What You Wish For

I asked my wife if she wanted to go mountain biking, not in a generalized way, but at a specific time and date. She’s the sort of person who likes to know what to expect. She looked at me askance, like I’d maybe just farted or told her she was just like her mother. Sometimes a smirk is worth a thousand words.

I modified my invitation to see if I could make it more enticing or less repellent. No dice. After 30 years together, this was not a surprising outcome for me, my success rate with invitations to ride running in the low single digits. I’d like to think what I’m really saying is, “I’d like to spend some time with you,” but I suspect what she hears is, “I’d like to spend some time with you testing the limits of our love for each other.”

Then she said to me, “Maybe in your next life you should try to find someone who loves mountain biking as much as you do.” A pregnant silence settled in the kitchen then, as I gamed that out in my mind.

I said to her, “You mean, in some theoretical future, I should do the thing I do to escape responsibilities and stresses and try to share it closely with another person.” Again, the silence settled. I thought about all the ways I struggle to make ride plans with other people, plans that work for everyone in time, place and difficulty. Mentally, I felt myself slowly backing away from the idea of having a partner who liked to ride as much as I do, as if it were a dumpster, smoldering in preparation to burst fully into flame.

Wanting to share what you love with someone you love is a noble urge, but I can testify that three decades together has allowed us to more realistically map the terrain of our relationship. You don’t live with someone that long without developing certain co-dependencies. To achieve anything like a healthy balance, you need to maintain a level of independence and autonomy, safe spaces in which to think only about yourself, lest the relationship subsume you and you turn into a two-headed monster of bickering dissatisfaction.

Equally, you can be too dependent on the bike. You can use it to hide and escape, when really you should be investing in your human relationships. If only, the bike could give you a smirk to let you know, pour itself another cup of coffee, and saunter away to attend to its own more important business. No, maybe this isn’t really what I wish for.

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  1. cramissor says

    Nailed it. You have me by a bit but as a 21 year veteran of an excellent spousal relationship, I have navigated these same waters. The related area that I still go back and forth about is my son’s lack of interest in mountain biking. He is quickly drifting away from me into full blown teenager land. We have a great relationship but part of me feels really sad about the inexorable growing up and moving outward into his own, separate life. But another part of me knows I have always been a better dad (and spouse) due to my time away acting like a moron in the woods. Happiness and sadness are so often interrelated , aren’t they?

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @cramissor – Parallel lives. My teenage sons and I get along really well, except they’re just not that interested in me anymore. They are becoming their own people very quickly. I am led to believe they have to go away to come back. I know they do. But it is just wrenchingly bittersweet almost every day.

  2. Dan Murphy says

    My wife is a very casual rider, but still loves it, too. Just in short, predictable pieces. So, whenever we are going to ride together, I have to know every road in the area, know the exact planned route plus a few alternatives (maybe longer and a definite bailout), I have to know where every hill is, and know the not-so-good roads. Otherwise, well, I think you know. I cringe every time we’re in unfamiliar territory and she wants to go for a ride. It really is nerve wracking.

    Then again, she can exhibit some real grit. About a year sgo, she was going to try out her new bike before it was fully built (no paint, different parts). We were in the Bartlett NH area, did a few flat miles to get comfy, then we headed to Bear Notch Rd. She figured she would just go up until she got tired, then turn around and head back. She tells me to go ahead (“actually, “leave me alone!”), and I head up. At the top, I waited awhile knowing there was a good chance she was coming all the way. Yup, she made it, no problem.

  3. alanm9 says

    I could write a book about the phases we went through in our 37 years (but it would suck). Now, we ride together nearly every single weekend day, 30 to 50 miles each. Yes it’s excruciatingly slow, flat, and arrow straight on rail trails, but the cold craft beer tastes just as great and I get to talk with my best friend. Plus I can get in 30 miles or more before I pack the car for the day and she enjoys travelling with me to ride far away centuries in the mountains. One thing I always remembered was that she didn’t sign up for my obsession; I didn’t find it until years after we were married. On the other hand I’m a complete failure as a cycling father; neither of my sons rides or even owns a bike, although I did teach them to ride. That would be another non-selling book.

  4. Wyatt says

    My 18 year old son can destroy us all but is very kind about it, my 15 year old son is coming on strong and already dropping us on the climbs, my wife has been and will alway be a better rider than me. I suppose Im lucky to be humbled routinely but my entire family.

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