Tag

#recreationalcompanionship

Browsing

January 7, 2020

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”-Spartan.com

My wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and I am chasing her tail with a renewed sense of vigor.

You see, in the last few months we’ve come to enjoy trail running together, and my wife usually sets the pace, which means her backside is my focal point—kind of like the pacesetting rabbit at the greyhound races.

So why take up an activity like this now?  Having both passed the half-century mark, what possessed us to begin running up and down the hilly trails around town?  To answer that, we need to go back 15 years…

Like many families, my wife Amy and I were busy with work and raising kids.  We pursued an active lifestyle, coaching our kids’ athletic teams, and playing outside as often as we could.  Amy and I were both raised in active families and just naturally continued that lifestyle with our children.  However, we never had a formal “exercise regimen” as part of our schedule.  Life had settled into a routine of sorts.  

Then, I received a heart-wrenching phone call.  Amy and the kids had gone to spend a couple of days with friends on the coast.  Not long after she left she called me, and as I answered the phone she cried out, “We’ve been in a horrible car accident, and Andrew is dead.”  Andrew is our oldest son.  Within seconds she said, “Oh, he just jumped out of the car and is okay. Gotta go.” And then she just hung up… 

It turned out they’d been slowing down on the highway to turn across traffic and were rear-ended, totaling the two cars they were in. Amy and the two younger children were in the first car, and Andrew was in the second. She assumed Andrew couldn’t have survived the accident based on the impact she felt in the lead car.

Amy’s van was pushed off the side of the road but these cars were not so fortunate.

While our three children, aged 6, 4, and 1, and Amy had no visible injuries, it was clear to the paramedics that Amy was confused and was developing a headache and neck pain.  She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.  

While Amy didn’t appear to be injured, she’d suffered a serious head injury, leaving her unable to remember how to use a phone book or even perform simple addition, much less any of her graphic design work.  Her headaches were often debilitating, and we eventually discovered she had injured her neck as well, which would require a fusion a few years later.  

As Amy struggled to recover, my responsibilities at home increased significantly.  Life became simply about survival.  

In order to keep up with work and a busy family schedule, we ate a lot of prepared meals and takeout.  And exercise? It was non-existent.  

Amy tried her best to keep up, but physically demanding activities were too much for her.  I tried on multiple occasions to begin an exercise program but could not sustain a routine.  

During that timeframe, we had the help of an excellent counselor.  He warned us that 80% of marriages where one spouse has suffered a traumatic brain injury, end in divorce.  To combat this, he impressed upon us the importance of maintaining good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.  

I can’t say that we really excelled in any of those areas, but Amy did make some major progress in recovery from her brain injury.   We also hired a personal trainer and were working out as a family once a week. Plus, I was trying to work out on my own several days a week. 

Then, four years ago, I flunked a life insurance physical.  I was stunned.

Sure, I was carrying a few extra pounds.  And I knew that the stress from work and some related projects was less than healthy.  But being told my blood pressure was elevated and my blood sugars were in the diabetic range was a complete surprise.  

Now a good diet and exercise regimen wasn’t just a good idea, they were a necessity.  Amy helped to overhaul our dietary regimen and worked hard to cook healthy meals while I began rowing a half an hour a day.  I lost weight, and my numbers came back down within three months.  But I got bored—rowing nowhere fast.  

Amy’s father, who has always been an inspiration to us, asked us to do a mud run along the way for fun—which it was. Who knew getting dirty exercising could be so much fun?  

Then a year into our lifestyle change, a friend invited me to join a group running in a more competitive obstacle course race.  I found this race not only fun but invigorating. 

So in 2017, I started searching for my own races to compete in and found a Spartan Race close to home. (Spartan is a brand in the growing sport of obstacle course racing which involves running over varying terrain with obstacles thrown in along the course.  Think basic training.) 

I signed up for a 4-mile/23 obstacle course race in Portland, Oregon, and ran it in memory of a college roommate who had recently committed suicide. I knew if I wanted to be around for my own family, I needed to improve my own physical health.

I was hooked.  

Mark completing the ‘Fire Jump’

In addition to winning a medal for completing the race, I earned 1/3 of a Spartan Trifecta medal.  If I could finish two more Spartan races, their middle distance, and the longer distance called the Beast, I would complete the three-piece medal and earn my place in the ’Spartan Trifecta Tribe.’  

