Monday, June 10, 2013

Can running ruin your marriage?

I read an impactful post here from SwimBikeMom (and Dad) this morning. They talk quite frankly about their marital struggle during Ironman training. It hit home for me... in a big way, at just the right time.

Training for race events can be tough, both physically and mentally. Whatever level you are at (Ironman, marathon, 10k or your first 5k), a new training schedule alters your focus. Let's be honest, it can consume you. A training plan changes your daily routine... but more importantly, there is a change in your heart and soul, in the very fiber of who you are. This can make your life flourish... or completely ruin your marriage.

No doubt about it... my running hobby has become a family affair.

When I started my running in 2009, my hubs wasn't exactly fond of this new hobby. I left him home with two little babies. In my absence, he was 100% responsible for their well-being. As a new father, the 'what ifs' kinda freaked him out. Nothing ever happened. Everyone survived. Mommy got her daily run in, lost the baby weight, and everyone lived happily ever after... right?

Me and the hubs in the starting chute
of my first marathon. It meant SO
MUCH to run that first mile with
him by my side. (He ran the 5k)
Instead, Mommy got sucked into the world of running. It literally changed my life... No doubt, it changed ME. I was no longer the same woman that my husband married. I was changing fast and furious. I loved having a big race event on the calendar, training my butt off, making new friends in the process, and then finally, the glory of accomplishment when marathon day arrived. The changes inside me were evident... all positive, right? Perhaps.

All this new activity inherently takes time away from other things... quite naturally from those we often take for granted - our family. There were many nights (still are) when family dinners don't happen. Instead of grocery shopping and preparing meals like a good little housewife, I was consumed with reading running blogs or writing this one.  There are countless Saturdays that I missed a lazy morning with my kids watching cartoons and eating pancakes. Story and craft time slowly transformed into gym time. We've skipped numerous weekend events because mommy is just too exhausted or has a long run in the morning.  I party (a.k.a. drink alcohol) much less now... which was quite often, couple bonding time in our "previous life". There is no doubt that athletic training involves a certain amount of sacrifice... and creates a new way of life.

So how does one keep doing what they love without losing the ones they love?  It's the million dollar question, right?  First of all, I'm no expert. I make mistakes; I do and say things I regret. But I feel like we have been up and down the mountains of adversity... and have come out of it happier than ever. Honestly, I can not imagine a better life than mine right now, at this exact date in time.  My hubby is incredibly supportive of my nonstop running (and now cycling) escapades, but honestly, he probably wouldn't shed a tear if I stopped it all right now.

With every training cycle, athletes learn more and more about their bodies... how they react to workouts, how they get injured and recover.  We push and push for the next level, squeezing the most out of every workouts - without doing any damage. It's been the same balancing act for me with my family - moreover, my marriage.  With every race I train for, I learn better what works for us. There is a delicate balance of too many races (him) and not enough (me).

So without further ado, here are some of my tips to keeping it all happy...

As an (early) Father's Day present this year, I bought
hubs a fancy new bike. He WILL be a cyclist yet!  LOL
Include your spouse (and family) in your passion. And be a part of theirs. Sometimes this can be difficult - especially when your spouse has absolutely no interest in taking up running, cycling, etc. That's pretty much how it started with me and my hubby. It can be rough and hard to stay motivated when your spouse isn't the least bit interested. Explain your passion and continually invite them to join the experience. Eventually, my man became interested, ever so slightly. He has now run numerous 5K's as well as a half marathon (never again, he says).  I wouldn't say he likes running. In fact, he doesn't even train for his races. He likes to brag that he's perfected the art of couch-to-5K... quite literally.  On the flip side, play an active role in wherever your spouse's interest lie. It's a give and take kind of game. My hubs likes golf and baseball games. I'm not always an active part (I hate golf!), but I do buy him gift cards for rounds of golf and try to give him the space to slip away as needed.

Make your training as tolerable as possible.  It's no secret that I get up real early in the morning to run. Partly because I like mornings, but that wasn't always the case. I started setting my alarm for the buttcrack of dawn to ease the stress on my family. I cut my sleep short so I don't cut my time with them.  It really helps relieve that feeling of "sticking him with the kids". I can be done with my run before they even finish breakfast, many times before they're even awake! If early mornings aren't possible for you, I know a lot of working moms who do lunchtime runs. Even others who squeeze in their run between the kids' bedtime and their own. As a stay-home mom, I've done a lot of runs with my kids... in the stroller or with them on a bike by my side. It's not always easy; but where there's a will, there's a way. The key is to find what works best for you and your family... without feeling guilty or that you "owe" your spouse. Of course, I also know women that are fine with "owing" their spouse and pay up in fun ways... wink, wink.

Have I mentioned yet how much
I love this guy!?!?
Renew relationships in your down time. Every athlete should schedule down time in their training cycle. Again, when that time is varies for everyone. I typically have a big race in the spring (train hard Jan-April), and then relax before I gear up for a fall race. So my down time falls over early summer and again during the Nov/Dec holidays.  I try to schedule fun family time during those periods. In summer, camping is our thing. The solitude away from home (and electronics) is the perfect renewal for us. I always return home, feeling completely in love with my little family. This past weekend we had one of those great camping escapes - in which we even squeezed in a 5k race. This mother runner is smiling ear to ear this morning.

I'm a firm believer that running (and the fit life in general) has made my life and marriage better. But it definitely has been work to get it to that point. Initially, there was a lot of juggling and arguments compromise to figure it out. We may not be perfect yet, but life is good. After all, when momma is happy, everyone is happy. This rings true in our household, which makes my hubby even more supportive of my running addiction. Some days, he even pushes me out the door, "Go Run... for the sake of us all!"

I'd love to hear how you make it all work with your spouse/family. 
Please share the methods to your madness in a comment below...


28 comments:

  1. Great post!! Since I am a stay-at-home Mom, I am a creature of habit. Thankfully, my husband supports me 1000%. He's also an endurance athlete so our schedules can get a little tricky. Saturday mornings are always reserved for my long run. Thankfully, the kids and hubs enjoy their time together. He usually makes them a special breakfast and they all watch cartoons together. We all started going to the track together. The kids enjoy running carelessly and the hubs and I take turns running 1 mile at a time. It's run and the whole family gets involved. I will usually get up at 5 during the week so that I can sneak a run in while everyone else is asleep. I love starting my day off like that. I also lift weights at home and my kids play near me.

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  2. Such an important topic! My husband started training first so it was me learning to support him. Now he is sole heartedly on my side. The biggest thing for us had been scheduling our training to least impact the rest of the family even if that means waking up super early or late. Good luck to all. No run is more important then family.

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  3. It was my husband who suggested the idea of running, so if he now hates what I do, it's his own damn fault! LOL Actually, we race some races together, and I race some alone. He works 6 days a weeks and can't really run (nor does he really WANT to) all that much. I'm home a lot, and my kids are nearly 17 and 15, so they can be home alone. I think my husband realizes that this makes me happy, and after having lost 75 pounds, also healthier, so he wouldn't begrudge me a run. He probably thinks I don't psh myself enough since I usually belly ache during our races!

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  4. What a great, honest post. I do think training is hard to juggle with a family. I do feel fortunate to have only 1 little one to have to tend with. When I trained two years ago, I had to hire a babysitter 2x week to get some of my runs in; Carson was too young to be left alone and I just do not run well in the evenings after my husband is home. This year he is old enough to be left alone for short periods of time so I think my long runs will be much easier/less stressful, plus we did buy a treadmill so I can do hill workouts in the basement whenever and not have to go to the Y. I will admit my husband and I already had a "discussion", aka fight, when he told me that he already saw me finish a half so why should he come again? I was so hurt but I know he didn't mean it in a hurtful way. He doesn't understand why I would "waste" money to run a race; his theory is to just run it alone. It is very hard to get over his mentality. Training started today so we will see how it goes.

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  5. Great post Jess! My husband and I train together and support each other 100%. I don't know what would do if this wasn't the case. We also make it a family effort. We generally push the littlest in the stroller and the older boys ride their bikes or run with us (now that they are getting older it is easier as our oldest can babysit now!). We have done several races as a family too! As we trained for our first marathon and our long runs started to get longer and longer it was tough to not make it take time away from our family but our boys saw us working towards a goal (together) and they knew that if we got the time we needed to get our run in they would get time with us later in the day. It was all about finding that balance and it wasn't always easy!

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  6. Great article! While not married, my partner and I have been together for over 4 years now. When he started dating me, I was an extremely obese female (400 lbs) who would get exhausted by normal day to day activity. Now, 170 lbs lighter and a completely different person, we have worked hard to maintain the core of our family. The most important thing to him to dinner every night so I make sure I am there for that. His exercise routine is limited as he works in manual labor (and also 150 lbs), but he knew it was important for me to be at home training. He brought the gym to me in my house so I would not leave. He is the cook of the family so cooks balanced meals for me. He even supported and joined me in my biking habit. I love the fact he realized that by making me a better woman, I am going to be a better mom & better wife. I knew the ability to make myself healthier was in me, but I believe that he was placed in my life for the support and the belief to make it happen.

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  7. Absolutely grateful and happy to read this post. As someone who is a new runner (8 months!) and training for her first half marathon it definitely impacts the home life. Its a relief to read this because I started to wonder if it was only me that was struggling a bit...biggest problem for me is guilt. But he is doing his best to understand my need and love for running, working out and eating right - even if those items are not part of his agenda. Its all about balancing, and some days, it is just harder than other days.

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  8. oh boy, this is a can of worms in my house... my husband has come to accept my running but admits he resented it when I first started running a lot after my daughter was born. He even asked me once in all seriousness couldn't I see how running was taking away from my life. I was stunned to say the least. I feel like even though he tells me he accepts it now, he doesn't really. Hate that.

    I thought about tackling this once on my blog, but we aren't there yet

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    1. Same situation here Christy...it is like a bad cycle...just when I start to ramp up training or I can feel that goal just at my fingertips, he throws out how selfish I am and I never think of anyone except myself and running. It is like a stinging slap to the face every time. I wanted to post something but we aren't there either!

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    2. Wow, sounds like we are all going through the same thing. I hear "you need to get your job done (aka chores) before you do your hobbies (aka working out/blogging)". Actually working out and blogging etc. is now my business and makes us money, so sometimes it's hard to juggle it all.

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    3. Oh my gosh...same story here!! My hubby is about to divorce me over this...thinks I am completely selfish, put my running before the needs of my family, etc. I'm at my wit's end...but still will not give up running! ;-)

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  9. Awesome post !! :) I am a stay- at -home dad ! Since two years and a half , my wife suffered a seizure / stroke ! After childbirth ! So that means I have to take care of my 14, 12 and newborn , and her, our lives turned upside down ! To deal with all the stress that the family have gone through ! Started running, started also with the new pair of shoes! Used to weigh 250 pounds ! Every other day I would go running for a lease for 3 miles! And then I found a group! Share the same common interest ! Not just a running but the socialization to! On June 2 I ran a 10k race ! Got first place, and first place for my age! I was hoping for a big reward after all this time running, first place changes a lot of things, like your self worth, your confidence , even with the family too! All I'm saying is you need to strive to get first place in race , once in your life !! Your are very lucky you have your husband who is supportive and willing to run with you! Anyways good luck and thank you for sharing your story !!

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  10. Awesome post !! :) I am a stay- at -home dad ! Since two years and a half , my wife suffered a seizure / stroke ! After childbirth ! So that means I have to take care of my 14, 12 and newborn , and her, our lives turned upside down ! To deal with all the stress that the family have gone through ! Started running, started also with the new pair of shoes! Used to weigh 250 pounds ! Every other day I would go running for a lease for 3 miles! And then I found a group! Share the same common interest ! Not just a running but the socialization to! On June 2 I ran a 10k race ! Got first place, and first place for my age! I was hoping for a big reward after all this time running, first place changes a lot of things, like your self worth, your confidence , even with the family too! All I'm saying is you need to strive to get first place in race , once in your life !! Your are very lucky you have your husband who is supportive and willing to run with you! Anyways good luck and thank you for sharing your story !!

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  11. Awesome post !! :) I am a stay- at -home dad ! Since two years and a half , my wife suffered a seizure / stroke ! After childbirth ! So that means I have to take care of my 14, 12 and newborn , and her, our lives turned upside down ! To deal with all the stress that the family have gone through ! Started running, started also with the new pair of shoes! Used to weigh 250 pounds ! Every other day I would go running for a lease for 3 miles! And then I found a group! Share the same common interest ! Not just a running but the socialization to! On June 2 I ran a 10k race ! Got first place, and first place for my age! I was hoping for a big reward after all this time running, first place changes a lot of things, like your self worth, your confidence , even with the family too! All I'm saying is you need to strive to get first place in race , once in your life !! Your are very lucky you have your husband who is supportive and willing to run with you! Anyways good luck and thank you for sharing your story !!

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  12. Great post! Thanks for sharing your story. Although I don't have kids, I still see how training can get in the way of time with family. Thankfully my husband is super understanding and lets me do what I need to do, but I don't want to take advantage of his kindness either!

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  13. Such a great post. I try to be sensitive to how much I race, because race or long run = early morning = early bedtime = can't go out on Friday or Saturday night. So it's hard when he wants to go out and I want to go to bed early ... he ends up going out without me, which isn't as much fun for either of us. And also, since he doesn't like racing, when I go to races (or group runs), I am spending time with my running friends and not him. So I need to make sure it doesn't seem like I am ditching him all the time for my running friends. It is definitely a balance!

