As a therapist who has worked with hundreds of couples on relationship problems, I can tell you that the issue of fitness and health actually causes more friction than you’d probably guess. The trouble starts when one member of a couple starts taking working out and eating healthfully to another level – a somewhat intense level. I recently worked with one couple, for example, where the husband decided to turn over a new leaf and hit the gym at least five times per week, leaving his wife to feel a bit abandoned. Now, when your average person hits the gym, he or she often goes for an hour. But when fitness nuts hit the gym, they may be gone for a few hours. The impact on the relationship can be profound.
If you work out occasionally, you probably can’t relate when someone else says they go to the gym for two or three hours at a time. If it happens several days per week, that fitness nut is not going to have a lot of extra time to hang out with you if they also have a full-time job. When you start dating someone who is extremely into health and fitness, you need to ask a few basic questions in order to figure out if the two of you can be a good fit. First, we’ll talk about working out, and then we’ll talk about how getting too fanatical about healthy eating habits can cause problems, too.
Find out early on just how fanatical your date is about fitness.
It’s great if you meet someone who is into health and fitness; it’s another thing if you meet a fanatic. Simply put, health and fitness fanatics do best in relationships with other fanatics. Ask, “How many days each week do you go to the gym? How long do you spend at the gym when you go? What happens if you are really busy and you can’t make it to the gym?” Next, think about vacations. When it comes to vacations, the type of getaways you each like to take matters, too. Ask, “When you go on vacation, do you like to scale a mountain or run a marathon, or do you like to lie by the pool all day with a margarita by your side?” You can see the point I’m working toward: Making a relationship work over the long haul requires that two people be a good fit in so many different areas of life, so don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions in the beginning. If it scares the other person off, so be it. After all, you need to look for someone like you. Not the same as you in every way, but enough like you that you’ll both function harmoniously over time. When you meet a good match, they may have just as many questions for you!
Ask about food and diet choices.
The way a person eats can impact a relationship, too, and I will give you a couple examples. One couple I worked with experienced a major relationship shake-down when the husband – a Jewish guy – decided that he wanted to start eating only kosher foods and wanted to make his kitchen an entirely kosher kitchen. (If you’re not familiar what that entails, trust me when I say that it is a major undertaking.) Because his wife did not care about keeping a kosher kitchen, the fights started. Another couple I worked with could never decide where to eat when they went out: She liked healthy, farm-to-table type restaurants and he liked a casual restaurant with wings and beer-battered onion rings. When you start dating someone, ask them a few questions about the kind of diet they keep because having a long-term relationship means that you could have to make a thousand future decisions about…where to eat.
Keeping the big picture in mind…
It’s always a good reminder that happy couples aren’t codependent couples. Accordingly, remember that it’s also fine if two members of a couple like to do different things as long as each person is happy having a partner who seeks out some social or extracurricular activities on a regular basis. Shop smartly as you look for your good fit!
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve