Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Married to An Olympian; Keeping it Real

posted by Michele Olson

Are you watching the Olympics? My husband and I are enjoying them, and admiring what it takes to be an elite athlete. There are several big names getting big endorsements, but by far, there are many more unknown names. What about the marriages of those who aren’t making the big headlines? That’s the subject of a book by one of Canada’s top skeleton racers and his wife who want others to know about the struggle of their marriage and what we can all learn from their experiences.

Yvonne Zacharias of the Vancouver Sun relays the story of Jeff and Aly Pain in her article: What to Expect if You Marry an Elite Athlete. This couple has written a book: The Business of Marriage and Medals: A Relationship's Journey Through Elite Performance.

As a spouse looks lovingly on at an event of some kind, that moment of glory may not reflect the years of struggle and discord as one spouse is dedicated to a sport. Jeff and Aly’s journey included financing the first five years of Jeff's sliding career themselves. That was accomplished with trips to the pawnshop and living on very little.

Aly wanted to tell their story because she thinks it can help other couples who live with big struggles in their marriage. Whatever the reasons; financial pressures, long absences and lack of balance are hard on any marriage.

Amazingly, Jeff hits the nail on the head by acknowledging that false expectations and lack of communication were at the heart of the problems. That can be true of any marriage.

While they didn’t actually separate, Aly did feel it was over more than once. The irony is that Aly worked full-time as a life and relationship coach to replace Jeff's lost income. Aly talks about the fact that most people don’t realize Olympic families have to pay all their own expenses to get to Olympic games, costs that can really add up for an already strapped couple.

They both agree that communication is the key to making it. As Jeff’s career is getting closer to being done in the sport, they aren’t sure what he will do for a living. With a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics, his ninth place finish this time around points to a career coming to a close. There will probably be no lucrative endorsements waiting to walk in and save the day. He does want to pick something that allows him to become “the golden father and husband he wants to be.”

All the best to Jeff, Aly and their two sons as they go forward in life. Hopefully elite athlete marriages and all marriages will learn from what they’ve been through. Looking for a great resource for your marriage? Visit

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