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  14. I love this topic because it does effect your relationships... even friendships... because your time is so focused on training. Its tough on a marriage - so it takes a good base spouse relationship of caring about each other & knowing what the other wants is a sacrifice for both. Saying that - I don't have kids & I've ALWAYS said I give it to any mom who trains. I have a hard enough time getting dinner for a grown man who can take care of himself if I'm out later or just too tired to care... you mom's - I applaud you!

    Thanks for highlighting this topic!

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  15. Thank you for posting this. This is something I try to be totally conscious of. I've been running one year, and I have two boys, two and three. I often leave the house two nights a week to run when my husband gets home and once on the weekend. I do like to race, but I will often pass on some I would like to do so I can have the family time instead. I love running a lot, but I don't want my family to feel neglected, especially my husband, who has been so supportive. I know I am setting a good example for my kids which is awesome, and when mommy is happy, everyone is happy, but your post is a reminder.

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  16. I think that running has made me a better mom - I'm modelling a more positive, healthier lifestyle for my kids. As for my marriage... I don't know. I think it's been good, because my husband has outside interests (not to be confused with "outside interests" of the female variety!) and I think it's good that I do, too, now. I'm a stay at home mom, so for awhile there, my world view was teeny tiny, and I was kind of grumbly about it. Now that I've discovered running, I'm a happier person in general.

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  17. What a beautiful post! I can definitely relate to this. My husband and I used to run together, but then I started running longer... and I literally left him behind. At first I was so enthralled with my new found love of running that I didn't remember to slow down and think about hubby. But now I've been more mindful about inviting him to run with me during my shorter runs, and this has made him more inclined to run with me for some of my longer runs. We met half way through a little communication and respect. I totally think it made my marriage stronger!

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  18. Bawling my eyes out as I read this...My husband doesn't understand, nor cares to try my love for running or the races I sign up for. I had to literally drag him to my last half marathon, and swore I'd never even bring up having him and the girls come watch me race again. It tears at my heart like a thousand needles, and takes away from my love for running. As of late, I am so consumed with the hurt that I can barely get a good 5 miler in...
    So do I give it up completely just to appease him? Gosh, I just don't know at this point. Thanks for this post.

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  19. This is a great post! I don't have a family yet but I will talk about this with my fiance and keep these tips in mind when we do start our family. I know that in some ways that running has helped my relationship with my man because it makes me so happy and gives me so much confidence, I feel like I bring those things back into the relationship with me. He is really understanding of the time commitment for training. Probably what bothers him most is when he tries to see me at a race but it's too crowded to figure out which runner I am.

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  21. What a great post! It's hard to find the balance between the love of family time and running. Including your partner or family in the sport or races is so important.

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  22. Oh....I commented over at SBM yesterday.....this is a tough situation and I'd beg to say if anyone hasn't had to deal with it yet, it'll happen eventually. My husband and I both train for long distance triathlons and our kids are grown....BUT, there are still underlying issues in regards to the fact that he feels I love the sport and the tri community more than him.....that I put it before him. I think it's crazy and selfish, but it's how he feels....so somehow I have to find a way to make it all work....and quite honestly, it usually involves NOT being too tired for sex. The 4th discipline of a married triathletes life...It's taken me a week, after a MONSTER blow-up to realize that the complaints about lack of attention had nothing to do with going for last weeks long run without him b/c he was fishing.....doh??!!!!

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  23. I think this is a great post and having the support of your spouse goes a long way. But it is striking a balance and not seeing your activity as superior to anything they do.

    Steven

    PS Love the GBP headband. Go Packers!

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  24. Great post! I'm so lucky that my husband is so supportive. He sometimes is the one pushing me out the door to get a run done when I am feeling lazy.

    That being said, I don't drag him to all my races (only a couple a year)and I am willing to skip a run more often than not if there is something he wants to do. I love running, but I love spending time with him more so it's not hard to choose.

    He loves fishing and going to the gun range so I often go with him when he asks me. He will do a couple 5ks a year, but that's about all the running he will do, and that's ok with me. :)

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  25. Thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling this week with how my new fitness and healthy living routine is affecting my marriage. My husband isn't on the heatlhy living train just yet and he thinks running is "bad for you." Mostly, we've been fighting because I've been trying to get to bed early to wake up for morning workouts and he just doesn't get it. This was really helpful to read and makes me feel great to know I'm not alone. I read the post by Swim Bike Mom (and Dad), too, and really enjoyed their honesty too.

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I appreciate your feedback and comments!