier living.

Allow for Indulgences

This is a big one! Someone who is not accustomed to eating tons of fresh veggies cannot switch to a veg-heavy diet overnight! I have to remember this because although I am quite happy adding a couple servings of fresh veggies to my breakfast, this is a foreign concept to him and at first he did not enjoy it.

What we do is add the veggies (my favorite part) but he can have it with cheese and toast, and/or sugar in his coffee. We’ll slowly reduce some of the added indulgences as we both get used to eating more cleanly. I don’t think plunging into the deep end is the way to go here.

Getting healthier can be such an amazing experience, but if I force my partner into a lifestyle he hates, he’s more likely to quit. Baby steps.

Practice Gratitude

There are so many things my amazing man is good at. He is incredibly motivated, endlessly understanding, impeccably kind, and is a better self-starter than I could ever hope to be. So how is it that I can still get upset when he decides to order chicken wings instead of a chicken salad?

This is something a lot of couples struggle with I think…Focusing on the small things instead of the big. He goes to the gym with me almost every day. He happily eats any healthy meal or new recipe I try out in the kitchen.

Is he going to come do sprints with me or prefer a Buddha Bowl over a Big Mac? Probably not, but the fact that he is coming to the gym at all and happily trying all these new foods, THAT is something to be grateful for.

 

(This post was read and approved by my loving guy.)

5 Ways Long Distance Helped My Relationship

Long Distance

It was June of 2014 and I was on Month 6 of living in New York City. I had previously been touring with a show and had lived out of a suitcase from Birmingham to Bangkok and everywhere in between.

I was not a stranger to long distance relationships. I was doing it with all my friends, my family and even with my college boyfriend for a while there. But just those words…

LONG DISTANCE

were enough to send any lady into a fit of panic.

At that moment, long distance had been used as an excuse for romances ending, miscommunication and never-ending games of telephone tag and I couldn’t think of anything less palatable. Even traveling from Harlem to Union Square for a guy had most everyone (including me) saying “I dunno, you guys live so far away.”

Hilarious, now that I’ve just completed my 3rd year of loving a South African.

I got a lot of side-eyes and words of caution from many friends and family when Wouter and I became an item. Now that we’ve entered our 4th year of being a couple, our first year of living together, and are patiently navigating the US marriage process from our Pretoria apartment, I have some very positive things to say in the name of long distance.

1. Communication

Being in a long distance relationship requires an incredible awareness of your own communication patterns, and a lot of understanding and compassion for your partners. It teaches you to communicate honestly, clearly, and directly, while giving your partner the respect to do the same.

For me, I learned the value of speaking with no hidden agenda. Not only did my loving fiancé not process my different tones due to a language barrier (at the time), he also couldn’t see me, my facial patterns, nor my non-verbal reactions. All these small facial movements are such a key part in understanding how your partner is feeling. Since I did not have ANY way to communicate where my head was at except for talking, that’s what I did. I learned not to be afraid of asking for what I needed:

“I need you to verbally tell me how you feel about me.”

(I am an Words of Affirmation person if you’re familiar with Love Languages. If not, I highly suggest getting the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts)

I learned not to be afraid of saying exactly what I was feeling:

“I am upset because you really hurt my feelings when you said ___ earlier.”

And I learned not to play games. No games. I learned to know myself so he didn’t find out the hard way. Instead of waiting for him to mess up, or dropping hints, I had to simply say:

“It makes me so happy when you simply text me ‘goodnight’ before you go to bed. I would love if you would continue doing that.”

These are all skills that we now use in our every day relationship, and boy can I just say it has saved us a lot of fights and anger. We are both allowed to communicate openly and compassionately. We are both aware of how precious and powerful words can be and we use them with love and/or caution depending on the situation. People can forget that communication is often the cornerstone of a relationship, and having the opportunity to master our communication skills early is something I’ll never take for granted.

2. Commitment

Sometimes the mentality aboard cruise ships it is “whatever happens onboard, stays onboard.” Now, I’m fully in support of living your best life and doing what makes you feel good, but not at the expense of another person. You see a lot of things below deck including a ton of infidelity, but at the end of the day, with honest communication under our belts, it didn’t become an issue.