Never one to pass up a challenge, and irritated by missing two pieces of the medal, I signed up for two more races, one at Big Bear and one in Sacramento, California.  I started training for the obstacles, watching videos, and doing research and apparently talking about it—a lot.  My kids accused me of “geeking out” over my new hobby.

I traveled to California twice before the end of the year and raced on my own.  With all three pieces of the Trifecta medal, I had joined the Tribe.   I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but it was also lonely, crossing the finish line without anyone to help celebrate the moment.  

So, what does this have to do with marriage in the second half of life?  Everything, thanks to my amazing wife.

Amy is smart and intuitive and understood how motivating these races were to me.  With our kids about to leave the nest, Amy realized that if this was important to me, she wanted to give it a try as well. 

Running up hills, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying buckets of rocks, and throwing a spear didn’t sound like fun to her (well, maybe throwing spears), but she signed up anyway for me, and more importantly, for us.  

Our first race together was with a group of friends.  The challenge stimulated her competitive nature, and she agreed to go back to Sacramento with me to do the middle distance race, 8 + miles, and 25 + obstacles.  

We finished the race together, sharing in the sense of accomplishment and celebrating together at the finish line.  

Couple running in the Spartan obstacle course race
Finishing hand-in-hand

As we were driving home, feeling that good sense of tired and sore, it occurred to me that our weekend spent racing fulfilled another desire that we had — to have a weekend getaway.  While the purpose had been to run the race, we had enjoyed the entire weekend together, talking, eating out, and just being together.  

In 2019, Amy wanted to take on the challenge of finishing her own Trifecta.  So we started working out together at Orange Theory, which we found was a good fit for both of us.  After encouraging Amy to actually do some running before tackling the Spartan Beast, a 12+ mile race with over 30 obstacles, we started trail running on Saturdays, slowly building up our mileage.  

Initially reluctant, as Amy didn’t think she enjoyed running, she’s found that running together through the trees on the trails around Eugene, Oregon energizing and a lot of fun.  

As I write this, we are traveling back from SoCal, where we combined our racing with an opportunity to see our college-age kids.  We spent dinner with them on Friday night, and our youngest hung out with them during the day while Amy and I raced, then we all celebrated with dinner.  On Sunday morning, we all went to church and then finished with brunch before heading back to Oregon.  It was a rich weekend with family. 

And even more amazing, Amy finished the third leg of her Trifecta, earning her membership in the “Tribe.” 

A couple who won a Spartan Obstacle course race and renewed the passion in their marriage
After both completed the Trifecta

When you consider where she was 15 years ago, with a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury requiring a fusion, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She said it was the most challenging thing she has ever done, physically, emotionally, and mentally—but well worth the effort.

Our mutual love and respect for each other, and pride in one another’s accomplishments have grown immensely. This is all because Amy was willing to try something new, out of her comfort zone, to spend time with me.

Finding an activity we both enjoy, and competing together, has renewed our passion for one another and has definitely brought us closer together.  We are blessed that it has become something we both love to do.  

Our goal going forward is to complete at least one Trifecta a year and expand our travel horizons to include international races.  Sparta, Greece, is foremost on our bucket list.  And hopefully, someday soon you’ll see the two of us up on the winner’s podium for our age group.  

In the meantime, my life is so much richer than two years ago when I finished my first Spartan Beast in the dark, surrounded by strangers and feeling oddly alone, without anyone to help celebrate my accomplishment

Having my best friend and partner cross the finish line, holding my hand, makes it infinitely sweeter.  And it doesn’t hurt that I get to chase her tail up the hills every week – she even lets me catch her once in a while. 

*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section. Please note, neither the Meyers nor I Do Part Two has a marketing affiliation with Spartan.com or Orangetheory Fitness.
 

3 Minute Read

“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. 

Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! 

Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. 

Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking

It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day. 

We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. 

Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

*If you’re not logged into Facebook, you may leave a comment below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story!

Couple golfing

4 Minute Read

Even though most experts would agree it’s more of a mental game than a physical one, it was painfully obvious I was going to need a lot of practice. So, when I casually mentioned to my husband I was going to hit golf balls, I wasn’t expecting his reaction.

