7 Ways to Deal With an Unsupportive Spouse (And Keep Running!)

Makes sense to all of us, right? And if happiness is running ...
Makes sense to all of us, right? And if happiness is running ...

When mother runner Celeste posed to the AMR tribe the tough question of how to deal with a less-than-supportive husband, many of you chimed in—with been-there, done-that empathy and encouragement, as well as sound advice.

And clearly it isn’t only Celeste who is experiencing this right now and benefitted from the support. Numerous comments on the AMR Facebook page echoed her sentiments that while her husband says he’s supportive, his actions and attitude tell a different story. As mother runner Wendy says, “I thought I was the only one! Sometimes he’s supportive and sometimes he’s not … my theory is that as long as my running doesn’t inconvenience him, it is OK. My husband is otherwise a pretty good guy, so this just baffles me. And it hurts me big time.”

Thanks to the insight, we’ve come up with a few ways to keep things humming along smoothly at home AND stay strong with your running.

1.) Talk it Through. Many wondered if there wasn’t an underlying issue—something unrelated from Celeste’s desire to run with friends two times a week in a park about 15 minutes from her home. Mother runner Amy suggested a sit-down discussion with the hubs: “Maybe just a good talk to see why he is really bothered by your running,” she wrote. “Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s jealousy over your newfound confidence, maybe it’s loneliness while you’re running. A good talk may be all that you need.” Adds Heather, “Let him know that some of the reasons you run are to be a better wife and mother. I know that when I run I am better at both because I have taken care of myself as well as my family.”

2.) Run Together. “Maybe invite your husband to run with you!” suggests mother runner Krista. “Find a fun race to do together, so he can see why you like it so much. Or find a sport you can do together.” Michelle says all it took for her husband’s change of heart was for him to see her cross the finish line of her first half-marathon. “He got a lot more supportive and has started running himself,” she wrote. “And he tells my mommy group friends and people at his work how proud he is.” Several mother runners mentioned that patience in this area can pay off big. Take it from Jennifer: “My husband was the same way—he came to one of my first 5Ks and he was so irritated and not encouraging at all … this went on for a year! Then one day he decided to jump on board and he has since completed an Ironman! We include the whole family now. Our 7-year-old can beat hi mom in a 5K—I love it. Be patient, it will come.” Joane agreed: “Over the years he has come around to the idea and now actually asks me if I am going to go running. I think it just takes time for them to realize this is something that is going to stick around.”

3.) Enlist His Help. Maybe your partner won’t ever want to run, and that’s OK, say some mother runners. “Me and our five kids run professional races and we call my husband our ‘running manager,’” says Mary. “My guy is not a runner, however he is enjoying the college scholarships our kids are getting from cross-country and loves all the compliments he gets about his athletic-loving family.” Mary says her husband also snaps pics of the family during races—“Especially our ‘kicks’ at the finish lines!”—and he’s also biked alongside her during runs.

4.) Show Your Appreciation: Mother runner Kris garnered lots of “likes” to her comment, which included understanding that a spouse-of-a-runner could very well have a fear of the unknown and may not feel appreciated. A non-runner “may not understand all the benefits that come from your running,” she wrote. “At the heart of it, husbands and wives (moms and dads) just want to be appreciated for all that they do. The more you can let your husband know how much you appreciate all he DOES do to support your running, the more he will do that.” Teena shared an awesome way of thanking husbands for the support they do show: organizing a “man date” for them to go out together and catch a movie. “They had a great time, so we’re making it a monthly event for them to show them we appreciate the things they do.”

5.) Think “I’ll Scratch Your Back If You Scratch Mine.” Whether it’s video gaming, TV-watching, golfing, biking or another outdoor pursuit, plenty of AMR spouses have their own recreational outlets—and these mother runners suggested reminding your spouse that you’re just as willing to be supportive of them. “He goes on windsurfing trips with his buddies once a year,” wrote Faryal. “That is what I use as leverage all year long to do long runs on Saturdays.” Laura says she compares her race fees to her husband’s love of playing golf—the cost of playing golf on a special course is pretty comparable. Amy says her hubby bikes “about 3,000 miles during the summer so he’s very supportive of my running.” Still, she says they have to make a schedule in advance “so there are no surprises.”

