Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

My home life is usually a pretty cool place to be. Last night, however, I got grief from my significant other for the time I spend away from it. I thought he was talking about my time in the dojo or gym or on my way to the dojo or gym as the class I take is two hours away and I also teach locally two nights a week. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was really complaining about the amount of time I spend with my training partner, Ed.

I met Ed about four years ago in the gym. Ironically, I'd happened to wear a t-shirt with a Goju fist on it that day (and that's ironic because I had never worn that shirt before and I haven't worn it since); since he'd just moved to our suburb from NYC and wasn't aware that there was a Goju dojo in the area, he saw my shirt and inquired about where I trained. His wife was on the treadmill next to him so I met her at the same time.

We've trained together ever since. We did forms and Ippons side-by-side every day for six months before our shodan grading. We left our old instructor/school together and have traveled the hour each way to get to class with our (now not-so) new instructor twice a week for the past two-and-a-half-years. We started a karate program for youngsters at the Salvation Army together and we teach side-by-side two days a week. He and his family have eaten at my dinner table and my family has eaten at his. Retired from a career in corrections, he was also my son's barber for quite a while and was one of the many people who helped teach him how to drive. Suffice to say he's very much like a brother to me.

So, yeah, I guess we do spend a lot of time together - karate time. I was the first one to congratulate him when we got the news he would be testing for nidan earlier this year and he was the first to console me when we knew I wouldn't be testing along side him - purely happenstance, as I was in class kneeling next to him when the announcement came. Our relationship is purely plutonic - or as another friend put it, karate-tonic. He's a good egg.

My honey, howeverer doesn't quite get this. Although he studied Judo as a kid and joined our class for a few months this summer, I'm not sure the idea of the never-ending pursuit of learning that is the martial arts makes sense to him. He does have other interests and understands athletic goals (he's a coach of a nationally ranked track team and still competes in the sport himself) but this martial path seems totally foreign to him. And I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

If you have a spouse or partner that is not a martial artist, how do they feel about the amount of time you spend teaching and learning? How do you deal with those feelings?


  1. You did not ask for this advice. Take it very, very seriously - he is threatened and this could be a "loss of face" for him. It may be viewed as "silly or immature" but don't fall for that .... you should be focusing on him and his view regardless of how you perceive it - don't let this slip into oblivion, you may come home sometime and find him missing.

    Then again, I am just another male myself.

  2. Wow! Sensei Nick and I were just having a conversation about this the other day after meeting with one of his friends. He commented on how most wives resent the amount of time their husbands spend on Martial Arts. (At least in the circle of people we know) What a switch that you are the woman and your husband is on the other side. I know before I moved, my boyfriend didn't really like it that I spent so much time at the dojo or the gym, (and we ended up splitting up as I wanted to find someone with more similar interests. But, that is beside the point)

    Anyway, I think the important thing is that you communicate and be sure you make time for him. Set aside a date night, or make a point to spend time with him on a regular basis. Find something he likes or wants to do, even if you're not crazy about it, and be sure to do it with him every once in a while. Even if he doesn't understand your desire for life long pursuit of Martial Arts, he still needs to feel like he has a special and important place in your world.

  3. Adding to SG's thoughts, is there some function he could participate in at the dojo to gain entrance to the tribe? Even if he does not want to do karate he may find it enjoyable working with the kids in some fashion or heading up managing projects for the dojo, etc. ?

    He is an "other" in this case. He feels like an outsider and instincts mean he is going to be in danger of a threat - does not matter if it is real or memorex - and needs the security of the tribe/dojo, in this case which is your tribe/dojo.

    Also, is there a chance he might feel that your expertise, confidence, and discipline are a threat to his perceived role as male protector? It is one of those instinctual DNA ingrained things for guys and if that is threatened he will resist and/or fight back. This sounds like the beginnings ....

    Just some thoughts .... maybe relevant ....

  4. Difficult topic...

    When I was 24, I was the non-karate spouse. I was newly married and did not understand my husband's time away from home for karate class. Seriously...class was 2 hours why did it take 4. At the time, I did not know how easy it was to get caught up on a topic/question. My solution was to join the group.

    Nineteen years later...most of my training partners are male. I know their wives and children. They are an extended part of my family. My husband and I do not train together. He always wanted me to have my own path. Despite being a karate practitioner, there have been times when he expressed similar sentiments about my training.