I'm not always the best about taking care of myself. I have a tendency to start up with healthy living plans, only to watch it all fall apart when my inevitable stress-messes hit. At this point, I'm wise enough to get back on the healthy living wagon (somewhat) quickly, but there's also a comfortable lazy tendency pulling me back towards the comfort of my bed (instead of exercising in the morning) or towards the comfort food of pasta, cheese, and numerous other rich indulgences (instead of a plate piled high with vegetables with cheese as an accent). Even worse, Jason has many of the same comfort-trending inclinations.
This should be a health-related disaster. But, somehow, it's not. Instead, we're much better influences on each other than when we were "just" in a committed relationship. We're consciously working to build routines that reinforce health, including planning our weekly home cooked meals, shopping at the Farmers Markets, and supporting each others' unique exercise needs (he bikes, I sometimes run, use workout videos, and buy occasional personal training sessions to re-motivate me at the gym. I still miss college sports.) He reads my Weight Watchers cookbooks and asks questions about my needs as he learns to cook in ways that support our healthy aims. When one person lags, the other is there to actually help with the slack, making lunches, cooking dinner, and suggesting Saturday afternoon walks around the neighborhood.
Most certainly, we could have done this in an everyday partnership situation. But knowing that we're in it for life has made it both easier and more imperative. It's shifted the calculation of what's important in my everyday. We're strong enough together that we're actively challenging each others' choices, asking if you really want that extra (third) cookie (couching it in weekly points allowance language or we-have-a-nice-dinner-out-tomorrow language.*) We're careful about these conversations, but we're finally learning how to effectively challenge and push each others' comfort zones, ultimately safe in the knowledge that these tough questions won't precipitate a breakup. Because we're committed to this relationship, no matter what and it's because of that lifetime view that we're pushing each other so hard. My health matters to someone else. His health matters to me. My late night sugary indulgences suddenly feel short-shortsightedly selfish now that I'm able to picture the long-term selfish goals that require being healthy enough to travel the world at 80 together, holding each others' hands, reminiscing about a lifetime of joy built on the back of these hard third-cookie conversations and commitments.
We're aiming for a lifetime of marriage by using this engagement period to test out recipes, routines, and hard-question approaches. For me, it's the hard questions that are the most striking part of this engagement period. Finding ourselves secure in this partnership has finally allowed us to jointly tackle our individual (and shared) weaknesses, to be more honest with each other, and to continue feeling respected in the process. We're actively making time for it, even when it's hard and I mostly feel whiny. For us, we've directed our current efforts at health. For others, it's probably something else. But regardless, this process of marriage has given us an opportunity to test our boundaries and rely on our love, all while working to build a long-term future.
*we also know each other well enough to know when NOT to touch the third cookie conversation with a ten foot pole. There's that look, at the end of one of those days, that obviously says back the heck off my chocolate chips.