self care relationships

Ellie Burrows is an expert on sex, relationships, and everything in between – including the way you and your honey hone in on healthy living. Dare to talk self-care? Here’s Ellie with a few words of wisdom on how to get your partner on board with wellness, sans the nagging and negativity…

Show me a man who honors his body, and I will kneel at the altar of that man.

There is nothing more attractive than a dude who eats right, works out, makes sleep a priority and knows when to choose water over whiskey. For me, it’s not about the money he makes or his gorgeous face, it’s about a self-care swag factor. And I know this because I’ve been with men on both sides of the spectrum.

There are tons of studies that reveal that the more you workout, the more sex you have. The results usually show that people who work out have fitter bodies and feel more confident or are generally healthier and more energetic.

My best friend Jeff and his girlfriend Lauren are excellent examples of this and get a gold star for self-care in partnership. They’re perpetually turned on by their dedication to collective wellness.

Jeff is textbook. He might as well have been the subject of the above studies: “It’s not simply about eating egg whites and going to the gym and counting calories. It’s about balance, living an active lifestyle, watching the ingredients you put into your body, drinking water. It’s a state of mind and when I am in it I am a better lover – both physically and emotionally. It makes me feel happy, alive, and confident as if I could take over the world. What woman doesn’t want a dude like that?”

And I totally agree with him. Self-care is one of my core values and it’s the common ground I would like to stand on with my partner. For others it’s religion, politics, recycling, or New York City. And like those other things, an open dialogue about it can be tricky. It’s not just about physical appearance; it’s also about overall well-being, which is inherently linked to self-love. If raising this issue results in disarming or detonating a mega ego bomb then run the other way; because even at the best of times, it’s hard to support the habits or non-habits of any willing human being, even yourself. I can promise you that you will likely always encounter resistance.

In the past, I’ve been the girl who’s given her man a hard time for not hitting the gym or pounding too much alcohol. I have seen myself show up as an untamable self-care shrew. And if I’m frustrated or angry then it usually means I’m coming from fear, not love. So if I nag at my partner for not getting his daily dose of greens, what’s really going on?

He is turning me off and that’s a really scary thing to have to have a conversation about.

I coach people around honoring themselves and communicating with their beloveds. Aside from writing, it’s my most fulfilling work. As a coach, the goal is to facilitate your client’s best thinking and optimize his or her performance. It sounds quite clinical, but I help clients get comfortable with their wants and needs, sans judgment, and empower them to communicate their wants and needs effectively. A big piece of that communication puzzle usually involves positive psychology. It focuses on strengths instead of traditional psychology’s focus on what’s wrong.

Positive psychology is not: You should go to the gym. You complain about your belly but then do nothing about it. Ugh, I wish you wouldn’t drink so much. Why can’t you take care of yourself? You have to make better decisions.

I have definitely said those helpful and wildly inappropriate things to a partner at some point. Consider this my public apology to someone in particular. He knows who he is.

Appreciation and acknowledgement go a long way. I flourish when someone recognizes my hard work. In fact, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t. Of course it’s a social grace to demonstrate humility, but beneath that humility, I promise you someone’s soul is singing. So when broaching the topic of your partner’s self-care, it’s probably best to avoid the shoulds and haves. It’s far more powerful when it comes from love and devotion:

Sober sex with you is ridiculously hot. Can we do more of it?

It totally turns me on when you go to the gym.

Baby, your arms are looking extremely positive in that shirt.

I notice you’re happier and more energized when you are taking care of yourself. That’s incredibly sexy.

Tell me, how I can be in service to you and your overall well-being?

It turns out Jeff is also the poster child for this approach, “Like anything, I believe positive re-enforcement is always good. Telling your girlfriend to go to the gym or that she needs to go to the gym won’t work. Yet telling them how good they look makes them feel better about themselves and they will naturally want to continue to care for themselves.”

This article was four days late for its deadline and I was feeling a little down and out about it. I couldn’t figure out how to finish it. Something needed to drop in. And it did.

The night before I turned this in I reconnected with an ex I hadn’t spoken to since we parted ways earlier in the year. About four minutes into our conversation he said, “I’ve been thinking about you a lot because I’m going to the gym every other day and really started to take care of myself. It feels fantastic. I want you to know that you were the inspiration behind it and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you.”

I love the gift of completion. In that moment, I remembered all the nice things I said to him when we were together and how it all came from a place of love. Apparently positive psychology pays dividends.

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