My husband spent our year-long engagement two states away in his first year of grad school, determined to save money for our life together by shopping and eating as little as possible on his small stipend. The first time I saw him after he moved, he’d visibly lost weight and was more tired than usual--the result of a steady diet of frozen broccoli, boxed mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, and a weekly frozen burrito splurge on Sundays. I bought him a cookbook and promised we could live prudently without sacrificing his health.
Meanwhile, as I embarked on post-college living for the first time, I was sampling kombucha, oil pulling, and debating buying barefoot-style running shoes. Was my husband unnecessarily ascetic? Was I blindly following any wellness trend that appeared on my radar? The answer was probably both.
Even several years into marriage, I frequently observe the ways family of origin shapes your outlook, for better or for worse. My parents, sister, and I would take classes together at the gym and enjoyed cooking together from scratch. My husband and his siblings preferred pick-up sports to gyms, and his family often prioritized convenience and savings over other factors when grocery shopping.
After our wedding, as we began sharing meals and a bank account, my husband and I found ourselves in significant disagreement over how to use our limited resources well and to determine what was actually “healthy.” He called me a snob when I turned up my nose at butter that wasn’t grass-fed. I called him careless when he’d come home fatigued and sick from dipping into the candy jar at work all day.
I look back and see each of our immoderate perspectives on wellness as a typical example of the growing pains of newlywed life. Becoming familiar with one another’s spending habits, tastes, and day-to-day nutritional, sleep, and exercise requirements are among many adjustments in the merging of two individuals’ habits into a new, shared life. I have asked myself, however, why I felt so passionately about health in particular, and why I often insisted my husband conform himself more to my habits than vice versa. He’d press me, insisting he’d cherish and care for me no matter if one of us gained weight or developed an illness.
I truly believe the human body makes manifest God’s glory and expresses the person. I believe taking care of my physical well-being--held, that is, in proper perspective with my spiritual well-being--better provides me with the energy and clarity of mind to serve my husband and children in my vocation and to place my gifts at the service of the Lord.
Yet if I’m being entirely honest with myself, I also see the raw places in my heart that hide in fear: I fear sickness, death, infertility. I fear my appearance won’t be enough for my husband; the lie that, as a woman, how I look equals who I am. It’s a constant struggle for me to embrace the tension of pursuing fulfillment in this life while still fixing my eyes on the next. I desire, too much, to cling to this life in which I’ve been graced with so many gifts.
Eternal preservation, good health, and youth aren’t the ultimate goods. Eternal life, however, is.
Fulfillment without flaw. As I’ve worked to cast down these idols, time has given my husband and I more of a shared, moderate perspective on diet, exercise, supplements, and otherwise.
So where to turn if, like us, you find yourself and your beloved at odds over a major lifestyle matter--health and wellness, or otherwise?
First, I encourage you to accept differences of opinion as a normal accompaniment to your time of transition as newlyweds and, moreover, to delve into them. Like me, you might recognize a root cause that illuminates the parts of you the Father wants to heal, to reconcile, to be invited into.
Second, trust that your spouse chose you, loves you, made a vow to you--a mirror of our heavenly bridegroom. He wants you, no matter if you’re an XS or XL, if you eat or don’t eat gluten, if you’re marathons or Couch to 5K.
And lastly, turn to the Lord. Ask how you, in particular, can put yourself at the service of the Gospel--body and soul--and for him to reveal who you were created to be, and a healthy perspective on wellness will follow.