Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Nov

When Grok Lives with Korg, or How to Cope With an Unsupportive Partner

When I introduced a forum thread asking folks to share their top three challenges in going Primal, one issue got major traction: the S.O. factor (significant other, for those of you not into the whole online brevity thing). It’s a familiar story. One partner takes on a new health commitment. Life changes for that person. He/she goes through struggles, triumphs, growth – an entire physical and psychological process that potentially leaves a relationship chasm in its wake. Then there are the logistics, a menacing obstacle course of loaded questions and irksome details. Do you still eat together? Who cooks (not to mention shops)? Do we have enough pots and pans to make two different meals each night? How do we handle the kids’ food? Finally, what does it mean for the arrangement when one person’s food expenditure overshadows the other’s?

I’m not talking, of course, about couples who follow individual but similar lifestyle paths. Few people have a fully Primal S.O., and most people don’t exactly consider that a deal breaker to begin with. As many of you noted in the forum, it’s good to honor individuality in relationships. It certainly keeps things interesting. My wife, for example, eats fish but not fowl or red meat. While I’d prefer she join me in devouring a rack of lamb now and then, I understand and even empathize with her reasoning. I also recognize that she’s one of the healthiest people I know. She merges the Primal philosophy with her own chosen values, and the result is pretty impressive. Because her diet obliges certain restrictions, she’s more diligent than I am, I’ll admit.

What I mean here is a true Grok/Korg match. One partner is living (or approaching) Primal, while the other is fully entrenched in CW – or maybe worse. Some couples comfortably and successfully adopt a “live and let live” mentality with ne’er an argument to ruffle their domestic bliss. Others struggle at times, harboring low-grade resentments or continuing disappointment that their partners – however supportive – don’t take up the cause. For a few, the contrast ignites epic conflict akin to a veritable clash of civilizations.

In the forum, there was back and forth about the social and emotional significance we attach to food. It’s not a religion, many said. It shouldn’t derail an otherwise good relationship. Others countered that it was indeed a creed of sorts. As a significant dimension of one’s lifestyle, our food choices inevitably become imbued with our individual values – and even with our identities to a certain degree.

With this deeper facet – and the day-to-day logistics – in mind, here are a few targeted suggestions for both staying true to your Primal quest and keeping peace in the shared kingdom.

Be Comfortable With Your Choice

No, really. Don’t shoot the messenger here, but sometimes others’ divergent choices get under our skin because they’re a constant reminder of our own ability to fall off the wagon. There’s a certain vulnerability to living against the current of a society, let alone one’s own household. It takes a greater commitment – not a white-knuckle, hold-your-breath, dig-in-your-heels declaration, but a deeply personal kind of pledge. It’s a decision to live in the moment and make the best choice for yourself in that moment. No one can undo or undermine your commitment without your permission. It’s accepting the ultimate responsibility. Going Primal may not always be convenient or easy. Likewise, relationships are always convenient and easy either.

Dial In Your Expectations

Don’t start your journey with the grandiose (albeit ideal in my opinion) vision of a happy Primal family. As my mother used to say to us growing up, “You worry about you.” It’s your choice, your path. Would you travel down it knowing you weren’t going to be accompanied by your partner or other loved ones? Well, there you go. Be an example to your partner, but enjoy and own Primal living in its own right – not as a constant representation of the cause, so to speak.

To Each, A Pantry of One’s Own

It’s a similar sentiment to the old adage, “good fences make good neighbors.” A little space can sometimes be enough to keep you from feeling inundated by the alternative choices residing in your household. Claim a space for your stuff and make no apologies. As for shopping and spending, be prepared to sit down and have a practical negotiation with concrete, unimpassioned terms.

Gather the Support You Need

Your S.O. can’t provide for every need or play every role in your life. We all know this, but making/going through a significant transition in life sometimes clouds our judgment. You deserve respect, of course, but fill in the support you need with friends, other family members, online communities (wink), etc. Take the pressure off your relationship, and you’ll likely both feel freer and happier. It’s a funny thing: when you finally let an issue go, that’s when people can surprise you the most.

