So you’ve met the guy. He’s sexy and sweet and smart…and while you’re telling him about this mind-blowing acai smoothie you discovered at the cutest new vegan place after spin class, he rolls his eyes, lights a cigarette, and then orders fried chicken on Seamless. Oh, the agony.
Actually, like any difference in lifestyle, figuring out how to make it work with someone who doesn’t value wellness the way you do could be a challenge. And if you’re hard-core committed to a certain healthy value system, it may even be a deal-breaker.
“I have one client who’s a yoga fanatic and whose last boyfriend was a huge meat-eater and she was not, and it was a problem for her,” says love-life coach Lindsay Chrisler, “and now she’s dating another yogi.” For most people though, there’s some wiggle room—you just have to find it. “That’s what being in a relationship is about—compromising from that loving place,” says Chrisler.
We spoke with Chrisler and her husband Daniel Packard, also a dating and relationships coach, to get their couple-approved advice on how to date someone who doesn’t care about your healthy lifestyle. Here are four simple tips, from the deep issues (how important is couple’s yoga to you, really?) to the logistical ones (what’s for dinner?). —Lisa Elaine Held
So you love plant-based everything and the transformative power of your workout. “The worst thing you can do is try to change your partner into eating or living like you. It’s going to make them feel small, and no one wants to feel that way,” Chrisler says. “It’s not going to work, and it’s going to cause all of this conflict.”
Just think about how frustrated you felt the last time someone asked you, “So you only eat twigs and berries?” Having their food and lifestyle choices picked apart is always going to put someone on the defensive.
If you’ve convinced yourself that the whole reason you want your partner to start subsisting on kale salads and sweat sessions is that you want him or her to live a long, healthy life, check yourself. “It’s probably bullshit,” says Packard, who takes a more get-real approach to love coaching. “People are manipulative.” Is it really that you secretly hope endless ab exercises will make him look more like Ryan Gosling? And, more importantly, is that what’s important to you?
“I almost broke up with a guy because of his sunglasses before I started doing all of this work. He had the dorkiest sunglasses,” Chrisler says. “I have another client who doesn’t like the way her partner chews his food.” So if it’s not his unhealthy habits, it’ll be something else. Maybe Ryan Gosling always leaves the toilet seat up.
Packard says that when it comes down to anything a couple differs on, people just want to feel accepted and loved. So if you can enroll your partner in supporting you on your wellness journey without attacking their choices, he or she will be more likely to respond well. “Say ‘I love you and accept you. There’s nothing wrong with you or what you’re doing, but this is my thing, and I could use some help,'” he says. “What you’re doing is enrolling the person into what you want from a place of love and camaraderie. Versus ‘You’re eating murder, and I’m in a fairytale land of quinoa.'”
You don’t always have to be sharing gluten-free spaghetti Lady-and-the-Tramp style. And sometimes compromise itself can get tricky around food. It’s important to recognize that it’s okay for a couple to do their own thing, especially when it comes to the dinner table. Chrisler offers the example of her mother and father, who usually each make their own meals and then sit down together to eat them, since their diets are so different. “On some nights, though, my dad will cook for my mom and she’ll just eat it and not complain, because it’s a gift,” she says. “If she cooks for him and it’s vegetarian, he’s grateful, and then he goes and eats a little piece of meat after.”