Hey Noah –
I’ve been dating this guy for almost six months, and for the most part, things are going great. Three months ago, we became monogamous. I stay over at his place, or vice versa, almost every night. He cooks, I clean. Our friend groups get along, and we generally enjoy the same movies, music and both prefer the peaceful Friday evening with wine and dog over a wild night in the Village. We just click.
Except for one small, but important difference. He hates working out.
I am your quintessential gym rat and build my daily routine around my workout. I’ll feel sluggish and disengaged at work if I don’t exercise in the morning, and the gym is the only place on the planet where I can clear my head, hit the reset button and walk out feeling on top of my game.
I always imagined having a boyfriend who could also be my gym buddy.
After our second date, I invited him to join me at Equinox the following day. He tilted his head slightly, gave me a look of embarrassment and grimace and cautiously exclaimed, “I just really can’t get into the gym scene.”
Months later, I’ve also discovered my boyfriend has a general distaste for any physical activity. It’s not just a “gym thing” but rather a great aversion to exercise in general. Yoga, running, Barry’s Bootcamp, swimming laps. He’d much rather spend an evening in the kitchen obsessing over the perfect herb to go with our pri-pri chicken experiment than join me for a yoga session after work. Apparently, as a high school student, he was frequently bullied in the mandatory gym classes and he continues to carry that emotional trauma with him throughout his twenties.
I feel silly asking this, but I’m beginning to doubt the potential of our relationship. How can I help my boyfriend see fitness and the gym as a place of power and peace instead of a hellish reminder of past traumatic experiences? Part of me wonders if this is non-negotiable for me.
Marco, 25, San Francisco
You are completely valid in wanting to share this important part of your life with your boyfriend. Many of us can identify with not being able to bond with our partners around a favorite hobby, band, fetish or workout routine. A few things come to mind here:
Working out and physical fitness are fundamental pieces of your identity. Part of flipping the switch into a long-term relationship requires us to give up something of ourselves to experience a world of new possibilities with another human being.
The complexity here is that physical fitness brings up a lot of deep-rooted insecurities for your boyfriend. His lack of interest in joining you for a workout goes beyond general laziness or apathy.
Is there something in his life that’s just as important to him but doesn’t excite you?
Perhaps it’s time to sit down and have a real conversation about the importance of fitness in your life. Talk about how you’d like to help him form new memories around sharing wellness experiences together in exchange for engaging with something new in his world.
It can be a profoundly transformative experience to unite over and bestow your love of something onto your partner. Even if it requires us to take the plunge first and try something that’s either boring or uncomfortable.
Try a different approach
Joining you for a workout session at a crowded Equinox may be the last thing in the world your boyfriend would enjoy. Maybe a day hike outside the city might be a more enticing Sunday activity.
Go for the smaller and easier wins. Allow your boyfriend to rewire physical activity as a meaningful shared experience. A hike could turn into a long bike ride, and then a yoga class, Pilates and maybe eventually an hour in the gym together.
Find a platonic gym buddy
When all else fails and your boyfriend just doesn’t want to come together over your love of fitness, that’s okay, too. With compromise in sharing new and different things, we also need to accept that there will always be stuff we must experience outside of our relationship dynamics. There are adventures, hobbies and interests that we’ll never be able to convert into fun times for our loved ones.
I would rather jump out of a window than go to a Beyoncé concert, and my husband’s dedication to Beyoncé rivals that of devout Christians. (She is arguably at the very core of his identity as an artist and music fanatic.)
At the same time, we’ve been able to share other transformative experiences together over my love for documentary films and his passion for volunteering with the homeless.
Seek out and exploit those moments where individual passions can be shared and enjoyed together. And in the meantime, find a colleague or local friend to be your main workout squeeze.