Women are the caretakers of health, constantly watching out for the health interests of the family – whether they like it or not. Like all well-meaning advice-givers, sometimes the ‘help’ isn’t well received. You say, “Maybe that’s enough, honey” when your husband is on his fourth glass of wine. He hears, “You are a fat, lazy, drunken cow.”
The problem is women and men have a completely different approach to health. Women tend to be pro-active and ask a lot of questions for themselves and their family. Even when the appointment is about her peri-menopausal weight gain, she will ask about her husband’s love handles and her child’s aversion to cheese. We can’t seem to help ourselves; we want to spread the wealth.
Men wish to come in once a year and be told the three things they can do better that will solve the problem at hand. If those things make sense to them and are easy to do, they will do them. Period. Our unsolicited health advice is perceived as ‘nagging’ or criticism.
Behind the Friction: Why Men and Women Approach Health Differently
She does not think her husband is stupid or lazy, she tries to help – well at least the first 25 times anyway. She is biologically designed and socially driven to take care of her husband. What her “nagging” is, really, is worry.
She worries what will happen to her, how the kids will be if they have to grow up without a father. She worries that if she doesn't say something his habits will get worse. She also does not like acting like his mother and wishes that he would accept responsibility for himself so she can start worrying about herself again and leave him alone. Win-win.
He is biologically designed differently. He is made and socialized to ignore the feelings of hunger, thirst and use of the bathroom so he learns from an early age to shut these distractions out. If you think about it in an anthropological sense, he has to ignore these sensations in order to keep hunting or gathering or protecting the pack.
Slowing down to poop is a dangerous, smelly proposition (which also explains why he feels the need to hide in the bathroom/cave until the job is done and the danger is past). He wants to be healthy and safe. He also wants to hear advice from his caring wife, but he needs the information to be simple and framed in the positive.
How to Help Your Husband Live a Healthier Life
- Know and accept that men and women are different in how they approach health, neither is wrong and both can do better.
- She needs to limit her “tips” to three.
- He needs to hear her tips as love rather than nag.
- She needs to frame her tips in the positive tone of voice (saying “you can’t” or “you shouldn't” doesn't work, he needs to hear the plan and the goal):
- Let’s get a special bottle of wine for Friday nights so we can look forward to it!
- I read that 1 glass of wine per day is my max but you can have two. If I stopped drinking wine during the week, will you help me and do it too?
- I am going to make more vegetables and show the kids we can do better! Which one would you like to see more of?
- You did so well last week! Let’s do it again!
As pathetic as it sounds, we all need positive reinforcement and someone has to start it. I wish it weren't true and I know it isn't always easy but, man, does it work.
He needs to listen. Nod and smile and appreciate. That’s simple, right?
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a nutritionist and food communications consultant. Her Food Network show, Just One Bite! aired for 5 years on both Food Network and BBC Kids. She is currently a trusted on-camera correspondent for CTV Newschannel as well as CBC and regular health expert on the daily lifestyle show, Steven and Chris which airs internationally.
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Tweeters by Today’s Parent Magazine and one of Savvymom.ca’s 35 Favorite Bloggers, she is called for comment from every major magazine, newspaper and television outlet in Canada. She has a weekly column in the Metro Newspaper and regularly writes features for Today’s Parent, Canadian Family Magazine and blogs at Huffington Post.