Last week after Dave made a comment about his lack of time to post on his blog, I mentioned (half jokingly) that I should write a guest post for him. Dave thought that was an excellent idea! So here I am, Dave’s girlfriend – Ashley – posting on his blog. I do blog myself but mostly about natural resources, knitting, and baking and rarely anything even closely related to Brazilian jiu-jitsu (although here is a link to my blog post about MMA). When trying to come up with an idea for a post, one issue or concern that I feel is very salient to any significant other of someone who trains jiu-jitsu was at the forefront of my mind. The issue of time; specifically time management and balancing training with other aspects of life. As anyone who trains, or has dated/been married to someone who trains BJJ, knows – training, preparation for training, and after training rituals can become incredibly time-consuming. For some relationships this can be huge problem or point of conflict. What I present here is one girlfriend’s point of view on the issue of time.
Quick Disclaimer: I want to acknowledge that this is going to be a very “heteronormal” post, I do realize that not everyone who trains jiu-jitsu is male or straight, but I am drawing from my own experience as a straight female. That being said, I feel the content of the post would be relevant to any relationship: hetero, queer, or straight. Also, I write posts that are magnitudes longer than Dave’s so prepare to read a bit more than usual.
Before writing this post (like any good graduate student), I researched the topic. I wanted to see what other people were saying about their significant others opinion on the time they devote to training. I came across forum after forum of, mostly males, complaining that their girlfriends or wives “hated” how much they trained or that they trained at all. The issue seems to be pretty prevalent. Then, I came across a Fightworks podcast from 2009 looking at this exact issue. In summary, the podcast hosts interviewed the girlfriends, wives, and fiancés of guys who train jiu-jitsu. The hosts, and the significant others of the women, thought that during the interview each woman would give them an earful about the amount of time that their partner trained jiu-jitsu and the negative consequences it has had on their relationships. However, the complete opposite happened! The woman gushed about the benefits of jiu-jitsu (they felt safer when with their partner, it kept their partner in shape, kept their partner’s self-esteem up, and they enjoyed seeing their partner doing what they love). Complaints from the women were more about jiu-jitsu and MMA being a constant topic of conversation, about being dragged to UFC parties, and always having his training partners around the house. Only one woman said that she wished her partner had a different hobby and every woman said that she was glad that her partner trains jiu-jitsu.
So what gives? Are guys imagining that their partners have issues with the time they devote to training? Or, and this is what I think is more likely, were the women responding in a particularly civil manner because they were being recorded for a podcast? The phenomena where someone answers an interview question the way they “think” that the interviewer wants it to be answered is called social desirability bias. The hosts at Fightworks were aware of this potential bias and therefore, after the podcast, they did an anonymous poll asking people “To What Extent Does Your Spouse, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Significant Other Support Your BJJ Training?” The results were interesting: The majority of respondents, 42%, said that their significant other is generally supportive but complains occasionally (about time, money, or something else). The next largest group, 30%, said that their significant other is completely supportive (I wonder how many people in that 30% have a partner who trains BJJ with them or trains in another martial art?).
The sample size from the poll was not huge, but if you want to make a gross generalization, then almost half of all people who train BJJ have heard complaints from their significant other about their BJJ habit. However, I do not think that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is directly the cause of the conflict. I feel like you could insert almost any hobby that requires a significant input of time into that poll question and the results would be similar – especially hobbies that are dependent on instruction from and training with other people.
In my own personal experience, it is not the time that Dave puts into training that is a point of conflict. It is in the inflexibility of his schedule that has at points in our relationship frustrated me. I believe that flexibility may also be the real root of the “time” issue for many couples. Unlike other hobbies and recreational activities, BJJ is dependent on a rigid class and open mat schedule. Missing a class could result in missing important instruction or missing the opportunity to learn an awesome new technique. Many other hobbies are less rigid and not dependent on a schedule made up by someone else. For example, I enjoy endurance sports (triathlons, half and full marathons, Tough Mudders, etc). I usually train for one long event each year and the training that I put in for an event most likely equals, or at times may exceed, the time that Dave puts in on the mat on a weekly basis. However, my training schedule can be completely arranged based on other events in my life – a hike with friends on a day I was supposed to do a long run? No worries, I can move it to Sunday and nothing is lost.
Dave has been training since I met him, so jiu-jitsu has been a constant in our relationship since the beginning. Actually one of the first activities that we did together before becoming an “official couple” was to attend one of his tournaments in Utah. However, at times I feel like our relationship revolves around his training schedule. Usually, I am completely understanding, as he can only train in Logan a maximum of 4 times a week and most often school work gets in the way of one of those class times; so in reality he trains 3 times per week. Dave is excellent at making time for me after he trains and is always willing to spend time with me on evenings when he is not training or busy with work. However, conflict arises when something that is important to me is happening during the same time as a class and Dave is unwilling or very reluctant to skip or find someone to teach or run open mat for him. That situation does not happen often but it has come up occasionally and more frequently lately as Dave’s work schedule has become insane. I might regret this next statement: but Dave could add an additional class or two per week and it would not bother me at all as long as it meant that he could be a bit more flexible with his training schedule.
From this girlfriend’s perspective, it has never been an issue of time per se; it’s an issue of the rigidness of the time that Dave devotes to jiu-jitsu. That being said, I would never want Dave to quit training. As many women in the Fightworks podcast acknowledged, there are many benefits to being with someone who trains BJJ. Training makes Dave very happy and neither person in a couple should solely depend on the other person for their happiness. It keeps Dave healthy and in shape so that he can run 5Ks with me when I guilt him into it (he missed me running my first marathon – not due to BJJ – I think that missing open mat to run a 5K was more than a fair trade…). Through jiu-jitsu, Dave has met a core group of people in Logan that have become close friends and he probably would not have met them otherwise.
And as far as our relationship goes, despite my occasional frustration with his training schedule, I think we have benefited from his training BJJ. I can have time to myself to run, go to Zumba, knit, or catch up with work while Dave is training and I do not feel like I am using time that could be spent together. Additionally, by participating in vastly different recreational activities, we always have something to talk about (I honestly have no problem talking about jiu-jitsu, MMA, etc). And most importantly, having hobbies and activities that we enjoy individually prevents us from becoming codependent (if you are unfamiliar with the term, think Romeo and Juliet – the relationship was more important than their own lives. Codependent relationships almost always end poorly). Dave’s BJJ and my endurance sports provide reminders that we are still individuals and not a single entity (Davashley?). We support each other in our respective hobbies but we do not sacrifice (by quitting) those activities for the sake of the relationship – we have outside sources of happiness and self-esteem.
Conclusion: Dave can include himself as part of the majority that says their significant other occasionally complains about their BJJ training – key word there is “occasionally”. But I would never ask him to quit training or wish he had a different hobby, jiu-jitsu is part of what makes Dave who he is. However, I definitely would not complain if Dave skipped an open mat or two in the spring or fall so he could join me at the local farmer’s market for breakfast. 😉