9 Ways to Thrive When Your Spouse Isn't Supportive

Weight loss is already an uphill battle. You may be struggling against a sluggish metabolism, persistent food cravings, physical limitations and time restraints. But when you also face resistance from your loved ones—especially your spouse—your goal can seem like an insurmountable mountain.
You already know how important it is to have a strong support system when making a lifestyle change. And even if most of your friends, family members and co-workers are cheering you on, lack of support from your spouse or significant other can have a detrimental effect on your weight loss plan.

Reasons for an Unsupportive Spouse

There's a lot of gray area in the "unsupportive zone." Making the occasional batch of brownies may seem innocent enough, but then there could be other signs that your spouse is doing things to sabotage your efforts on a daily basis, such as  ridiculing your food logs, questioning your motives or insisting on bringing a barrage of forbidden foods into the house.
Any time one member of a couple undergoes a major lifestyle shift without the other, there is the potential for strain. Since food and meals play such a big daily role in any relationship, a major dietary change can cause tension. Your spouse may feel indirectly pressured to give up his or her own favorite foods, may take offense when you rebuff an offer of food or may feel threatened by your desire to improve your physical fitness.
Then there are the day-to-day logistics to consider: Will you have to cook separate meals every night? Which meal(s) will the kids eat? How will you fit the extra grocery expenses into the budget?

Staying on Track in Spite of Adversity

Below are some quick tips for pursuing your goals even when your spouse seems opposed to them.
  • Have a healthy heart-to-heart. Is there even the slightest chance that your partner isn't fully aware of your commitment to a healthier lifestyle? If so, take the time to sit down and talk about what you're trying to do and your reasons for doing it, whether it's to prevent disease, to feel more confident or to have more energy to take care of the kids. Stress how much you'd appreciate your spouse's help and support, but make it clear that you plan to pursue this even if he or she isn't on board. SparkPeople member Michelle recommends the following word choice: "I encourage you to respect my ability to take care of my body. I appreciate your interest and invite you to join along if you'd like."
  • Get your partner involved. As you immerse yourself in your weight loss plan, your spouse may feel abandoned or unneeded. Ask your partner for help as specifically as possible, clearly defining ways in which he or she can show support. Share your food log, SparkPeople page, inspiration photos, favorite quotes or anything else that helps keep you motivated. Even if these efforts don't convince your spouse to join in your weight loss journey, he or she could help to spark some empathy and encouragement.
  • Praise the positive. Sometimes a spouse's resistance stems from a simple need for reassurance. Instead of harping on the wrongs, SparkPeople member PKNPAN21 recommends focusing on what your partner is doing right: "Let him know that you love all the things he does for you, how amazing his support has been and that he's so thoughtful. Maybe giving him a list of 'I love it when you _________' and fill in the most meaningful and helpful actions he has done for you that you want him to continue. Acknowledge that you have changed and now as a stronger, healthier person would love for him to _________ (fill in your wishes), but make it clear it is up to him to choose to do these wish-list items and that you love him either way."
  • Write it down. If you haven't had luck making your case in face-to-face conversations, try writing a letter expressing your feelings. SparkPeople member PSCHIAVONE2 has had success with this strategy: "As a man, I sometimes do the wrong thing with the best of intentions," he says. "When my partner and I are not on the same page, I will write a note letting her know my feelings about the issue. Now we write each other a few times a week. Sometimes talking it out does not sink in."
  • Get cooking. If your spouse loves to cook for you or pamper you with treats, it could seem like an insult when you announce that you can no longer eat the same meals or sweets you've always enjoyed. Without being critical, let your partner know how much you've appreciated the foods he or she has prepared, but that you can no longer fit them into your diet plan. To spark ideas for healthier versions, SparkPeople member MIUMIU69 recommends sharing some favorite recipes or a cookbook that adheres to your diet plan.
  • Keep "bad" foods out of sight, and out of your mouth. If your spouse continues to bring junk food or tempting treats into the house, designate a separate cabinet or pantry shelf in which to store them—ideally as high or out of sight as possible—and then steer clear of that area.
  • Keep snacks in the kitchen. It can be tough to stick to your guns when your sweetie carries in a giant bowl of popcorn for movie night. Suggest activating a new rule where the entire family eats only in the kitchen. If snacks aren't floating around the family room between meals, you'll be less likely to succumb to the temptation. 
  • Introduce non-food activities. For many couples, food and sweets are used as a means of celebration and bonding. If you're no longer able to share that, it can cause a rift in the relationship. To bridge the gap, suggest another activity you can pursue together, such as playing a game, going for a walk or tackling a home improvement project.   
  • Seek support elsewhere. If your spouse is still unsupportive in spite of your efforts, look outside the home for solidarity. The SparkPeople community is a rich source of camaraderie and encouragement, and you can also find in-person support groups and healthy cooking workshops in your area. If your partner is adamant about controlling or sabotaging your weight loss efforts, you might consider talking to an objective third party who can help you identify the true cause of the conflict.
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Member Comments