Research suggests that couples treat divergent dietary paths in much the same way as other conflicts or differences in their relationships. (I guess there’s cause for a potentially heartening – or unsettling – realization there.) It’s a question worth exploring. I obviously believe that going Primal is a good choice, but if your S.O.’s lack of conversion is nagging at you so dramatically that it’s undermining the fundamentals of your relationship, it might be time to examine the issue from a broader, deeper, or more emotional angle. (a.k.a. It’s never really about the toothpaste cap.)

That said, I think it’s fair to feel disappointed, even saddened, by a partner’s disinterest in maintaining his/her health. If you’re taking it upon yourself to stay in good shape and put life in your years (not to mention years in your life), you might wonder why the other person won’t hold up his/her end of the bargain. What exactly, then, is the understanding behind a relationship? I’m going to venture that it isn’t about being in lock-step at every turn, in every moment. Nonetheless, I think it is about explaining why you care. (Then there’s always the jaw-dropping, stunning example you set….) If you’re in it for the long haul, there’s time to grow together – or to realize that some commonalities just aren’t compulsory for lasting devotion and domestic harmony.

Readers, what say you? Are Groks and Korgs compatible? Have you found a way to peacefully coexist in the kitchen, or has going Primal changed the game with relationships for you? Is it ever a deal breaker? Share your thoughts, and thanks for reading today.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I wish there was a Primal Living dating website…. :/

    Christina wrote on November 20th, 2011
  2. I have recently gone about 90%. My husband on the other hand is a junk food, fast food junkie! I would love for him to change his ways but he is not convinced and believe I am “Being fed bad info.” because I used to do the whole low fat thing and now I eat bacon! However, even then he would eat half the stuff I eat. The main issue we have is when we eat out but we tend to take turns picking places and have a couple of places we just don’t go together. I am hoping that I will reach all my fitness and health goals and maintain this for a lifetime. Hopefully the LGN factor might convince him to make the change as well. My theory is that I cannot complain because we were both into those bad habits when we met, its not like he suddenly changed. I fell in love with his unhealthy ass and I still love him! :)

    Lauri wrote on November 21st, 2011
  3. My husband is a genetic freak. He is a CW MASTER, and somehow maintains awesome inside and outside health eating the way he eats. After 10+ years together, I have learned to accept it (along with his cookies, ice creams, pasta’s, sandwiches, rice, cereals, and anything else I know is not good for me). In the beginning, when it was just about a low carb diet for me, it was hard to not give in to things lying around the house. Not all the time, but occassionally I did give in. That was 6 years ago. back then, my husband did NOT discriminate in regards to the kind of Junk food he ate. You name it, he ate it. And still maintained his beautiful under 10% body fat body. He also did not work out, and maintained his muscles through various forms of physical labor on the job. At one point in his life, (long before we met), he was a SLAVE to CW dieting and fitness. His entire life revolved around body building and eating plenty of pasta to back it up, with days in excess of 5000 calories to maintain 185 lbs at 6ft tall. Now days, although he is not Primal to say the least, he mostly eats what I eat (minus most vegetables), and I usually just make him his side of pasta, beans, rice, or french fries, and the thought never crosses my mind to sample any of it. It’s a beautifully choreographed arrangement. I do the cooking, and he eats it. I don’t deprive him of what he likes, and he doesn’t pretend to agree with or understand what I believe. He has seen me take this approach to nutrition and use it to lose 95 pounds of fat off my body. He knows I know what I’m doing with myself – and from what he can see, he likes it 😉 Since that beginning 6 years ago, he no longer eats at “chain” fast food places, only occassionally indulges in things like pizza, or grilled sandwiches. Still buys cookies and potato chips, and still eats his pasta. He makes his own breakfast (oatmeal or cereal)lunch (sandwich and chips) eats what I cook for dinner and has dessert from the junk list above. Of all the crap in the house, ice cream seems to be the only one that I sometimes wish I could have. Was never a huge ice cream lover, but sometimes you just want something ice cold and sweet. Fortunately, we like almost NONE of the same flavors 😉 Anyways, as anyone can see, you can make it work. Instead of me sitting around jealous that he can do what he does and look so great, or trying to force what I do on him just to make it easier on myself, I OWN my situation. I OWN my results. I spend a couple extra minutes and dirty another pot to make something extra for him, I use extreme caution when I suggest little changes (thinking of how I would feel if someone were trying to get me to change things), I don’t wallow in self pity over not eating the JUNK food in the house, I remind myself that when he tells me to just eat a freaking cookie, that he really is the exception here, and the difference between him eating it and me eating it is crazy, he is supportive of my 4:30 alarm to workout, and although he doesn’t get why we keep lard in the house or use a lot of chopped bacon to cook with, his tummy is happy, my butt is smaller and our home is harmonious. I don’t need him to be primal. One day he may just give up grains. Not likely, but if it happens, we will find a way to make it work :)