He was ecstatic! “Wow, I’ve just never heard you say that…what prompted this?”

“Well, it’s I Do Part Two yeah know,” I laughed in response. This phrase has become our mantra ever since I started trying to figure out why some couples thrive after decades of marriage and why others quietly grow apart.

I always wonder, what happened? Could it happen to us too?

To his credit, my husband, Phil, has asked me countless times to play golf over the last thirty years—yes, 3-0! But, I rarely found the time.

I don’t hate golf, but if a genie granted me four kid-free hours when the kids were little, I would not have chosen to spend them trying to hit a tiny white ball into a little round hole. Regrettably, I never considered playing golf with my husband as an opportunity to simply enjoy time together.

For us, although we haven’t golfed much, but we still enjoy each other’s company. We do projects around the house, we take the kids on fun outings, and we eat dinner as a family almost every night. Plus, Phil’s had carte blanche to play golf with his friends, so why is it so important that we play together?

As we talked about it one evening, my husband, Phil, recalled how before kids we used to ski in the winter almost every weekend, and he loved that I was always up for trying to beat him on the tennis court. “It was one of your most endearing qualities,” he said, before hesitantly adding, “You used to be game for anything.”

When had I stopped being game for anything?

I always assumed it was fairly normal to have completely separate interests until I started reading about the importance of “recreational companionship” in Dr. Willard F. Harley’s book, His Needs Her Needs.

Dr. Harley stresses my assumption is true… but only to a point. He asserts, “Men typically place a surprisingly high importance on recreational companionship, second only to sex for the typical husband.”

The doctor’s words wouldn’t have cut so deep if Phil and I had at least one activity we regularly pursued together; but sadly, we did not.

I’d never even heard the term “recreational companionship,” let alone understood it was important to my husband. How had I missed this?

For years, my husband’s said we need to find activities we enjoy so when the kids move out, we have fun things to do together. I often laughed when he said it, but as our youngest gets closer to leaving for college, his words carry more urgency.

Sure we travel together and enjoy an occasional date night. We even Netflix and chill, but apparently this “isn’t enough to sustain most couples,” according to the book, “especially if either spouse has additional needs that are not being met.”

When we were dating, I jumped at any chance to spend time with him. We’d take road trips, ski and attend all sorts of sporting events at a moments notice. Once we married, I guess I didn’t feel like I needed to as much. Somewhere along the way, our careers, our house and eventually our kids all vied for my attention.

Spoiler Alert:  I was shocked to read (and I paraphrase Dr, Harley), that not having activities couples frequently enjoy together is one of the most common reasons for divorce, regardless of how long a couple has been married. (Yikes!) It’s typically one of the root causes that can be traced to other, more obvious issues that have crept into the relationship over the years.

We all know those couples that seem fine and even look happy together, but then all of a sudden they’re getting divorced. What? But you two just posted beautiful, Instagram-worthy pictures together!

Eventually you hear, “they just grew apart” or “they don’t have anything in common anymore.” I’m not immune to realizing if it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

So, now what? I’m taking golf lessons and trying to play golf more often, that’s what!

I can finally play 9-holes of golf without sounding like a little kid in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

We’ve also created a list of activities we’d like to try, and Phil says he’s game for hiking the nature trails I’ve been talking about exploring for years. Who knows, maybe we’ll even try skydiving.

It’s become an adventure just trying to find new things we both enjoy—together. Because at the end of the day, we all know, foreplay is the most important part of the game anyway.

Who is your favorite recreational companion?

Epilogue: I am happy to report that since this article was first published a year ago, we have added a few more fun activities we like to do together and with other couples…we skied Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Sun Valley, Idaho last winter, started paddle boarding and kayaking this summer, and finally tackled a few hiking trails. Cheers to finding your own fun activities to do together!

If you’re interested in learning more about recreational compatibility, Dr. Harley offers a free Recreational Enjoyment Inventory at www.marriagebuilders.comIt covers hundreds of activities from stamp collecting to skydiving.

*I Do Part Two does not have a direct affiliation with Dr. Willard F. Harley or marriagebuilder.com.  For more information, see the Disclaimer statement at www.idoparttwo.com

**If you are not logged into Facebook and wish to leave a comment, you may do so below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story.

Pin It