Can Excessive Work Outs Give Your Marriage a Beating?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

We’re constantly being told to exercise for good health and good relationships. I think it’s true to a point, but a recent article about excessive exercising reminded me that just because something is good for you does not mean more of it is better for you. The explosion of endurance sports, such as marathons and triathlons, is placing a strain on more marriages these days.

A Workout Ate My Marriage” by Kevin Helliker of the Wall Street Journal features the wife of an endurance athlete who awakens alone every day including holidays, with her husband gone before dawn to exercise for hours. He wished her a Happy Mother’s Day from a triathlon in another state, while she stayed home to care for their three children.

In their mid-40s, they both recognize the constant training impedes their intimacy. The husband even acknowledges it’s selfish for him to take so much time away from family, in addition to his work as a banking executive. The article calls the woman an exercise widow. (Many couples joke about the golf widow left at home when the husband spends excessive nights and weekends on the golf course.)  He rises and leaves before anyone in the house. He arrives home from work after the family has had dinner, and falls asleep before the children because of his exhaustion from exercise and early hours.

A marriage counselor quoted in the article says this is a new trend — that more couples are coming into her office with an excessive focus on fitness. I admit I’ve known others who have fallen prey to the obsession. One woman I know became so obsessed with her body that her husband believed she cared more about her long morning run than caring for her children. Then, plastic surgery helped her “perfect” her body, only for her to have an affair with another man. Nothing her husband said could dissuade her from the desire for fitness above all else. The marriage ultimately fell apart.

Indeed, some individuals who have success with losing weight and becoming fit realize they are attractive to the opposite sex. This can fuel a new sense of sexiness than can be good for the marriage, or it can lead to temptation to stray.

As I write this, my dear hubby is taking a long training run at a nearby park. He competes in occasional sprint triathlons and goes through phases of increased dedication to exercise. However, he has never put the gods of fitness above the needs of family. Much of his training takes place when he is traveling for work and keeps him from mindless TV watching.

I have great friends without children who regularly run marathons together. And she cheers him on during sprint triathlons. Their long hours of training work fine for their marriage because they do it together and because they have no children competing for their attention. This situation is ideal for them.

I have another friend whose marriage thrives on her husband taking long—very long—bike rides. She says it’s good for their marriage because it clears his head and makes him a happier husband.

If I’m being honest, most people, like me, need more of a kick in the pants to exercise more, not less. However, an obsession with anything, even a good thing, can kill the sparks in your marriage. Even healthy habits or fun hobbies can take over one’s life. If you’re traveling every weekend to go to car shows, and your wife hates them, it’s the same problem. If your spouse frequently complains that you spend more time and adoration on something besides the marriage and family, there’s a problem.

Arizona psychologist, triathlon coach and blogger warns of “Divorce by Triathlon” and wonders aloud at the number of lonely husbands, wives and children of triathletes who are waiting for the “insanity to end.”

Whatever you’re obsessed with, keep your sanity. Don’t go over the deep end and leave your family behind. Keep the sparks in your marriage by reminding your spouse that no sport or hobby is more important than him or her.

Has fitness ever come between your marriage? Do you wish your spouse would be more dedicated to fitness? Does your partner spend too much time on a sport, hobby or other obsession?

Photo Credit: ©JimCox40/PhotoXpress.com

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13 responses to “Can Excessive Work Outs Give Your Marriage a Beating?

  1. Alone with the kid

    I have a similar problem in my marriage. My wife is out excerciseing at least 6 times a week. On averge she is away from the house at least 4 hours at a time. When we do have time for ourselves she is to tired and preferrs to sleep on the couch then have any interaction with me or my son. I take care of all the house work and meals. My wife has no interest in a relationship with me.

    I am physically fit also but I make sure that the time does not interfear with our family time as much. I run 5.5 km , 5 times a week . The time it takes is less than half an hour per run, and this time is my commuting time from my office – home.

    My wifes fitness work outs is having a great affect on our relationship as well as her relationship with her son.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. You confirm that this is indeed a trend in modern life. I assume you have talked with her about how you feel about this? Would she be offended by either my blog article or the WSJ article I referenced? The issue is certainly placing a major strain on your relationship, but I hope you can resolve it in a positive manner. My best to you,
      Lori

  2. This is the first time I’ve heard of exercise breaking up a marriage but I guess anything taken to excess is a bad thing.

  3. Wow. Thanks for addressing this issue. Every guy I have dated complains I work out too much. It’s important to me. I’ve asked, but none of my partners would ever go to spinning with me, not once. Now I know I need a mate with a gym membership ( that he regularly uses ) so we can share this activity together. Working out keeps me sane when my schedule is hectic. The time I spend in the gym or at a class gives me more energy for the rest of my life, including my partner.

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  6. Thanks for this article.
    Too much training and the body is not ready for other things in house.

  7. My wife and I are working through this very thing. She currently works out 6 days a week and is exhausted most evenings. Our intimacy has been minimized to about once every couple weeks. She denies that she works out too much, and I’m kinda seen as a bad guy for even bringing it up. We have 5 kids (12 through 19) and our house is always embarrassingly messy. I work more than full time and sometimes deal with crazy deadlines while my wife is finding more free time for developing her new lifestyle as our kids get older. Sometimes my wife is at the gym for 4 hours at a time. She has lost over 50 lbs now and is looking fantastic. I’ve never had any reason to not trust her, but I do get concerned sometimes that she will enjoy possible extra attention from some gym rat due to all the years of no attention from guys when she was overweight. In any case, I think any time a spouse is concerned about anything we are doing, we need to listen to them and not just blow them off. I think that has been what has hurt the most. I feel like she’s having an affair with a new lifestyle.

