Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

How Do I Convince My Partner To Take Care of His Health?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE:  I, a man, have struggled with my weight for years, and so has my husband. We’ve both gained a significant amount of weight since we’ve been married, but I’m trying to mitigate that with diet and exercise. The problem is, he isn’t; and every time I try to talk with him about it, he makes me feel like I’m the bad guy for bringing it up.

Look, we’re both approaching 40, and I know we’ll never be the “twinks” we were when we met, but I’d like to be better than I am, and I am finding it very difficult to get healthy without his support. He’s pre-diabetic. He has sleep apnea. His sex drive is nowhere near it was when we met. And it’s frustrating because all of this is correctable and he’s refusing to even try. It’s like he doesn’t care.

I love my husband. I will never “fat-shame” him, and I know my weight struggles aren’t his issue. But I would find it a lot easier to tackle this if I feel like he were more supportive, and if he would try to be healthier too. I don’t know what to do, short of giving him an ultimatum: it’s me or the sugar, dude. Take your pick.

Concerned For His Health

DEAR CONCERNED FOR HIS HEALTH: One of the universal truths is that time and gravity make fools of us all in the end, CFHH, and everything we do is ultimately fighting a delaying action. This gets harder as we start hitting our 40s and 50s, when our metabolisms take a massive hit. Suddenly, the exercise that used to keep us in fighting trim no longer works like it used to and the foods we used to be able to eat with abandon turn on us.

That’s when everyone has to make a choice: is it worth it to them to change things up and work at pushing back against the inevitable? Or do we prefer the more immediate pleasures of food and relaxation?

Of course, this comes with consequences too. While it’s certainly possible to be fat and healthy, it sounds like your husband isn’t. That’s concerning. What’s slightly more concerning is that he doesn’t care.

This is where it’s time to start using your words and figuring out just how he’s feeling. His deciding to let himself go could be a symptom of – and trigger for – depression. One of the ways that depression manifests is the feeling that you’re a worthless pile of garbage and there’s no point in trying to do anything about it. Then as your physical state deteriorates, you take that as proof that you are, in fact, garbage, which reinforces those feelings. Alternately, if he’s on any medication – especially certain antidepressants – then the side-effects could be sapping his energy or desire to change things. He might be reacting to trauma or a sudden change in his life like the death of loved one or the loss of his job. Or he might have just decided he no longer gives a damn.

But he’s the only one who can tell you just what’s going on. So the best thing to do right now is sit down and have that Awkward Conversation – about your needs, his needs and just what’s going on. You’ll want to emphasize that part of what you want from him is his support for your goals, as well as your worry about his health. Sleep apnea, for example, can lead to potentially fatal complications. So let him know: you want the two of you to be there, not just for a good time but for a long time. And you want that time to be together.

The sooner you have an idea of how he’s feeling – and he understands what it is that you need from him – the sooner you two can figure out a way for both of you to get your needs met.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a 27 year old male with very limited dating experience due to a combination of mild disability, career focus and self-limiting beliefs. I’ve put in a lot of work to improve things, and as a result, my confidence and energy are up.  I’ve even been approached by gay men. Being straight, I wasn’t interested, but it certainly increased my confidence in being able to land a good woman.

Some members of my friend group, possibly having noticed my increased confidence and energy, and have recently made remarks of how me and a single friend of theirs should ‘totally get together’. I’m not sure if they’re joking or legit trying to set the two of us up. She and I are compatible (similar views on money, similar interests, trust each other, have never had drama, approach conflict in a similar way) and we like each other on a platonic level. This friend group even already contains couples, so it wouldn’t make anything awkward in that regard.

The problem here is I have never seen her in any romantic way, and as far as I can tell she has shown no signs of romantic interest in me.

I’m not sure what to do. Should I make a move? See if flirty behavior builds feelings for either of us? Ask one of our mutual friends if they’re just joking about the whole thing? Accept the relationship as platonic and find someone else entirely? Ask her how she feels about the situation and act accordingly? Something else?


To Ask or Not To Ask

DEAR TO ASK OR NOT TO ASK: Slow your roll, TAoNTA. You aren’t just putting the cart before the horse, you don’t even have a cart or a horse yet. The fact that your buds have been making comments about how you and their friend should get together may well just be that: stray comments. Observing that there’re two single people in the social circle isn’t quite the same as actively ‘shipping the couple or trying to set the two of you up as an item. Taking this as anything other than idle chatter is getting so far ahead of yourself that you’ve looped back around like a weird sociological mobius strip.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that your friends really do think that you two would make a good match and are actually, actively trying to pair the spares. Like I said to STSC, your relationships aren’t a democracy. Other people don’t get a vote in who you date or who you’re attracted to. The fact that they think that you and she might be a good couple in no way obligates you to actually give it a shot, especially if you aren’t interested in her. The last thing either of you need is to go through the motions of trying to date because other people want to see it happen. That’s a great way to cause all kinds of friction in the social group – the kind that causes hard feelings and tears friends apart.

And on top of that: this is all very one sided. Right now, you have no idea if they’re telling her this as well. She may well have no idea that they’re playing Cupid. And for that matter… she may well have perfectly good reasons for not wanting a relationship right now and would seriously resent her friends sticking their noses into things.

Now, if we had some data on any of those points, we could start to see whether it’s worth doing some exploratory flirting and see if anything develops. But we don’t.  As it is: you’re not feeling it for her in the first place, which means that you don’t really have any reason to try to pursue things with her. Right now, that would come off far more like trying to fill a hole labeled “girlfriend” with an available warm body instead of starting a relationship based on mutual attraction and respect.

So with the facts on the ground being what they are, I think the best thing you can do is just laugh it off and ignore the whole thing as a joke. And if it bothers you, tell your friends to back off with the jokey-jokes.

Good luck.

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