My now-husband is a complete and total badass. Last weekend, after fourteen years of blood, sweat, humility and stubbornness, he received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is his fifth black belt, but by far, the most difficult one to achieve.
In BJJ, belts are awarded by surprise at the conclusion of a seminar. I was given notice that he would be receiving his black belt so that I could sneak in at the start of the belt ceremony. He was unaware of my presence behind him as he stood in the line, expecting to witness only the award of a few blue belts.
In many ways, I was an interloper. The mat is my husband’s world, not mine. Even though the faces in the room were familiar, I felt like a stranger peeking into a family’s window at dinnertime.
His teacher began to talk about the incredible dedication and commitment my husband has shown, even when facing injuries and an upcoming surgery. He detailed the perseverance and willingness to learn that my husband has demonstrated over the years.
Standing there, listening to these words and watching the emotion build in my husband as the realization began to settle in, I was filled with immense pride for his accomplishment.
It was only later, after an evening of celebration, when I realized that I had never been proud of my ex-husband in the same way. Sure, he had done some good things, reached some goals and had some successes. But he never exhibited the sort of consistent hard work in the face of countless obstacles nor the humility needed to be receptive to the lessons offered.
A mutual friend asked me recently what it was in my now-husband’s Match profile that attracted me. He assumed that I had a thing for martial artists and was expecting me to confirm that.
I thought for a moment. “It wasn’t the martial arts,” I replied. “It’s what the martial arts said about him. I knew that he wasn’t afraid to ’embrace the suck’ and didn’t give up when things became difficult. I liked that he had something in his life that he was passionate about. I admired his dedication, his work ethic and how he created his own marital arts family. That’s what attracted me.”
There are times when it has been challenging being married to somebody so dedicated. BJJ videos fill the house with sounds of struggle and dirty gis fill the air with the odor of sweat. I hear about injuries and nagging pains on an ongoing basis and have to be a voice of reason when they become too severe to ignore.
But I also get to hear about the successes. The landmark submissions or the mastery of a new skill. I hear the awe – and fear – in the voices of the mutual friends that meet him on the mat. And even when I’m missing him as he attends another class, I’m happy to be with a man who sets and stays with his goals.
And isn’t that where the magic happens in relationships? When each person is given the freedom to explore their own passions and yet the frustrations and celebrations occur in the shared space.