    Now, my wife has been offered a part time job there, so it’s been compounded with the overall feeling that she practically lives there. If she’s not working out, she’s working there.

    Red flags have also been raised for even more concern. For example, one time she had mentioned how much she loved a particular spinning class, explaining that an “older” husband and wife team was filling in for the regular instructor. She said they had the class completely choreographed to music and it was awesome. Then a few weeks later, after being hired on there, my wife mentioned that there was a specific guy who was hired on as the new instructor of a spinning class and that he does a really awesome job because he choreographs the workout to the music, etc. After asking about it, I discovered that he is our age, not older and does not teach it with his wife. This was one in the same. In other words, it seemed as if she was covering her bases for a guy she had become particularly interested in. I have yet to find out if the guy is even married or not. I know his first name. I’m going to join his class though. I can tell you that….lol.

  8. My wife and I are working through this very thing. She currently works out 6 days a week and is exhausted most evenings. Our intimacy has been minimized to about once every couple weeks. She denies that she works out too much, and I’m kinda seen as a bad guy for even bringing it up. We have 5 kids (12 through 19) and our house is always embarrassingly messy. I work more than full time and sometimes deal with crazy deadlines while my wife is finding more free time for developing her new lifestyle as our kids get older. Sometimes my wife is at the gym for 4 hours at a time. She has lost over 50 lbs now and is looking fantastic. I’ve never had any reason to not trust her, but I do get concerned sometimes that she will enjoy possible extra attention from some gym rat due to all the years of no attention from guys when she was overweight. In any case, I think any time a spouse is concerned about anything we are doing, we need to listen to them and not just blow them off. I think that has been what has hurt the most. Sometimes I feel like she’s having an affair with a new lifestyle. Who, when having any kind of an affair wouldn’t deny it. If she simply said, “Yah, you might be right…maybe I can lessen the amount of visits to the gym” or “maybe I am working out a little too much” or something of that nature. But to outright deny any problem exists is asking for marital problems. If the spouse is having a problem with it, then it’s a real problem.

    Now, my wife has been offered a part time job there, so this issue has been compounded with the overall feeling that she practically lives there. If she’s not working out, she’s working there.

    Some red flags have also been raised for more concern. For example, one time she had mentioned how much she loved a particular spinning class, explaining that an “older” husband and wife team was filling in for the regular instructor. She said they had the class completely choreographed to music and it was awesome. Then a few weeks later, after being hired on there, my wife mentioned that there was a specific guy who was hired on as the new instructor of a spinning class and that he does a really awesome job because he choreographs the workout to the music, etc. After asking about it, I discovered that he is our age, not older and does not teach it with his wife. In other words, it seemed as if she was covering her bases ahead of time by saying he taught it with his wife and that he was an older guy. I have yet to find out if the guy is even married or not, but I know his first name. And I am going to join his class.

    • Joining the class sounds like a fine idea! I hope she will hear your concerns. I find a good way to keep a connection with my husband is to spend 15 mins talking after dinner while the kids do homework, etc. This time is not spent on to-do lists or calendars but just to try to talk like you did when you were dating. Be sure to praise her success and tell her you miss spending more time with her. Sharing your feelings does not feel accusatory. I wish you all the best.

  9. This is my soon to be x wife nothing comes before her workouts. I work 2nd shift she is home evenings. Our daughter was doing bad in kindergarten already. I noticed her homework was not getting done also noticed house getting ripped to shreds. I asked her to please help daughter with homework. She said I don’t have time. I said you can spend hrs working out but not help daughter. She got mad and says that’s my time. She kept bugging me to do it also. I said with no sleep I have to give baths get dressed before school. I’m too tired and besides you can see kids resent it I’m not going to ignore them too. Now she thinks she’s gods gift already having affair. Had match.com add looking for guy that likes all the same hobbies I do but fit toned body. I should add can barely feed diaper kids with all the vitamins powders you have it she buys it she would be PD 400 Thurs broke sat.

  10. I think eveything in extreme is bad. My partner all he does is exercise and judo workk. I have no life and i really try joining him but he so obsses d that i have a rejection to any type of exercise he wants me to share however. He gas never share anything with me. Everyday my relationship gets worst i want out. And do not know how to do it

  11. Robert Williams

    I too am having this problem – my wife runs everyday and goes to tae kwon do 3 nights a week. She is tired all the time. We have a 4 yr old. She has lost about 40lbs and is looking great. Everything was fine for the longest until I think when she realized the attention she was getting from other men. At this point she thought it a good idea one night after a gym session with one of her friends to tell me about all the attention she was getting and the fact that she liked it. who doesnt like attention – but who tells there husband that – ? This kind of made me start looking at everything a bit more carefully. Even at Tae Kwon Do and her interactions with the young male Master. The laughing and smiling has increased in the class as she has progressed in the class – it is a small adult class and a lot of the time the class is just with them two. Maybe its just that she is more comfortable in the class – I am there with my son watching her usually – but after watching an awkward positioned stretching focused class – I told her I wouldnt be watching her class any longer. Beside the class being quite expensive – IT takes time away from family and she is tired everynite and then some. I expressed my concerns about doing something else – something we can all do together. Her response was that we all do Tae Kwon do. ( I am not willing to spend 400 a month ) I also started working out to keep up with her (10 a month at planet fitness) and invited her to work out with – she refused. She basically said she plans on sticking with TKD for a few years until she gets her blackbelt. One of her responses to me when I confronted about her being tired all the time from tae kwon do is that Im being selfish. So unless I find an suitable alternative – she will keep with TKD. I wouldnt mind all the running and TKD if the she was putting as much effort into our relationship and homelife. Its more like- everyone else gets the best of her… I get whatevers left of her at the end of the day. which is a distant and tired meat sack-….

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