“Why did you let him do triathlon?”
I said, “why not?” In my mind, how hard can it can be? I know the sport, I am not new to the training hours and I understand the costs that come with it.
Little did I know that I’ll be in one hell of a roller coaster ride after saying YES.
He Tri, I don’t
It was November 2017 when he bought his bike. Until now, whenever I asked him why he started doing triathlon he always say, “because you let me buy my bike.” He does not know anything about the sport so the second thing he did was to find a team to train with. Then, first Christmas party. I prepared Sisig for him to bring at the team event. From that night on, triathlon and Dax became inseparable. Started with MetaSprint series then Desaru 113, next to his first Ironman and the list went on. Everything is okay until he started forgetting to be present, often distracted; missing calls with our daughter and training most if not all of his waking hours.
I thought, never mind. Maybe he is overwhelmed with the new lifestyle and he’ll get back on his feet soon. Days go by, laundry tripled in volume because of all the additional tri suits, bike shorts, jerseys and running gears he use every week; triathlon related purchases became a big part of the family budget, training schedule became more demanding and friendships outside triathlon are put on the back burner.
I tried to make him see me (in short nagpapansin ako) by making sure he goes home to a clean house, good food, a well taken cared toddler and an available best friend. I even go with him to every Tri-friends gathering. I train with him if my body can take it. I also remind him of the need to have a balanced life. But despite that, nothing changed. No thank yous only a fleeting feeling that whatever I do I am not enough because I cannot do traithlon with him.
I felt alone. Triathlete spouses lost their mates three times over. And there is no one we can turn to and sigh and say, “Mine’s biking today. Where’s yours?”
I felt like a triathlete widow.
Okay, I don’t Tri but I Yoga
Plan A didn’t work so on to Plan B. I tried Yoga and I fell in love with it. I started filing my schedule with distractions and decided to live without him in the equation. I stopped waiting for him. He might not be around but I have friends who where there during that time. (Thanks to them I survived.) But to be honest, it did not solve anything. Hiding from growing in your marriage as a couple by diving head-first into solo pursuits is counterproductive.
I almost went back to the Philippines to be with my daughter. Staying with him is pointless because in my mind, I stayed because you need me here and suddenly, I am out of the picture. He became too busy being a triathlete and forgot he is a husband and a father too. Days became more toxic and we started avoiding each other. The situation turned me into a desperate, unhappy, insecure and angry wife. In turn, i have hurt my husband too. But as I always say, life has its seasons and each season is there to teach us something.
Divorce by Triathlon is Real
I did not know about “Divorce by Triathlon” until I stumbled upon it while doing some reading on traithlon training. At first it sounded like an over reaction but, slowly it made sense. While all forms of exercise can be addictive, training and racing in triathlon is notoriously time- and wallet-consuming specially if its for a half or a full Ironman distance. Time and money are among the issues couples most commonly fight about even without triathlon in their lives. So how worse can it be? Also, exercise/training can be a withdrawal mechanism, something that keeps one partner from fully connecting with the other. Taken to extremes, it falls in the same category as excessive drinking and affairs – an activity that creates distraction, breeds insecurities, deepens miscommunication and diminishes intimacy.
Couples who have not prepared well for one partner diving into the sport can easily run into trouble.
On to the next Race
There are different ways to turn resentment into joy. In fact, as long as each concern is appropriately addressed, triathlon can bring new richness to a relationship. For many couples, it becomes a source of adventure, teamwork and shared accomplishment.
While it works for others that both become triathletes and have a shared experience, that does not work with us for now. I cannot afford to spent that amount of time and money on a sport and consequently neglecting my daughter big time. I am okay cheering on the side lines and sometimes maybe joining a race or two.
I know he enjoys doing the sport and I really want to be there to support him all the way. Little by little we started talking again. The turn of events at first were not at all ideal. Nonetheless, I will always be thankful for the experience.
You may have seen me recently. Maybe near the beach, on a Sunday, waiting for Dax to finish training. Or maybe in Desaru; I am the wife who has a blue cooler. I may have offered you ice once or twice or maybe saltsticks during a race. I am the wife running around and shouting to my husband how near he is from achieving his target time.
How did we recover?
a. KNOW YOUR PRIORITY.
I’ve once written that it needs 100% effort from both spouses (because its a two way street) for a marriage to work. That’s what you have signed for in the contract, anyway. Always choose your spouse, your lifetime team mate. After all, what will a podium finish be like if you have no one to share it with? Be in the moment and stop checking your phone when on a date. Do not forget to show how much you enjoy putting your spouse first and spending time with him/her without bringing in your sport in the picture. Make time for family vacations and/or togetherness that don’t involve racing or training.
B. BE HIS NO.1 FAN.
For the non triathlete spouse, support the best way you could. You may choose to do the sport with him or take care of him just like what I do. Be present in the races, bring your child if you can. Be involved (but do not overdo it). Let your spouse welcome you in his triathlete circle and in turn show up and make friends. Familiarity with the people your spouse spends most of his time with may give you a sense of comfort too.
To the triathlete, communication here doesn’t just mean “I need an hour a day, every day, for exercise from now on,” it means explaining to your partner why the sport has become important to you, how you think it might impact your family, how do you see it as something fun for both of you. It also means listening to your partner’s concerns, and making real efforts to address them. Listen to understand and not to know how to answer back and re butt.
C. SET EACH OTHER’S BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS.
Talk about each other’s do’s and dont’s. Go over your goals and expectations with each other when you plan your season and throughout your training phases. Set a budget for your hobby and stick to it. You should set a money AND time budget that you and your spouse agree on.
D. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY TRAINING.
Since you have someone else’s time to consider, make sure that you maximise your time training. Have a training plan. My husband is fortunate to have a friend and coach to guide him. Thanks Henry!
E. APPRECIATE AND AFFIRM EACH OTHER.
Just the other day, my husband blurted out, “When I race, you race too.” I asked, what do you mean? He explained that he won’t be able to do it if I don’t support him. Acknowledge your spouse’s contribution. This will help her/him feel that she/him is part of your successes too. Praise the triathlete’s efforts. Getting up at 5am is not easy specially if you have run the previous day for 21k. By praising your partner you’ll also let him/her know what you like most which in turn give you both the chance to know each other more.
Deciding to do triathlon entails a lifestyle change that may make or break relationships.
You choose your own outcome.