The wife wants me to stop Marathon Swimming

ChrisgreeneChrisgreene Mercersburg PA/Atlanta, GAMember

She doesn't understand why I swim, she gets anxiety when I swim and is nearly giving me an ultimatum (we've been married for 34 years). She says she wants to do something together, like go hiking. I can't think of anything more boring. I suggest kayaking for my swims, she hates water so that's not a possibility. Anyone else have this dynamic going on?


  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    For organized races, she could volunteer to help the race directors on land? Tie her into the community. Then, after the race, go on a nice hike with her.

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member

    I have no great advice, but I agree that hiking is insanely dull. My husband loves it. And I hate it with a passion.

    Can you agree to a certain number of swims per year and then an equal number of things she loves?

  • andissandiss Senior Member
    edited June 2018

    I did my last triathlon 2013 - twins had arrived and my wife kind of said "I think that's it - enough now". Now i was mental - proper tri-bore. it took me a year to ween myself of it and now i focus on swimming and train so i can accommodate family life - e.g. train when i can not when i shall.

    My tip here is train when your better half has got her fill in like after/before the hike..

    If she is worried about your safety you might just need to adjust how and where you train, like swim along the shore instead of out to sea! or become a pool rat...

    Id say the other option is divorce...

  • emkhowleyemkhowley Boston, MACharter Member
    edited June 2018

    Oof, that's a tough one, @Chrisgreene

    I had done a story about that a few years back for SWIMMER. Maybe some of the advice Dr. Winsberg offers would help?


    Stop me if you've heard this one...
    A grasshopper walks into a bar...

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited June 2018

    There's also this classic, featuring marathon swimmer Jordan Waxman:

    Edit: sorry, the WSJ is really annoying about subscribers.

  • That is a great article @emkhowley! (about some awesome people)

    I think we all struggle a bit with balance, I know i do- both in open water season and pool season. I want to compete at every opportunity, and I know that becomes a chore for my hubby. Bless his non-athletic, non-competitive heart :-)

    Since returning to the water, it has become one of my driving forces in life- one that can easily become annoying to my spouse. Luckily for us we also found a shared passion (SCUBA) at the same time (oddly it involves water too). It almost balances out time i spend training for my sport, and time i spend underwater with the spouse. We also found a way for him to feel like he is part of my process (which he is). His "solo" passion is photography- and guess who has become one amazing sports photographer? I know he will never love swimming the way i do- but at least he has a way to be involved.

    I also do my best to make our travels fun- just like in the article, if we are on the road, I try to allow for time out of the water. At USMS Nationals I took the afternoon I wasn't racing and we went to the Indy Zoo- and yes he had his camera.

    Maybe hiking isn't your thing, but maybe there is something out there that you would both enjoy and can pursue together to try and balance your time out. Or maybe building in non-swim activities around your training/events would help.

    I know that my spouse will never understand my drive in the water, but he does understand it makes me who I am, and for that he embraces it- and I never stop telling him how his support makes all the difference to what I can achieve.

  • molly1205molly1205 Lincoln, NebraskaMember

    My husband tells me to go swimming. Hmmmm....


    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • KagemushaKagemusha Honolulu Member

    You have to find the right hikes. There is nothing boring with any walk in the Swiss Alps.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    I’ve seen lawyers advertising divorce services for a fraction of the cost of a channel swim.

    Having said that.... I’ll be celebrating 29 years of marital bliss in a month. (Gloat)


    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • The spouse has made a positive alternative suggestion. That's excellent!

    How to combine swimming and hiking: indulge in one of Phil White's many Kingdom Games - swimming all kinds of distances, solo to mass start; bicycling and walking backcountry roads in very picturesque northern Vermont. The venues are about 10 miles from Jay Peak, which is part of the Long Trail, a mountainous and historic hiking trail that runs the length of Vermont. Smuggler's Notch. Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

    I've hiked many interesting places, and wish I could do more: Glacier NP (you can swim freely in any lake in Glacier, including some lakes you must hike in to), the Canadian Rockies, the Swiss Alps, northern New England. Because the geological forces that create mountains also help make lakes, double fun is often possible.

    Being attuned to one's surroundings helps stave off boredom, for those who are not quickly drawn to hiking. As you gain or lose elevation, you pass through different biomes, hear different birdsongs, see different flowering plants. Having a goal such as a lookout also gives the hike a point. Flat trails lead to waterfalls and viewpoints.

    Building in time for a completely non-swimming-related activity during a swim meet or after an OW swim seems brilliant. This gives nonswimming partner wide latitude to choose something to enjoy together.

  • Copelj26Copelj26 ChicagoMember

    We discovered making a week out of a swim was not a great idea for us, my wife travelling to the Kingdom Swim, meant my normal pre event moodiness did not contribute to a fun few days for her.

