Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ironman Wife

The next time I will have a chance to check in on my blog will be next week. By that time my wife will have competed in her first Iron-distance triathlon, in Lake Placid, NY. For those of you who don't know, the Ironman triathlon begins with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, followed by a marathon (26.2 miles). And yes, it's all in a row, all in one day. With time limits.

The journey to Lake Placid has been a transformative one for my wife and for those who love her. She did her first triathlon--Olympic distance--in 2010, and did her first half-Iron this past September. Since then she has been steadily training, building up her endurance and her strength and her speed. A few weeks back she did a hundred mile bike ride, got home, hopped in the shower, and went on with the day as if she'd been out mowing the lawn for an hour.

Not so many years ago, she'd never run around the block. She was a singer and actress (very good at both, by the way), not an athlete. Her native compassion moved her to train for a marathon with Team in Training (the most significant fundraising source for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society). She did her first marathon while nursing a stomach virus. She hadn't eaten the day before.  She finished, and then began training for the next.

My wife is strong. She is determined. She is stubborn. She reaches for and accomplishes what most others imagine to be impossible.

I am married to this woman, and I am proud of her. Proud to have her as a partner in life. Grateful that she is the person who stands beside me in raising our children.

Yesterday I posted about the views of marriage endorsed by Douglas Wilson and his acolyte, Jared Wilson. They think a husband/wife relationship is essentially hierarchical, that it is inescapably and inevitably about authority and submission (albeit, supposedly, a benign and caring authority and a joyous submission). They think egalitarianism is a lie. They think attempts at achieving egalitarian marriages lead to twisted forms of hierarchy--rape fantasies and the like.

I'm not sure what they'd say about my marriage to a soon-to-be Ironman triathlete. She is physically stronger than me. She does things I cannot fathom. But I'm not jealous. I'm proud of her. My manhood isn't threatened, because I don't buy into such a stupid, banal, and destructively straight-jacketing vision of gender relationships as the one that the Wilsons endorse. If I did, our marriage would collapse. As it is, our marriage grows.  

My wife knows kickboxing. I don't. If we were threatened in the street, I know who I'd count on to defend us. Does this make me less of a man? Am I a failure as a husband because it would be presumptuous of me to "take care of and protect" the delicate flower that my wife is not? No. What it means is that the Wilson's vision of marriage is a really, really bad fit for the marriage that my wife and I have. Th Wilsons try to absolutize. They try to demonize what doesn't fit. But the real demon is the effort to force diverse things into a singular mold.

I would never dream of demanding my wife's submission to me, nor would she imagine the reverse. We are partners. She didn't seek my permission to pursue her triathlon passion as if I were her lord and master. We talked about it as equal partners because of the financial costs and the time involved. And on Sunday, I will be cheering from the sidelines, just as she cheers me on when I pursue my passion for music and writing.

And believe it or not, none of this feels as if I'm repressing reality. Rather, it feels as if I'm embracing it. The patriarchal vision is about ego--about the desire to have a picture of intimacy that allows for the indulgence of one's ego (albeit in caring, condescendingly benevolent forms). To cheer on the successes of a determined woman who surpasses you, you have to release your ego.

And that, in the end, is what Jesus calls all of us to do. That is what love calls us to do.


  1. I marvel at her strength and determination. I wish we could be there to cheer her on with you. She is amazing. And so are you. You give us hope with your strong stands you take with your words time and time again.
    love to you both!

  2. Completely agree and am very proud of what she and you have accomplished. Definitely a model relationship.

  3. Thank you for this. My husband cheers me on and believes in my abilities often more than I do myself. I thank God for him every day. A husband who doesn't feel the need to constantly prove his manhood is a blessing indeed =)

    The best of luck to your wife, I am sure she will do very well. Thank you again for showing what true love looks like between two people who love the Lord and each other.

  4. Thank you, thank you. Breath of fresh air!

  5. I've got an Ironwoman wife too. I think the way we break gender stereotypes is she does the handy work around the house and I do more of the cooking. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Love this post. Just so encouraging. Love it - love it!

  7. I always wonder how joyfully these men would submit to their wives if they were told that they had to just because of their plumbing. It's easy to talk joyful submission when you're not the one doing the submitting!

    Best wishes to your wife - that is an amazing endeavor, and you are rightly proud of her! (Still laughing about "the delicate flower that my wife is not." Hurrah for awesome non-floral chicks!)

  8. My wife and I are both complementarians. I have never demanded that she submit to me, she just does, and yes, she does joyfully. I never demand that she do things my way, and in fact nine times out of ten I gladly sacrifice my own desires in order to give her what she wants, and to meet her needs. We don't sit around and argue about who's in charge, but both of us have an implicit understanding that I have a responsibility to lead, to care for her, to watch out for her, to protect her. She trusts me to do these things, and it is at times, almost terrifying to have such a high responsibility.

    I work in an office, she works in our home, much harder than I do caring for our seven month old son. I come home and do whatever I can to give her some rest, because I know at the end of the day caring for Titus is far more exhausting than my work in the office.

    I say all this simply as a counterpoint, because you seem to think that Complementarianism is going to always lead to domination and oppression. And that has not been my experience at all. My wife surpasses me in many areas, and at times it does require that I release my ego. So I do. And I'm a complementarian.

  9. David, I don't argue that complementarianism always leads to domination and oppression, but that the systemic cultural inculcation of and essentialization of this hierarchical ideology makes the avoidance of oppression on the part of women far too dependent on the good will of their husbands. There are men who exercize such good will, and then there are those who don't. and this systemic vulnerability to exploitation is a societal level opporession of women even if the experience of oppression on the individual level can be avoided by vrtue of the generosity of the privileged individuals.

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