When Your Wife Asks You to Quit BJJ

When Your Wife Asks You to Quit BJJ

If you train long enough, you will eventually encounter a training partner whose spouse or significant other wants them to find a new hobby, and you can browse any online jiu-jitsu community to find the digital version of “my girlfriend wants me to quit, what do I do?” This may even happen to you because of how much time, energy, and money you pour into BJJ year after year after year, and that question may get strong when you get injured or if your cauliflower ear begins to flare.

When questions like these come up, and I'm seeing more of it recently, the sentiment of "anyone who asks you to quit BJJ doesn't really care about you" is a common retort. The undertone—and sometimes it's direct as well—is that you should break up with someone who asks you stop to doing something what you love.

If your passion is jiu-jitsu, the thinking goes, how could anyone who truly cares about you ask you to leave it behind?

Let me tell you about my wife, Caris.

Caris has been with me through four surgeries--3 knee injuries, and 1 monster hernia repair (I had one knee surgery prior to us meeting). She has literally wiped my ass when I couldn't. She has carried things up and down the stairs when I couldn't. She has driven me all over the state for appointments. And she has watched me endure massive amounts of pain.

And those were just the surgeries. This isn't even counting the litany of minor injuries that can disrupt our plans or put me in a bad mood as I twinge and wince just getting off the couch. For our wedding day, I had a scratch on my face because I taught a kids class the day before and a 10 year-old got a little too excited rolling with me.

I recognize that my genetics are a big reason why I have more injuries than what seems to be average, but even if you only experience an injury here and there, no one should discount how their injuries affect the people they love. My wife doesn't care about cauliflower ear, but she does not want to see me suffer, and having to pick up all of the slack when I am hurt takes an enormous toll on her (and it would take a toll on anyone, really).

The circumstances I am describing here are the kinds of context usually missing from the “my wife asked me to quit” conversations. We want the people in our lives to look at our love for the sport from our perspectives, but that means we also have to look at their perspectives and how our training impacts them as well.

My wife had suggested I think about hanging up my gi for good when we hit knee surgery 3 or 4—at this point, all of the surgeries blur together in such a Vicodin haze that I can’t remember which one was which—and I lashed out. Jiu-jitsu was deeply rooted in my identity. I was 10 years in at the time with a career built on grappling. Taking that away from me felt like an attack on who I was.

But later, when I couldn’t climb the stairs of my house because of an intense hernia repair, I finally saw how much the consequences of my training weighed on her. We spent thousands of dollars on medical bills, and she sacrificed huge swaths of her life to help me hobble a little more comfortably through mine.

So there, stuck halfway up a flight of stairs with Caris supporting my weight, waiting for the pain to pass just enough for me to take another step, I had to admit I was wrong. My training was not more important than her. And we agreed if I could not find a way to stay healthy and to enjoy my training—a long streak of jiu-jitsu politics soured my training experience all together for some time, to add insult to literal injuries—I would step away from the sport for good.

We have not reached that point, but we both know it’s on the table, and I don’t resent her for it and I am not upset about it. If something were to change in my current training or with my current health, that option might be the right one for our relationship and frankly for my own wellbeing. Her knowing that I am willing to do that for her has strengthened our marriage, and my being able to see her perspective on training—understanding that she genuinely cares about and supports me—has helped us as well.

My advice: Don't let your love for jiu-jitsu overshadow the love you can have in other aspects of your life, and don't let jiu-jitsu automatically take priority. There are things that are more important.