You were thrilled when your partner resolved to become healthier this year. But after less than a week, his constant calorie-counting, diet-induced moodiness and obsessive gym training are making you wish he'd go back to his regular, old, couch-potato self. How do you remain supportive without letting your partner's goals drive you crazy?
Whether it's running a marathon, aiming for a job promotion or shedding a few pounds, New Year's resolutions don't just affect the person making them, experts say. And when a significant other is not on board with the changes, it can undermine both one's goals and relationship.
Marion Goertz, a registered marriage and family therapist in Toronto, says resolutions can cause friction, for example, when one partner wants to quit smoking and the other doesn't, or when one person wants to lose weight while the other loves indulging in fancy desserts.
"If one person is into making changes in their life and the other person is not, there can be a certain sense of feeling abandoned," Ms. Goertz says.
The latter may feel left out as their partner pursues their self-improvement plan. Meanwhile, the goal-setter can feel as though their significant other is sabotaging them by continuing to smoke or eat sweets while they're trying to reach their target, she says.
Initially, most people tend to be supportive, since they recognize their partners' resolutions are meant to improve their health and mental and emotional well-being, says Michelle Dunn, a life coach in North Vancouver, B.C. "But then as time goes on, it starts to wear a bit when it starts to impact you directly."
Ms. Dunn says constant communication between couples is necessary to determine how to make the goals work for everyone, and sometimes a resolution needs altering weeks or months down the line. For example, she says, when a friend's time-consuming marathon-training became a burden on her spouse, the couple struck a compromise: He would take on a bigger share of the care-giving duties for their family while she trained one year, but the following year, it would be his turn to pursue his own big goal.
Alternatively, a couple may decide that one person's goal is too taxing on the family as a whole, and thus, the individual may need to scale back for the greater good, she says. For example, instead of doing a full marathon, one may consider training for a half-marathon instead.
The person in the supporting role needs to know the limitations of what they will put up with, Ms. Dunn says.
"Rather than just letting it sit there and you stew about for months on end until you have a big blowout, just be aware … and recognize when it needs to be discussed and when it needs to be aired and when it needs to be tweaked," she says.
During these negotiations, Ms. Goertz says, both parties should respect each other's motivations. She's known individuals, for example, who have agreed to smoke only during work hours or at certain times of the day when their spouse is trying to quit the habit - an arrangement both sides could agree to.
"It's a way of not saying it's in your face and, 'I don't really care about what you're trying to accomplish,' " Ms. Goertz says. "It's a way of respecting the fact that the individual does have rights."
Besides, she adds: "If I see that it's working for you and that's a good thing and it's going to mean that you're healthier and happier, you know, I can't really complain about that."