Sure, this woman's husband is hot, but his devotion to a so-called healthy lifestyle is taking a serious toll on their marriage. Anonymous, as told to Anna Davies, REDBOOK.
My husband, Grant*, has a six-pack, a chest that would make Channing Tatum jealous, and the type of biceps where you can see a muscle outline through his sweater. He's hot and he's ripped--the type of guy who everyone assumes is a trainer when he's just working out on his own at the gym. His body is his temple, but I am not a happy worshiper.
Sure, I love the way Grant looks, and even the fact that other women find him attractive. But I'm the only one who sees the work that goes into his body--the endless hours at the CrossFit gym, the restrictive Paleo diet, the supplements and muscle magazines, and moments where he stands naked in front of the mirror, wondering out loud whether he looks bigger or if his muscles are more defined. We haven't eaten pizza together in five years. We can't split a bottle of red wine after a hard week. He prizes his body above all else, and it's hurting our marriage and our sex life.
When we met in our mid-20s, Grant and I were both athletic, but not in an all-consuming way. I'd go for 5-mile runs on weekends, and some days to yoga or spin class after work. He had been a cross-country runner in high school and would run, shoot hoops with his buddies, or lift free weights in the basement. But he and I also loved sharing onion rings and pitchers of beer at our favorite dive bar, and he'd never turn down a creamy pasta dish on date night. On our Caribbean honeymoon, all we did was sleep, swim, have sex, and eat. We drank sugary, fruity daiquiris and had dessert at every meal. Both of us gained weight, but neither of us cared.
Then, a year after our 2009 wedding, Grant lost his financial services job. I was still working as a teacher, but going from two incomes to one was a serious blow. After a few months out of work, Grant became depressed and stopped even trying to look for jobs. I'd come home from work to find him playing Xbox or blankly surfing the Internet at the kitchen table, surrounded by dirty dishes. He was gaining weight, too. Even though we love fried foods, we've always made an effort to eat as little processed food as possible at home--but that changed when he was unemployed. Suddenly, he was going through entire packages of cookies and boxes of cereal.
Seeing him that way was hard. He refused to see a therapist, saying he could work through things on his own. He's never been great at discussing his emotions (even with me) especially when he's feeling down and becomes hypersensitive to criticism. For instance, when I pointed out the weight gain-he needed to buy new pants for a wedding we were attending--we ended up getting into a huge fight. He didn't understand that the weight didn't bother me as much as the changes in his personality--it was just a symptom. He seemed sluggish and despondent, not like the active, up-for-anything guy I married. I didn't love the spare tire around his midsection, but I'd still have been attracted to him if it weren't for the other stuff. And treading lightly by urging him to meet up with the guys for a pickup game or head out on a run just made him hostile, since he could clearly understand the subtext.
After almost a year of this, we got into a huge fight that turned into a really serious discussion about where we were headed. He wasn't getting called in to interviews for which we both knew he was qualified, and conversations with headhunters never turned into anything. He tried to consult, but couldn't find clients. Meanwhile, my salary couldn't cover the mortgage, and we were quickly flying through our savings. I wanted kids, but I knew this wasn't the time to start a family. We had to do something.
We decided that Grant should broaden his search and reach out to a successful relative who owned a business. He'd always resisted that path, but when his uncle offered him a job--even at a lower salary in a field he wasn't especially interested in--we knew he had to take it.
The job was hard. The commute was nearly an hour each way. He resented his boss and felt he lacked control of a lot of his day-to-day life. That's why he began going to CrossFit, which he'd heard could be a good way to relieve stress.
At first, it seemed like the gym was the perfect way for him to feel better. I was psyched too. I hadn't seen him so excited in years, and I loved watching how pumped he was when he came home from a tough workout. The weight came off, we had a bit more wiggle room in terms of finances to enjoy the occasional date night, and we began trying to get pregnant.
We had our daughter in 2012, and Grant continued to hit the gym hard, even signing up for various competitions. And that was when things got tough. He was having more fun than ever, while I felt resentful of how often he was gone. I knew working out was important to him, but treating it as necessary seemed borderline selfish. He also began tweaking his diet, turning Paleo and spending nights researching diet and fitness hacks. It was as though I was literally witnessing my husband transforming into a different person--as the weight fell away, so did aspects of his personality I used to love. He could never just chill on the couch anymore; he always had to be doing something.
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Worse, I had a hard time losing the last 10 pounds of baby-weight. I knew Grant wouldn't cheat on me, but I couldn't help wondering whether he compared me to the incredibly fit women at his CrossFit Box (what the CrossFit gym is called). I also felt like the more time he spent working on his body, the less he seemed to care about other aspects of his life, such as the fact he was still working at his uncle's firm when he could have polished his résumé and seen what else was out there.
Now, it's as if I'm living with an incredibly fit stranger. We barely have sex--he goes to bed at 10 so he can run or lift at 5--and his preoccupation with his body makes me uncomfortable. I feel like his diet is the most important thing in his life, and because it's "healthy," it's hard to make it sound like a problem. Every time I mention that I wish he could drop the Paleo thing for a night so we could try the raved-about mac and cheese at a new bistro, or that he could take a weeklong break from working out so we could go to the beach with my family, he flips the conversation to make it sound like I'm trying to undermine him and his happiness.
Sometimes I wonder if I might be. After all, he's always inviting me to come with him to "the Box," which I never do. I say I need to look after our daughter or that I'm busy grading papers, but truthfully, working out is not the same priority for me as it is for Grant. Seeing my husband so passionate about something that has nothing to do with me makes me feel left out. I do wonder whether I'd be so annoyed and angry if he had gotten into a more solo activity, like running or biking, and I don't think I would be. I hate that Grant has an entire social life that doesn't include me, and that he's part of a whole fitness movement that's leaving me behind.
It's an ugly feeling. I don't want to be resentful about something that makes my husband feel good--and I know we need to sort through this together. I've done some research on eating and exercise disorders in men and occasionally wonder if Grant may be too obsessive, but I think the issue is more about how his body image and workout routine is affecting us. It'd be different if he were a single guy living by himself. And then, there are the facts: He's a lot healthier, physically and mentally. His numbers at his last doctor's appointment were perfect. When he's around, he loves being a dad. Sometimes he'll take our daughter for a long bike ride on a Saturday afternoon, and I love that she and he are bonding over healthy activities. I only wish he'd put that drive back into our relationship.
I recognize that food and exercise have become stand-ins for so many other problems in our relationship. We're no longer on the same page as we once were. Grant has a passion that doesn't include me. He's fine with the job he's got, while I think he could do much better.
Ultimately, working out is easy, but working stuff out is complicated. Seeing Grant push himself at the gym has convinced me that he can do anything he puts his mind toward. It gives me hope that we can get back on the same wavelength. But we'll both have to face some hard truths about ourselves and our marriage in order to do it.
*Name has been changed.