When I lived in Asia, I made some money, had my best friend die and blew up my marriage.
A wise friend observed that it was fortunate that the marriage exploded because I was better off waiting until I was able to offer something to a relationship. My buddy, who would spend the next decade dealing with her breast cancer, captured an essential aspect of successful relationships – that they are best avoided until you are prepared to continually offer yourself.
I look back at my writing from that time and smile at how hostile I was to relationships. Ten weeks before I met my wife, I rode across the United States with a Swedish buddy. He gave comfort that, indeed, there were “at least three women in the world” for me. When I asked, “why three and not one?” He smiled and told me, “the world’s a big place, Gordo.”
[This is the squash court where I met your mother]
In the middle of 2004, I conquered my fears and walked into a room of (mostly) female, triathletes. They were training under the instruction of a six-time world champion, Dave Scott. Dave personifies the old coaching adage “challenge your men and love your ladies.” He didn’t cut me any slack!
It was a complicated situation as my wife-to-be was going out with my landlord’s brother and neither of us were aware that we should be together. I played a long game, got her out of the country and we were engaged before she returned to Boulder.
[Here’s your mother as a young woman in New Zealand. She was working as my extra-special soigneur at a stage race.]
We were lucky. We grew into each other.
The journey that led to a wonderful life partner began years before I met Monica. I started by cultivating independent self-love, which sounds like something you’d hear in yoga class.
In the language of business…
To do a good deal, you have to be willing to do no deal, a fundamental component of success.
Divorce caused me enough pain to make me hostile to any form of intimacy. First a childhood divorce, then my own as an adult. There were deep feelings of failure associated with marriage. I had not learned how to strengthen a marriage and was preoccupied with the illusion of failure.
After my divorce, I made myself a better person. This was not my goal. Becoming a better person happened because I stopped living the values of other people – back then I was misled by money and assets. Later I was misled by victory and vanity. At the end, I hope to end up with kindness, good humor and service!
My introversion, and pride, fed a desire to prove that I could be happy alone. Truth be told, I was never alone – I wrote frequently and had two very close friendships. One of these was with Scott Molina and he joked that I had ’embarked on the longest dry streak known to man.’ Scott’s observation still makes me smile!
To make myself relationship worthy, I needed to create a life where I was happy without an intimate relationship. In order to have something to give, I needed to develop a source of energy outside of the relationship. I found my source in athletics and nature.
The great spiritual traditions write about love being the source. I have a long way to go there. My love for my children is a sign explaining that everything I need is within myself.
As an introvert, the teaching that I’m my own source feels natural because I’m happy when I’m alone. However, I need to be careful that I’m not alone too much. First, because there is a deep human need for intimacy. Second, because a life with meaning requires us to do good work in the world.
After five years of working on myself, I met my wife. In Monica, I discovered that I enjoyed spending time with her more than I enjoyed being alone. I’m not sure if that will make sense to an extroverted reader, who might find solitude draining. However, for the sociopathic hermit in me, it was a revelation.
To create an intention for success, I tell my wife, frequently:
- There’s no way I am going to improve my situation through any pathway other than our marriage.
- I’m grateful for all you do – family life is a challenge but I know that family life alone would be far, far more challenging.
- While I accept that it only takes one person to crater a relationship, I will never speak about failure on my side. If we hit hard times then I’ll stay close and wait for you to come to your senses.
- I hold the trust between us as sacred.
All thoughts to the contrary, of what I state above, are a sign of temporary insanity!
[As a couple, Ironman New Zealand 2004 was our best ever. Your mother swam 2.4 miles in 46 minutes and finished 2nd overall. Living in love makes you powerful!]
Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I met your mother and I’m so grateful.
Love you, Babe.