Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rant or Rave: Training with members of the opposite sex

This one could be a touchy subject so I want to apologize in advance for any poor word choices that may be taken badly.  I have never been married nor have I been close to it so this may be totally out of bounds on my part.  I do recognize that there are certain things about being married that I cannot understand without being there. That being said, I do need to get this off my chest.

  I've read several posts on running forums about spouses having so much of a problem with having  training partners of the opposite sex that it actually threatens the marriage.  I'd be just as hurt myself if my future wife is upset by it.  What did I do to break your trust and why do think you could ever be anything but the #1 person in my life? My running group recently lost a member who is very close to my pace for that reason.  It didn't stop there either.  His wife made him de-friend all of his female running friends on Facebook as well. To my knowledge, nothing happened that was inappropriate and on the surface, that certainly seems like a huge over-reaction to me. Still, short of unrepentant adultery or persistent abuse, I say do whatever is necessary to save your marriage and if that includes training solo, so be it.

 Here are my thoughts on what is acceptable and what is not:
1. Training and socializing in a group that includes guys and girls- Always okay.  Most people in my running group are married and the non-running spouse is always invited to meet us for breakfast after the morning long run as well as to attend non-running oriented parties. 

2. Going out for ice cream 1 on 1 after a run without telling your spouse- Never okay.  Any socialization 1 on 1 that does not include training is over the line period.

3. Training one on one- That can get a little sticky and I can see both sides of this issue.  If I do get married some day, I certainly would hope that our bond is strong enough to know that there's no way she'd ever leave me no matter what.  If you're doing long runs together, we're talking about up to 3 hours together and if it's a regular event, I can see how it could become inappropriate. Guys rarely have difficulty finding training partners who are fast enough.  However, if you're a female who can run below say (20/42/1:35/3:20), it's tough to find someone who matches your pace.  I've always said that finding a buddy that's a little faster makes you push harder and makes you better.  If my future wife is in that position, I would have to meet and get to know the prospective training partner myself and be sure that he's not a threat and that the sole purpose is to push each other to improve.  If that's the case, I have no problem with it.

  If someone comes along who is interested in me down the road, I will be up front about any potential issues from the get go:

1. the worst of my medical issues are behind me but I still have periods of depression and can be bad-tempered when I am out of balance.  There is nothing that anyone can say or do to make it better.  I usually want to be left alone but that's nothing against you whatsoever.  When I'm back in balance, my problems are pretty much washed away right then and there.  Very few people will be able to understand that.

2. Unless I am injured or sick, I'm running 6 days per week (maybe 5 when I get older).  I'm not a real high volume runner who basically eats, sleeps, works and runs.  If you train at near 100 MPW, that's pretty much all you do and even I don't think I could be married to someone like that.  I will run 40 every week though, maybe 50 if I'm training for a marathon.  I will not stop training and socializing with a group that includes other females though few, if any, will be running my pace.  Also, I want to continue doing at least 1 flyaway race per year as well as maybe 3-4 out of town regional events.  Common interests are so important because they present more opportunities to spend quality time together.  I doubt that I could ever date a girl who is completely sedentary.  Same way with smokers.  They might be fine people with whom I enjoy talking but both lifestyles are completely incompatible with my own.

3. I am a devout Christian and I at least claim God to be first in my life.  I will never date a non-believer and I hope that she inspires me to grow so we can do more for the Kingdom together than we could ever do by ourselves.  The divorce rate for so called Christians remains embarrassingly high but if you look closer, you will see that among the ones who actually pray together and study the Bible together, it is miniscule.  

Now for what could be a little controversial:
   A common objection is the following statement:
"I do trust you and I'm not worried about you crossing the line but I don't want to see other people hitting on you."   In my opinion, that fear is almost always overblown. A High-5 and maybe the occasional hug is perfectly fine. However, I would be careful to avoid any other physical contact and would never make any comment that is even remotely suggestive. A kiss on the cheek or petting of arms and legs goes too far IMO.  If the other person would think that their wife or husband would not be happy with it, all they have to do is say so.  If that doesn't stop it, then there is a problem.
   One of the female Gnomes, who also subscribes to my devotionals, greets me with a smile and hug every time I see her. Nothing wrong with that at all.  She is a friend who has enriched my life and well as others in the running group. It would be a great loss to the running community here if she stopped coming.  Fortunately, her husband is fine with it and often joins us for social gatherings.

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