I get absolutely no support from my husband. Just now he came insisting that I make some cookies. He knows it is very hard for me to resist anything sweet. He also wants ice cream often, likes all foods fried (I fry his and bake or grill mine.) and always has to have chips on hand. He won't take walks with me because he says he walks enough throughout the day. After his last doctor's visit, he said he had to lose 15 pounds. I thought that might get him on board, but no such luck. I have tried to talk to him and explain my reasons for eating healthier and exercising, but it makes no difference. I just try to stay on track and depend on the wonderful support of Spark People. Thank you Spark friends and all your help and encouragement. Report
I'm very fortunate to have a tremendously supportive spouse. Once I told him, please tell me when I do it right and ignore it when I don't he has been awesome. I don't envy someone who lives with a saboteur. Report
Thank you. Report
My husband was not on board with it when I started my weight loss journey. He is a type 2 diabetic and pretty nonchalant about controlling it. He finally got motivated when he saw himself in the mirror sideways and I was losing weight and not really working too hard at exercising. I finally talked him into trying the plan I am on and when he started losing weight he got all gung ho. He's lost 30 pounds and can count up fat grams and carbs in his head faster than I can. He has his occasional lapses, but he dusts himself off and goes at it again. It also helped when he could go from 5 shots of insulin a day to 2. It's like he needed to see what healthy eating is before he tried it. It's easier when both are involved, but I managed before he got on board and I would have managed if he hadn't gotten on board. Report
The advice seemed very good for those in that situation. It has been the two of us for quite a few years now. Ten years ago I went organic and cook my food separated. What is one more pan? As time went by, told him since you do your own laundry, start cooking your own meals.He wants nothing but meat.! He doesn't work and I come and go to do my life as I want to do so. It works for us. Report
My hubby is supportive until he wants to go out to eat and i'm taking so long reading the menu to see what might be my best option. Report
Too supportive all the way around me. Sometimes that makes me feel bad, especially when I overeat ;-) Report
Thanks for sharing Report
To me, the whole premise is wrong. "Sluggish metabolism" and "healthy food is expensive" and "it's too much work to eat healthy" and "the kids won't like it" are popular excuses for eating too much and not planning ahead. Food cravings comes from overrestriction and never feeling that you have a choice. Envy just intensifies cravings. We all have the same 24 hours each day. Weight management is about calories in/out, not type of food. In fact, deprivation of taste and mouthfeel and traditional, yummy comfort food makes us feel miserable, and overweight people overeat when they feel miserable. "Unsupportive spouse" is not the problem. When we feel in charge, happy, busy doing meaningful things, we eat what we want and as much as we need. When we feel sad, or bored, or exhausted, or trapped, that's when we can't say no. Report
I sure needed this article today because I am feeling the displeasure big time. My DH asks "What's the big deal, shy can't we eat like we always have?" But since I'm the cook, I make what I want to make and he can either eat it or not - his choice. I'm also getting a lot of "If you don't feel like _______, why not just stay home?" I sure wish just once I'd hear him say good for you for working so hard at something you want. Report
It probably isn't unsupportive as not really getting the "why." He knows I work out like crazy (at least an hour a day, 7x/wk, alternate weight and elliptical with elliptical/stairc
limber). He knows I will walk almost anywhere or use the bus instead of drive (because I hate to drive). He's also seen my mom's health issues (which I'm doing all this crap to try and forestall as long as possible). He's also seen me shrink.

When it comes to food, he's more a "steak and potatoes" fellow while I'm more "salmon and salad." He also takes tasty food seriously (he's a cook and has been for 20+ yrs). Everyone suggests "well tell him to cook lighter stuff," but that's not really his thing. "Fat is flavor" they say in his line of work.

But he has some health troubles; some of which probably aren't helped by weight. That worries me. Tried to suggest joining me at the gym, but feels wretched after exercise (while I feel better after it), also also suggested coming along with me to TOPS. He declined - suspect he feels a bit uncomfortable about something like that. And while he jokes about the "hot young wife," (he's a bit over 7 years older) I've got a suspicion that he's a bit insecure about it all.

The only thing I can think of is to just keep doing what I'm doing and set as good of an example as I can. Report
I just fixed the same meat for both of us, I had larger veggie portions than he did, smaller starch portions than he did. No big deal. His right not to eat all that rabbit food, my right to eat more of it. The pictures chosen for some of these articles sure aren't reality. Report
I don't think that most of them are unsupportive but I think that they are used to they way things are and not ready for change. It has to be "their" ideal. HA! Report
I agree. Engaging, rather than begging or stewing silently, typically works better. Report


About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.
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