Finding balance

There was an episode on the podcast "Running with the Pack" where they talked about what they called "mixed marriages" - those with one spouse who runs and one that doesn't. The woman on the podcast is recently divorced, and her husband was not a runner. They were discussing if it was more difficult than if both partners run, logistics, and the pressures to fit everything in.

When J and I met in 1999, I wasn't doing anything active beyond working in construction. She said she used to run regularly, but wasn't by the time we met. I started biking in 2002 and running in 2005. I kept it up as a way to challenge myself and stay in shape. It became an important part of my life and a great way to spend time with friends. Running has also been a great thing for my state of mind, a time to quiet the inner chatter and leave problems at the side of the road.

But both the events and all of the training took up a fair amount of time. Our time. J toyed with running and biking, which would have been great to do together, but neither of them stuck. So it ended up being mostly a solo pursuit.

But J was definitely involved. She bought me my first books about running, supported me at many of my events, and helped make my bike trip down the Pacific Coast possible. When she flew down to meet meet me in San Francisco, I said "we need to find a two week adventure for you, something I can support and help make happen." Unfortunately, she never decided on anything.

I participated in more and more things, and by 2007 I entered 16 different events. J was there for many of them to support and cheer me on, and I was very appreciative to find her in my corner. I thought things settled down a bit in 2008, but as I look back it turns out it was just as busy.

It is funny how your perceptions are so different from reality. I thought that J had been schlepping out to nearly all of the events, and that I had cut way back in 2008. It turns out that I had 17 events in 2008, an increase not a decrease, and that for the events she wasn't participating in, J was actually there for a bit over half of them in 2007 and 2008. In my head, I was giving both of us a bit too much credit.

I found out in counseling that she grew to resent being the "running wife". At the peak, there was at least one event every month. Too many weekends spent doing something that was almost entirely about me. I know I said a few times that she didn't need to be there, but of course she felt an obligation. The running and biking may have been doing me a lot of good, but it put a strain on our relationship and marriage. Both of us valued our "alone" time, and weren't one of those couples that felt we had to do everything together, but the training and events definitely cut into our "couple" time.

In 2009 I only participated in seven events, and planned to do my weekend training in the wee hours before she got out of bed so we could have the day to spend together. But these changes came too late. Like so many things, I wished she had spoke up long before it grew into resentment, instead of waiting until counseling to make her feelings known. Of course I should have been more considerate, and I suppose not accepted her answer of "I don't mind".

As counseling went on, it appeared that this was not one of our major problems, but it clearly was a source of frustration for her. And it was something tangible to point to that represented our lack of communication and understanding of each other's needs.

I certainly don't regret that running, biking and exercise have become a part of my life. I feel better both mentally and physically for having gone out on the roads, and I think that carries over to my relationships and the rest of my life. But I definitely could have done a better job of managing the negative impacts. In the end it becomes a balance between taking care of yourself, and taking care of your family. A balance I didn't strike very well.


matt said...

Excellent Post

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