I mean, look. If your post is about how really investing in your marriage made you sign up to take a course on learning how to ride a motorcycle, even though it scares the shit out of you, I’m pretty much in. Marriages, man. They really do lead you to the most surprising places. Amy Christensen is a longtime reader who runs Expand Outdoors and was a wedding graduate years ago. What she has to say today about learning to accept the person you’re actually married to (not the idea you have of them in your head) even when it’s terrifying made me do some digging around in my soul. (Plus, motorcycles.)
I finally made the call and signed up. The months between the decision (which was really hard) and the action (even harder) were filled with procrastination and avoidance. The class? I’m going to learn how to ride a motorcycle. For me, it’s overwhelming, daunting, and downright scary. I’m doing this for my husband. You see, my husband wants to buy a motorcycle. It’s way more practical and economic than a new car. I get this. But I have been incredibly (and unfairly) resistant. For months I avoided any conversations around the topic, nodded my head and deftly changed the subject every time he brought it up.
Here’s the thing: It’s been hammered into my head since I can remember that motorcycles are Dangerous. People who ride them are Reckless and Asking for Trouble. The mere thought of it causes fear to course through my body. I’ve only been on the back of a motorcycle once. It was when I was in college and doing other dangerous and stupid things that you tend to do when you’re nineteen and believe you’ve got the world at your feet and nothing bad can ever happen to you.
The decision to take the class wasn’t actually the most difficult decision I had to make. No, the toughest decision was about letting go. There I was. Almost forty, fighting a very strong urge to deny my husband—a man I deeply love, respect and trust—something that is a core part of who he is. And in fact, a core part of exactly what I love about him. Not to mention that our partnership doesn’t even use phrases like “deny my husband/wife.” We’re pretty open and supportive of each other, which made this particular issue especially hard for me.
He’s adventurous, and I trust his judgment implicitly. I routinely put my life in his hands when we go rock climbing. And in turn, I take his life in mine when I’m belaying on the other end of the rope. I’m no stranger to risk. I’ve done some research around it and eventually built my business on the premise that healthy risks are essential to personal growth and living a fully authentic life. Most likely my interest in the topic is because I tend to be more risk-averse than I’d like.
I’m an independent woman. I was happily single for a long time and thought nothing of moving twelve thousand miles away from home at the age of twenty; traveling alone to a foreign country to run a marathon; or quitting my corporate job to start my own business with no experience or real plan on exactly how I was going to make that work. I trail run alone on a regular basis, have backpacked into the wilderness alone, and driven hundreds of miles by myself on road trips. And together we traveled around the country living out of a van for the second year of our marriage.
I’ve experienced amazing transformations and insights into myself and grown exponentially as a person by taking said risks. I have realized I’m stronger than I think I am, more capable than I believed, and feel empowered to be exactly the woman I want to be. And I work with other women to help them realize the same. All this to say that I appreciate and recognize that risk is part of life. But that hasn’t meant that it’s been all that easy to come to terms with the risks my husband takes. I knew this going into our marriage. And like I said, it’s something I’ve always admired and appreciated about him.
I know he loves hurtling down a mountain bike trail at thirty-three miles per hour. His speed record for the road bike is fifty-nine miles per hour. He’s comfortable climbing a fourteen-thousand-foot mountaintop with thousands of feet of exposure below him—certain death if he makes a wrong move, or a rock suddenly breaks loose. (Have I mentioned he’s interested in skydiving and BASE jumping sometime in the future?)
We were friends for a number of years before we started dating. We were climbing partners and training partners, running endurance trail races and hiking mountains together. When we were friends, his activities didn’t weigh on my mind all that much. I knew they were potentially dangerous, and of course, if anything had happened, it would’ve been awful. But it wasn’t until we began dating that I realized I needed to do some serious thinking before getting too involved.
Really hard questions needed to be asked. Was I willing to partner with someone at the risk of losing them early? What about permanent disability? Not to mention emotional stability and general personality changes. My husband thrives on being active and I’m convinced it’s an essential element to his happiness and well-being. When he’s injured and can’t run or bike or get out to climb on a regular basis, it affects his mood. But I was falling in love. And I knew I’d never want him to give up something so integral to his personality and livelihood for my comfort. His love of adventure and risk is woven into the fabric of who he is—and has been all his life. Who was I to alter that? However, understanding this on an intellectual level is very different than being comfortable with it in my heart.
Before we were married, and during the first couple of years as a married couple, I asked these questions based on the activities he was currently doing. I didn’t actually consider new risks he might want to take. The risks I knew about were familiar to me. I’d watched him study a potential mountain biking line or jump and decide to pass it up. I’d watched him practice and build his skills methodically and deliberately before trying a bigger jump. I love him. And support him and encourage him to get out and have fun. I know he takes very calculated risks and weighs the dangers with objectivity. He rarely (if ever) lets his ego get in the way. He’s backed off from reaching a summit just a few hundred yards away because of weather or a friend’s needs. He considers safety and exercises good judgment.
But things happen outside of our control all the time. Weather moves in. Mechanical difficulties happen. A small pebble on the road in just the wrong place or gust of wind at just the wrong time. Inattentive drivers. And these new risks—particularly riding a motorcycle—felt very different. I didn’t know anything about them, had very minimal experience with one, and had learned from a very young age that it was Very Dangerous.
Which brings me back to the motorcycle. It took a long time to find objectivity in my thoughts and feelings in order to make what I feel is a fair decision whether or not we should buy one for our baby family. The first step is to get more familiar with it myself and work on opening my mind to this idea little by little. The head and the heart have to come together—especially when the head tells me to trust and let go, and the heart tells me to do everything I can to keep him safe. So the decision I finally came to, the one that’s been the hardest, is to decide to fully let go and accept all the risks my husband takes with as much grace as I can manage, with a fully open heart. To not cherry pick which risks I can handle and which ones I don’t want to. Because when it comes down to it, I chose all of him, risks and all.
I’m not sure if we’ll be buying a motorcycle anytime soon, but at least it’s an option that’s on the table. And if we do, who knows, we might just end up sharing it. Stranger things have happened! What I do know is that by letting go, I’ve gained so much more. Our marriage is stronger, our communication is more open, and our love continues to grow deeper.