You be the judge: should my unfit girlfriend start exercising?

<span>Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian

The prosecution: Marvin

I’m not trying to control Lil. She just needs to leave the house. It’s really unhealthy to sit for hours

My girlfriend Lil works from home all day and doesn’t move from morning to night. I tell her it’s really unhealthy but she calls me a “robot of the patriarchy”.

But I’m not trying to control her in any way, it’s just that I think she needs to leave the house during the day and exercise more. It’s really unhealthy to sit for hours, and I don’t think it’s good for her mental health either.

Lil is a freelance writer and she loves to wake up and start writing in our bed or at the kitchen table. She will literally work from 8am through to 6pm. She only ever gets up to make a cup of tea and heat up some food, which is about one metre away from her laptop. That’s it.

Sometimes, Lil will go down the road to get a coffee if her friend invites her but that’s rare, as she likes to stay glued to her desk. When she’s stressed about a deadline she won’t leave the house for days. No fresh air, no strolls, no speaking to anyone else but me. It’s not good. All she does is look at a screen for hours.

I’ll look at her step counter for the day and it’s on, like, 98. It’s actually ridiculous

I’ve told her to exercise and get a personal trainer, but because Lil is gorgeous, my suggestions just don’t stick. She’s naturally petite, so thinks she can get away with not exercising. But we’ve both read loads of articles about how sitting down all day can increase your risk of heart attacks and other issues.

I’ll bring that information up to nudge her to do some exercise, rather than mention anything about her body. Lil knows this, but she makes jokes about me being controlling to get out of exercising. I say she’s coasting on being hot, and tell her that exercise is good for her brain as well as her body, but she won’t listen. We even have a gym in our building, but Lil just won’t go.

I surf loads and have a personal trainer – when I come home from a day of exercising I feel great. I want Lil to experience how good that feels and have the same rush of endorphins. Instead, I’ll look at her step count for the day and it’s on, like, 98. It’s actually ridiculous.

The defence: Lil

I’m a grown woman and can decide if and when I need to exercise – I have other priorities

Marvin loves to tell me what to do because it suits his agenda. He wants me to get up at the crack of dawn, like him, and go surfing or to the gym, but that’s just not how I’m wired.

I don’t like exercise. That’s just how I am. It’s not like I am unhealthy – I have the healthiest diet ever, with loads of vegetables and nuts, but I don’t feel the need to exercise. It’s something that I know I need to get over, but I have other priorities. I’m the type of person who likes to work from home in complete silence, under a blanket or a duvet. The idea of lifting weights or going for a run in the middle of the day will never excite me. I like to feel cosy, and exercise is the antithesis of being cosy.

Marvin says I can get away with it because I’m naturally slim, and I guess I do rely on having a “socially acceptable” body. Society should not praise me for it, but I know I get away with being unfit because I don’t look it. I’m also very aware that my insides might be rotting due to being inactive and that I have very little muscle tone, but exercise just isn’t enjoyable.

I just can’t afford to have a personal trainer on top of a therapist right now

I’ve also started therapy because Marvin did it and said it was really good for his mental health. So I’m taking care of my mental health in other ways. I just can’t afford to have a personal trainer on top of a therapist right now. I’m a freelance writer and my income is very precarious.

Marvin says I should just go to the gym in our building, but I would prefer to go with a personal trainer who will help me get my head around weights, as I’ve never done them before. That would make me less nervous.

Marvin says he would pay for a personal trainer for me, but I think that would be weird. It feeds into my belief that he’s forcing me to change my body and I don’t think women should ever cave to male pressure. I call Marvin a tool of the patriarchy and then he’ll back off. I’m joking, but I also know it will get him to stop. That’s the only way. I’m a grown woman and I can decide if and when I need to exercise.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Lil start doing some exercise?

Marvin doesn’t seem to realise he’s in a relationship with a human, with her own preferences and ability to make decisions. Marvin should work on why he’s compelled to “tell” his partner how she should live.
Jo, 48

Marvin needs to recognise that we don’t all get the same buzz from exercise. But Lil does need to get out more. Daily walks would boost her physical and mental health (saving on therapist bills). As a long-time homeworker, I recommend getting a dog.
Toby, 58

Lil is right that she is in charge of her own lifestyle. However, Marvin’s concerns are valid. Maybe she could compromise by walking round a local park once a day? Exercise needn’t be hard, and walking is great for mental and physical health.
Alun, 37

Reading between the lines, Marvin seems to be saying it’s not terribly appealing to come home to a partner who has spent the day horizontal. It’s true that how Lil manages her health is up to her, but as she’s shacked up with Marvin, the way she lives affects him, too. Lil’s claims to independence and self-determination are too simplistic.
Jean, 67

Marvin should count his lucky stars he’s got a gorgeous, clever girlfriend at home and stop trying to change her. He can surf to his heart’s content without inflicting his lifestyle on Lil. She’s not trying to get him to quit the gym!
Antonia, 33

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Lil work on her fitness?

The poll closes on Thursday 18 April at 10am BST

Last week’s result

We asked whether Raj should change the bedsheets more often, as Mandeep wishes

61% of you said Raj is guilty – his argument doesn’t wash.
39% of you said Raj is innocent – Mandeep has made her bed and she should lie in it.