    lisa wrote on November 21st, 2011
  4. My husband is a vegetarian. We only eat dinner together. The only overlap in our diets is veggies. I often like to put meat in my veggie dishes or cook with tallow, so that often takes away the overlap. I used to cook for him, and I once hired someone to cook for him. Now, I just leave him to his own devices. We have separate food cabinets, and we share our fridge.

    It’s been hard for me to relinquish responsibility for his dinners, but I have. I make my own food and he’s on his own for his. When we go out, I often cheat if the menu is “difficult.”

    Carolyn wrote on March 1st, 2013
  5. Hi
    I’ve made the change to primal because I have Crohn’s disease (in remission right now and I want it to stay that way!)
    My partner is a junk food addict! But, I stay strong make good, family meals (with a side of potatoes or rice if they really must) and it seems to be working, but I need willpower to avoid the bad food traps that live in my kitchen! But, we all have to live together and my kids love chocolate and crisps, hard as I try to persuade them that the nice carrot or apple is a better snack!

    My point is, that for me, I can say “I can’t eat that chocolate bar, bag of chips, potato (etc) because it makes my belly poorly” and I do get more support because of the weird diets I have had to go on for health reasons, because this is new, but dietary change is not.

    Now, how to I convert them all……….?

    Hen wrote on May 20th, 2013
    • Does Crohn’s have any genetic factors? If so fear can be your ally. Scare your children with tails of debilitating pain and the nightmare scenarios of the disease. Then laud the primal way of avoiding the problem. When they insist they don’t have the issue, just look really sadly and say “Not yet.”

      BTW
      Scientists believe that Crohn’s disease is caused by a combination of these factors:
      Immune system problems – unnatural foods cause what?
      Genetics – they share these with you…
      Environmental factors – they live in the same place….

      Bobu wrote on January 23rd, 2014
  6. I cook for our multi-cultural family, and my Latin American partner and his side of the family cannot live without white rice and fried plantains at every meal. But they also eat lots of meat and vegetables. My husband doesn’t care what I do or don’t eat as long as I am happy & healthy, so I prepare all the different kinds of food and we each eat what we want- nobody tries to control what anybody else eats! There will be questions, but if your partner loves and respects you then they will be supportive of you even if they don’t agree with the diet or they themselves don’t want to follow it- one day I just stopped putting rice on my plate and quit eating breakfast (always fried plantains) and simply explained to my husband that this was the way I was going to be eating from now on.

    It would be easier to go Primal if he were on board with me, but every choice I make is mine and only mine… and it is even more empowering to know that I can do it all on my own, even with a non-Primal partner. Good luck everybody!

    Casey wrote on January 2nd, 2014
  7. A rabbi once told me that kashrut (the dietary restrictions for observant Jews) in truth serves one primary purpose: to make sure that Jews cannot eat together with non-Jews, thus ensuring the isolation, and thus continued identity of Jewish communities.
    It is said that kashrut alone is responsible for the survival of the Jewish identity through centuries of diaspora – countless other nations in similar context have been assimilated into the majority population, and essentially disappeared.

    So a restrictive dietary choice can have a VERY significant effect on social connections, life and identity…

    Sigmoid wrote on January 29th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!