6.) Compromise, Get Creative. Some mother runners shared that they run super early in the morning to ensure they’re not taking away from family time. Sticking close to home for runs—asking BRFs to come to your neighborhood on occasion instead of always meeting further away—also seems to help. Dara’s husband likes it when she and their son come to his rugby games (she wishes he’d return the favor and come to her races). She does come to his games, but has taken to “doing long runs near the field after I drop him and my son off for game days and getting back before the game starts.” If the issue is related to money—race entry fees can add up, and some mother runners shared this caused some problems with their spouses—some suggested budgeting with your husband for events you really want to do. Requesting a race entry as a Mother’s Day, birthday or anniversary gift also works for some mother runners.

7.) Accept Reality. Mother runner Kim, married for 17 years and mom of five, received a ton of nods to her comment, which told the story of also having a husband who doesn’t support her running. Her secret to making it work? Accepting the situation for what it is. “I made the decision a long time ago to not let it get to me. I run for me. Years ago I would have caved in to his indifference and given it up, because it would have been easier. But no way.” Over time, her husband has accepted her passion for running. “If there are obstacles in your way, even if it is your husband, get around it, over it, or through it any way you can and keep your feet on the pavement. One foot in front of the other. We’ve got this thing!”




11 responses to “7 Ways to Deal With an Unsupportive Spouse (And Keep Running!)

  1. I am a spouse of a mother runner. Please keep in mind that it is hard to watch your spouse (wife) go off on long runs and spend hours training with other male runners, many of which are single. Making it even more difficult is that my spouse will not share her training schedule with me or invite me to her races or social functions. I have always tried to remain very supportive, but her actions clearly indicate she doesn’t want the support.

  2. I have been running for 4 years now. I am pretty active during race season with race participation. I truly LOVE running and pretty much everything I do revolves around running. My husband is not supportive of my running and makes it known. Sometimes it is very hurtful because the only time he has anything to say is to complain about how much I pay for a race. It is very frustrating because I don’t do anything else. I don’t eat out for lunch. I buy new clothes. I need some help!!

  3. Excellent tips. My wife is super supportive in everything I do. I would like to think I am super supportive of everything she does but you would have to ask her. 🙂

  4. It was a little strange to see my story featured, but as I said, I’m so comforted in the realization that I’m not the only one with a spouse who isn’t as supportive as I’d like. Years ago, after complaining about his lack of support, someone once told me “don’t bring empty buckets to dry wells”. I’ve taken that advice to heart. I run for me. Running makes me happy, it makes me feel good about myself, and that benefits everyone around me.

    Thanks for this post!

    1. I’m the Celeste that was mentioned, so I’m right there with you. But, I’m glad to know that I’m not alone as well.

  5. Woohoo! I’m excited that a blog post was dedicated to this! Since I posted on the wall, things have gotten much better since we’ve talked. It’s a work in progress, but things have improved. I’m glad since I’m about to up my training into a half marathon.

  6. C’mon… how did you NOT mention “horizontal training”? As long as my husband is “happy” I can pretty much do whatever I want! 😉

    1. And even if you don’t love “horizontal training” it’s good to keep ’em happy. I once heard someone say “you vaccum the carpets because you like how they look after they’re done, but you don’t really love to clean house”.

      My hubby just love the way my butt feels in my running tights!
      (is that TMI?)

  7. I feel for all the wives who do not have the support of the most important person, their husbands. I consider myself very blessed then. I was running BEFORE I met and married my husband so it has not been an earth-shattering event when I go out for my training runs or race events. He is not a runner, and I’m ok with that. He rather walk, hike and ride a bike which he does alongside me when I do my short runs and when he can. I applaud his efforts to stay healthy which isn’t as intense as mine but that’s personality differences. I support his passion for racing his cars, snowmobiles, etc. We both enjoy riding our Harley bikes although I tend to ride more than he does. Each of us crave solitude and feel secure but we look forward to sharing our time together, whether at my races or his. He understands my intensity and discipline for my long training runs and I love seeing his face at the finish line. He knows how much it means to me. WE both understand that life is more than work, family, and all the obligations it entails. The costs of race events for mine or his are planned in advance but really, how much is the price of staying healthy? We don’t go out like most people (movies, eatiing out, shopping, etc.) because we enjoy staying active and seeking quality time with each other’s passion. We seek balance in the stress of all these and it makes for a happy and satisfying relationship.

  8. Thank you! This came at the perfect time. I’ve been hesitating on how to ‘break’ it to my husband that I’m planning to run my first half this year. Although he will say “sure, whatever”, he never really grasps what the training time really means and that usually causes friction. These are some great tips I’ll have to keep in mind for the next 16 weeks!

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