    I have also learnt buying gifts around signing up for races and race dates, helps me greatly and thankfully her birthday is next week so lines up well for EndWet this weekend :)

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    Luckily my spouse's annoying time consuming hobby is ironman racing. Even still, and even without kids, it's still sometimes hard for us not to begrudge the time taken (and subsequent exhaustion) related to endurance sports. Especially if the bulk of the responsibility for making life happen fall on the other person (sure, honey, go ride your bike for 8 hours. I'll go to the pool for 3 hours and then take care of the dog and do yard work and....). (although full disclosure, my husband is much better at being an actual grownup than I am, so I'm usually the one slacking off...)

    Is it the particular hobby or is it the time you spend doing something so separate from her? I know that my husband has a solid group of running friends (easier to chat while you run, right?) and it's sometimes hard for me not to be a little jealous, even though they all do a really good job of including me. I didn't really consider them friends until I started making an effort to hang out with them (and group travel for races really helped).

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
    edited June 2018

    @chrisgreene: DUDE! That would make me very sad!

    Here are a couple of thoughts:

    (1) The most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing. After 34 years (congratulations!), that's probably your marriage. As you know, making marriage work is hard. Very hard. But like going to the gym, the pain is worth it in the end. I say this first, but I recognize that my next point seems incongruent, and probably is. This is a complex question and there's probably not a "right" answer. Your post isn't clear about the source of your wife's anxiety. Is it separation anxiety? Or fear for your safety? I assume it is the former.

    (2) For me, swimming is not a hobby. It is life. I can skip a meal, lose sleep, miss client meetings, part with money, but I never miss swim practice. It is the highlight of my day. When I have one of those "near miss" situations (like where a car runs a red light or the airplane starts to rattle), my first instinct is not to worry about my wife or kids. It's actually, "I hope I can still swim after this." I know this is sad and probably makes me sound like a total ass. But it's true. I can't imagine life without swimming.

    (3) If I stopped swimming every day, I'd weigh 300 pounds inside of a year, and my wife knows it. I've had a few times where circumstances have kept me out of the pool (injuries, work, personal) for a month or so. Once my wife sees me fishing out the "more forgiving" clothes from the back of my closet, she starts gently nudging me to get back in the water. This might work for you, too.

    (4) Try to eliminate everything else, first. Take a hard look at your other activities and honestly prioritize. I seem to recall you travel for work. If you do, consider eliminating that. I'm totally serious. I would quit my job before I'd quit swimming. I try to keep my swimming as minimally invasive into my family life as I possibly can. Except for perhaps 10 weekend days a year, I limit my swimming to weekdays and during times that I'm not missed at home (before everyone wakes up or during lunch). 85-90% of my swimming is during lunch (yes, sometimes it is a very long lunch). My law firm lease expires next summer. My partner is looking to move closer to where we both live. But that would mean I wouldn't be able to swim a lunch. We may work it out, but I may have to trade in my 10-year partnership for swimming. And I would.

    (5) With my strong encouragement, my wife now has several girl's trips she goes on annually. This REALLY helps. I feel less guilty and she's far more flexible with my swim-related travel.

    (6) Consider being an "average" marathon swimmer (like me). Perhaps you could cut back on your training to spend time with your wife and just "wing it" at events? We have fun in the MOP, brother. I'd trade in being a good swimmer for just being a swimmer (This is purely theoretical, of course, since I would first need something to trade).

    FWIW, I tried the strategy suggested by others, above, to make swim events into family/couple trips. This did not work AT ALL for me. In fact, it made it worse. Swimming is decidedly not spectator friendly. My family felt manipulated and I felt stressed while swimming because I felt responsible for their happiness.

    I'm very sorry to hear this, Chris. Hope you work it out. You would be missed.


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • You are sir effectively having an affair, but in this case your mistress is the water. Your wife should be delighted that her only competition is water, but it does absorb a lot of your time. Strike the balance. Choose swims where she can hike to the finishing point. Do things together: cinema, meals out, museums, days out, then she won't feel left out.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin

    Ted Erikson's law seems apropos:

    "Marathon swimming is a dumb thing."

  • I gave up cycling when she asked because it was too dangerous. She doesn't want me to go motorcycle touring nor single handed sailing....

    I actually enjoy being alone..... I sympathise with you....

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesMember

    This makes me sad. I cannot imagine life without swimming, either. I also cannot imagine asking someone I love to give up the thing he/she loves doing the most. They will be unhappy, angry, and resentful and I don't want that for them. Finding balance in life when one spends so much time in the water can be difficult. @Spacemanspiff has some wonderful suggestions. As with any conflict, communication is key in order to find a solution. Reach out to someone to help you if you need it. I hope you find a solution.

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