My thinking is that if we spend all our time looking for something better, we’ll never be happy. I am by no means saying you should settle! Find the person who treats you like the rockstar you are, and who encourages you to be the best version of yourself! Settle for nothing less. But reminding yourself to be grateful for the people you have in your life will make you a much happier person.

We are so trained to expect instant gratification these days, and living on a ship changes nothing about that. Every day you meet and interact with a hundred beautiful, interesting people from all over the world, it’s no wonder ship romances are alive and well! Sometimes it’s amazing (how I met the guy of my dreams), sometimes it’s just fun and exciting, and other times it can make an already established relationship difficult. You see other options and wonder “would that make me happier?” My question to myself was always “am I willing to give up the beautiful connection I already have?” My answer continued to be “No.”

I should also note, we had a very clear understanding that if one of us wanted to end it, there would be no faults. Ship life, long distance, different countries…that’s hard work! No one should be forced into it! Both of us understood that of all the options, we were both very inconvenient choices for the other. Keeping this in mind released us both of the long distance burden, and ultimately allowed us to see the positive things we were both willing to struggle for.

3. Prioritizing Each Other

We learned to actually set “Us time.”  When the only time you get to talk from separate ships and in different timezones is when both of you are in your cabins at the right time, prioritizing is a must.

We learned that we had to make space for the other, and to be compassionate if there was a mixup or a change of plans. We learned that setting aside specific time to talk about goals, dreams, frustrations, and complaints, was ridiculously important. It helped that we didn’t have much access to internet because we could be fully tuned-in to each other.

Being on land and attempting the same “us” time works a little differently. Since  we are both aware of how it makes the other feel, we try to fit it in regularly. We’ve also taken up the habit of either putting down the phone to listen intently, or to tell the other that we need just a moment to finish up a task before we can be all ears.

4. Positivity

Not knowing when you’re going to see the other person can add some serious stress to an already stressful situation. One thing that became a constant practice was finding the positive in an sometimes lonely relationship.

We learned to be grateful and excited for the times we could see each other. Whether it was for 5 hours when our ships docked together, or it was 5 weeks when I visited South Africa. Whatever the time, it was better than nothing! We have learned to be extremely grateful for when we’re together, and that carries over into our land life. We are so happy to be able to do our own laundry, make our own coffee, fix our own breakfast, and wake up to each other every day. There is nothing better than a few years of long distance to make morning breath seem sexy.

On a different note of positive thinking, we also learned to communicate more positively. We tried to incorporate positivity into our phone chats. Attempting to talk about the good stuff and not just the bad. No one likes to listen to someone complain, especially when you only have a set number of minutes available on your ship phone. We found the funny in our situation, even claiming that “the universe” wouldn’t give us a break!

Of course, there were still tears, frustration, and even sometimes anger. We still make an effort to find the positive, especially now as we deal with the US visa process.

5. Independence

I’ve read a few posts claiming that long distance relationships make you lose touch with reality…make you dependent. I had a very different experience.

Being dependent on other people is a primal instinct and is actually GOOD for us. The way you and your partner attach to each other is important, and learning how to navigate that dependance is incredibly eye-opening (my favorite book about this is Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love). Having people to rely on, to believe in, and to talk to is a very basic human need. Wouter quickly became my “person,” but he was not the only person in my life. I practiced living fully without him. I found things that made me happy that didn’t include him. I practiced having my own goals that I was working towards, and then I had this amazing partner to go home and tell it all to.

We are not two halves of a whole. We are two individual people who choose to take this journey together.

 

That is my personal experience with long distance relationships. Please know, I am not saying we are perfect. Absolutely not. We face the same challenges every couple faces, whether they have tried long distance or have never experienced a week apart.   My only intent with this post is to encourage others that long distance is not a death sentence. We now have some different tools, thanks to our time apart, that we use in our daily life to make our relationship more peaceful, more loving and more compassionate.