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Aug 3

Fixing your marriage is like losing weight


The two have much in common. Not just because they both can be frustrating, confusing, and sometimes ugly, but in a number of other ways.

First, in both fields there are lots of gurus and information. Go to your nearest bookstore or check out Amazon and you will see tons and tons of books on weight loss. From the grapefruit diet to Atkins, you name it, someone made a diet about it. The same can be said about relationships.

Like losing weight, you have got to pick the healthy ones to follow, not fads. Diet or relationship advice that has you doing weird unhealthy things should be tossed out the door. Look for the pattern in the respected experts. In study after study it has been found the reason the fad diets “work” is calories are ultimately less. (The bottom line is calories in versus calories out.) The relationship experts often boil down to some simple ideas of healthy self, communication skills, good boundaries, and respect.

Sometimes a person starts a diet and it backfires. They either go to extremes and restrict uncontrollably, or they feel so starved they begin binging. The same happens in relationships. Someone learns about the importance of talking about their feelings, and they overwhelm their partner and anyone who will listen. On the opposite side is the person who learns the motto “pick your battle” and decides never to talk about things because “they aren’t important.” Both extremes are unhealthy in relationships.

If you are using a healthy format for weight loss, chances are the lifestyle change will also include exercise. I’ll share a story: many years ago I bought an elliptical because I loved them at the gym. I thought, “I’ll work out at home daily and take off those excess pounds.” Fast forward a year; I had been working out for 45 minutes 6 times a week and hadn’t dropped a single pound! Why? I hadn’t watched my food intake. You have to do both.

The same is true in fixing a relationship. You have to work both yourself individually as well as yourself in the relationship. Self health and relationship skill; do both.

Some parts of the work seem easier for one or the other of you. Anyone who has lost weight with someone else will agree; remember the old commercial where they do the same thing and he loses 5 pounds while she gains 10? It’s because some parts are easier; my husband is just naturally good at numbers and so counting calories is a breeze for him- I hate it. I love exercise; he could do without.

In the relationship this may seem more subtle but it is very important. Often women are “better” at the communication of feelings while men are better at thinking things through to a solution immediately. When you are working on a relationship it is important to acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses of each of you. It will help you realize the work your spouse is doing even if you think it should be easy.

Weight loss and relationship change- both need to be attended to daily. Intimacy is a practice that requires regular choices (the way choosing a salad at lunch may help you keep those pounds off.) They both take a long term commitment or you will backslide. However, if you practice them both daily they can become habitual and feel less like “work”.

Lastly, healthy eating and healthy relating are often not supported by those around you. You know what I mean: a culture of fast food and cheating (in both senses of the word.) You will run into saboteurs who will tempt you will “just one piece of cake” or “how will he know?” On a more subtle level it will be the normalcy of divorce as a first line choice instead of a last option. Like you need to surround yourself with people who support you new eating habits, you need to surround yourself with those who support healthy relating (even if you have to educate people on your choices in both venues.)

So what do you think? Are they similar or am I pushing my metaphors too far?

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