I Want Him To Stay In Shape

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Dear Meredith,

Here’s my love letter kvetch. My husband and I are middle-aged; he’s a bit older than I am, and we’ve been together a long time. Over that time, there have been losses, and also some really special parts of how we’ve “saved” each other. I’m also probably the sort of person who is always looking to improve things, looking for what’s wrong, addicted to relationship improvements.

Now to the problem. At our age, I’m realizing how much I need to pay attention to exercise and eating right in order to be in decent shape physically and mentally, right? My husband, not so much. Pre-pandemic, he was definitely one of those people who thought he went to the gym more often than he did. He does walk with me when I invite him, and he sees the positive in it. I’ve figured out that most days I can fit in a walk with him that’s not too much of a push, and then more strenuous exercise at another time in the day – and that I need both. But (and here’s where the question comes in) I actually think that physically, his “built for comfort, not for speed” body type can last pretty long – compared to my high need for movement. But there are days when I see a future of – if I don’t fall apart myself physically or mentally – taking care of a husband who has mental decline from this way of living.

I keep picturing that kind of future, not to mention that even if he’s reasonably healthy, he’s going to lose a lot of muscle strength. I’ll tell you right off, I’m not taking us to couples counseling over this. I do wonder: how much do I invest in helping him change, versus taking care of myself best so I can deal with whatever comes? And a second question: is this a love letter, or just an aging couple letter?

– Walking and Working It


“Is this a love letter, or just an aging couple letter?”

Both, I guess.

I’ll start by reminding you I’m not a doctor (clearly). But I do know that there are so many factors that contribute to the way we age and how long we get to stick around. Some people eat broccoli and ride a bike every day and wind up in poor health because of genetics (that happened to my mom). We all have other examples of people (my grandma) who live long lives despite unhealthy habits. My grandma was sharp as hell until the end.

Stress also does a lot to the body, right? Anxiety can make you sick. Worrying about health – freaking out over all that could happen – can contribute to problems.

So here’s what I suggest: tell your husband you want to do as much as you can to treat your body well as you age. Ask him to join you so you can shoot for a great quality of life together for as long as possible. Tell him you’d like to talk to your doctors about diet, tests (make sure you’re getting all the right tests!), etc. Then, if he’s game, do the work and let it go.

I have a friend who calls herself an optimizer – it’s her way of saying she’s a person who’s aways looking to improve things. Sometimes optimization is great (she always knows the secret path for the best commute), and other times she knows it’s better to let a problem go – because it hasn’t even happened yet.

Be responsible, but don’t make this a whole thing. If your husband is on board with taking care of himself – and the two of you taking care of each other – you’re in good shape. That kind of commitment sounds healthy enough.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on staying healthy as a couple without putting too much pressure on a partner to live a certain way?

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