Extreme exercise and divorce: Are they connected?

There are a number of factors that can cause a couple to choose to end a marriage. It can be anything from infidelity to simply growing apart as two individuals. In fact, sometimes the reasons a couple chooses to part ways can be surprising.

Recently an article in The Wall Street looked closely at the relationships of couples where one or both are serious endurance athletes. These types of athletes train several hours each day and travel frequently to compete in events across the nation. This type of exercise regime may cause conflict in a marriage and could eventually result in a dissolution or divorce.

The article gives several examples of couples who deal with the strain of exercise in their marriage. The wife of an endurance athlete describes days when she will wake up to an empty bed, knowing that her husband is off on his morning run. Her husband will sometimes miss holidays because he is participating in a triathlon elsewhere.

Initially, it seems that something like exercise would not be an issue to drive a couple away from one another. But couples therapists have noted that not only does the time commitment become a source of tension, but also the notion that as one partner becomes increasingly fit, more alternatives may appear. What does that mean? It means that if one spouse begins spending more time with athletes and people who may be more physically fit than their current partner, they may become attracted to others.

This obviously is not the case for everyone. And even research does not give a clear correlation between extreme exercise and divorce rates. But couples that are unable to spend enough time together can come to resent the other, which can lead to a strain in a marriage.

Is extreme exercise something that couples should be wary of? Not necessarily. The extreme athlete in the example given above does work to make sure his wife knows he values time with her and their children. He sets a specific time each week for family night and for date night and includes his family in trips as often as possible.

Source: The Wall Street Journal online, "A Workout Ate My Marriage," Kevin Helliker, 01 February 2011

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