February 23, 2012

Sticking Together: Extreme Sports & Emotional Athletes.

Remaining steadfastly present while honoring your partner’s space, and total acceptance without attempts to fix one another takes practice.

Angie McArthur and David Peck, Park City, Utah

Dave was positive of two things. He knew he would never marry, and was pretty sure he wouldn’t live past 35, due to the inherent risks on his life in his chosen sports.

Angie was positive that she didn’t want to casually date in typical mountain town style.

The first day Dave laid eyes on Angie they were in the gym and he overheard her talking about climbing Mt. Rainier. That same day, without speaking a word yet to Angie, he called his mom and said, “I think I just saw the girl I am going to marry”.

They have now been married for almost 14 years. Having just turned 45, Dave was fortunately mistaken on both counts.

Atypical of mountain town relationships, Angie and Dave quickly formed a lasting commitment. Their shared passion for outdoor adventure is also pretty common in terms of these mountain town courtships.

Dave and Angie are equally accountable in the sports that they share. They take individual responsibility for the risks that are involved while back-country skiing or kite surfing, for example. Constantly striving to bring shared knowledge to the table, they enjoy these passions together without underlying issues of inequality or competition.

When it comes to deciding on the safety of avalanche or wind conditions, they respect each others decisions and rely on themselves. This mutual respect and individual responsibility carries over into all other aspects of their relationship, and allows them to work through challenges with ease.

Prior to her relationship with Dave, Angie would exit relationships as soon as she ran into emotional challenges. It wasn’t in her nature to “stick it out”, as she hates confrontation.

One day Dave’s mother, a celebrated psychotherapist and author, made a comment about her envy toward the couple’s physical athleticism, regarding herself as an emotional athlete. That statement kick-started Angie’s desire to learn the art of emotional endurance and she has since dedicated herself to personal work with conflict resolution.

Working through emotional challenges has become much like a muscle that Dave and Angie have strengthened and developed over time. Slowly they built trust by facing adversity head on. Angie learned that she could voice her upset while Dave would remain steadfastly present.

Sharing time and doing what they love brings them closer. Even if they are not feeling close mentally, they can still go enjoy their outdoor passions together. Because they run a business together, it can sometimes be a struggle to find unrelated work topics to talk about at the end of the day.

About five years ago, they went through a particularly challenging period of time that effected all of the areas of their lives. While this was happening they organically began a ritual of going for a walk at the end of the day, sometimes without speaking, and that was enough.

Without  the need to pretend that it was something other than it was, and by acknowledging the fact that it was simply a difficult time, their natural agreement not to talk about it or try to fix it was what weathered the storm.

Not trying to fix the other person is a regular practice, and one that requires acceptance. By learning that sometimes it just isn’t possible to make each other happy, but by being fully present with one another when they are faced with an issue, they have accepted what is in the truest sense.

Dave and Angie both work on themselves individually and then bring that work back to their relationship together. A lot of couples they know have been unsuccessful in relationship counseling because they are not willing to do the work needed on themselves first. Most of their close friends are now divorced.

The couple often process their issues separately. Angie won’t always readily understand why she may be upset. She simply gets quiet and needs space for a few hours to figure out the issue. If Dave were to try to force a discussion or fix it, she would shut down.

Listen to Dave and Angie discuss their marriage:

When Angie has space it allows her to process what is going on in her own way. She can then come back and speak regarding her own responsibility within the issue. They “check-in” into their relationship often, and realize that they both ultimately want to become better friends, which will make them better lovers and business partners.

One of their more trying times came from a physical injury when Angie was hit by a car while riding her bike. They faced the challenge of three surgeries and several years of recovery. While they don’t wish that experience on anyone,  it allowed them the space to give unconditional love and attention to each other.

During that period Dave cared for Angie with compassion, understanding and an unwavering desire to help. Having to rely on another person to do something as simple as brushing your teeth or going to the bathroom taught them both about the preciousness and fragility of love and  life itself.

When asked to summarize the glue that holds their relationship together this is what they said:

Dave: Sharing the adventure, 1 + 1=3 and Micro/Macro- that the little details in their relationship matter as much as the huge crescendos.

Angie: Total partnership, dedication to life balance and mutual desire to show love all the time even in the smallest ways.

What keeps you and your loved one sticking together?

“Sticking Together” is a column written by Gillian Pierce of Global Glue Project (GGP) created to document, preserve, and give voice to inspiring relationships. Let’s celebrate those that set the example and the glue that holds them together. You can find Global Glue’s entire Sticking Together series here.


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

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