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I often get questions about dealing with family members. The question I see most often goes something along the lines of
My husband and I have been fighting about
My husband keeps eating <insert food> despite my
naggingreminding him it’s unhealthy.
My husband and I fight about everything involving the kids. What they eat, where they sleep, their medical decisions, <insert any issue here>
I wish he’d quit feeding them Cheerios!
I have told him and told him. Why doesn’t he get it?
Honey, he definitely got it. Not the words out of your mouth, because those didn’t matter. It was your attitude he heard loud and clear.
Not The Momma
To every question that involves your husband, I have the same answer. You are not his mommy. You are his wife, the mother of his children and his lover. Treat him as your equal, show him tons of love but do not parent him. He is not an extra child that needs you to spoon feed him. Until your attitude changes and you put him back into the driver’s seat of his own life, he won’t hear what comes out of your mouth about food, parenting or anything else because your attitude screams his inferiority in your eyes.
You must own your own decisions and actions and let him own his, even if he makes mistakes in the process.
Here’s the truth about what goes on in my own household: My husband and I don’t see eye to eye on everything. Jeff doesn’t eat the perfect diet by traditional foods standards. He eats unsoaked grains and even some junk food. He has to eat out with clients from time to time and his choices are limited. He buys pasteurized milk when the raw runs out or we can’t afford it. He’s thirty pounds overweight (down from a high of sixty) and chooses to take high blood pressure meds occasionally instead of turning to diet and exercise consistently to get off of the meds. He loves white carbs and sugar and struggles with it. He has made observations about what he had been eating and has made some voluntary adjustments such as cutting out all soft drinks, making better choices and avoiding table salt while eating out and cutting way back on processed foods. He has made steps in the right direction but he isn’t whole hog. Yet.
It is his body and it is his decision what he does with it. I can only provide nutritious food choices as an available option along with consistent, gentle and loving education on the topics dear to me. I can not force him to eat or not eat things. I can’t force him to exercise, only encourage him to join me while I do it.
Though, I still don’t agree with all of his choices, he has made great progress and he is far more educated on food issues than he was even three years ago. We have good discussions about much involving health. He’s willing to watch food movies with me, try and critique new dishes and he listens when I read snippets of articles or food-related news.
What changed? My attitude.
Attitude is Everything
Slow, gentle education while showing a sweet attitude and never harping gets you farther than any amount of nagging or fussing ever could. If my husband constantly talked down to me about a topic he knew a lot about, I’d soon shut down and quit asking, too. I’d avoid the topic or do what I wanted behind his back. I wouldn’t discuss controversial topics with someone who showed me no respect.
Educate where you can, set an example. At the same time, take genuine interest in things that interest him and encourage him to spend time doing things together you enjoy in the same turn. Show him the same love and respect you want him to show you. Let go of the reins and quit trying to steer him to your choices. Quit scorning him when he makes a decision you don’t agree with. Find his love language and speak it loud, clear and consistent.
People learn a lesson better from making their own mistakes than they do when they’re led to a decision. Letting a child suffer the consequence of a tummy ache from too much birthday cake is a far better reminder not to overindulge than any amount of prattling on you do on the subject before each party you attend. So, too, allowing your husband to learn from his mistakes and dietary changes will have far more impact than any amount of prattling on you can do. It will also serve as a far better deterrent when faced with the same decisions in the future.
Let him participate in the process. Let him help in the kitchen, especially if it involves grilling. He’ll learn some new skills, you’ll get to spend some time together and he might learn some things. He’ll also be more likely to try the food and like it since he helped make it. Jeff says his participation in the kitchen has been far more instrumental in convincing him to try things than any other means. Him helping fix meals has led to him overcoming some food aversions and mental hurdles I never thought he’d get over.
The Issue Isn’t Food
Accept his decisions, even if you disagree. Maybe one day he’ll agree with you, maybe one day he won’t. But you’ll never see eye to eye as long as you attempt to parent him instead of love him as an equal.
Because, the truth is that your kids see your attitude towards him as far more important than the poor food choices he makes.
Food is far secondary to a solid relationship and a loving atmosphere. Generally speaking, your children will benefit far more from a loving, harmonious home than they will that grass-fed beef or those free-range eggs. And the secret is that it starts with you.
Women are the heart of the home. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, work at home mom or a work outside of the home mom. It doesn’t matter if daddy works or is unemployed. How many children you have or your circumstances are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Mama sets the tone and gives the strongest example to the children as to how two people should interact in a relationship.
So instead of discussing food, show him love and provide snippets of non-judgemental education when the door is open. Then wait. You can’t change him. You can only change yourself. As the saying goes, be the change you want to see. Give it time and lots of love and see how those seeds grow. The change won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. And you’ll both be better for it.
This post is part of Homemaker’s Challenge.