Weightlifting and Relationships....Yeesh
Matt Foreman

I once broke up with a girlfriend because I had a bad squat workout.

Seriously, I did. I was around twenty at the time, dating this saucy little redhead. We were having a lot of fun for a few months, baking brownies and playing Uno, all the cool stuff you do when you’re going out with somebody at that age. Then one day I went to the gym and my front squats folded me like a card table. I was convinced that my girlfriend was making me soft, that my legs were getting weak from too much Uno, so I went home and dumped her because I thought she was distracting me from my weightlifting goals. I didn’t tell her that was the reason, though. I think I gave her some bullcrap like, “It’s not you. It’s me.” I realized it was a dumb move a couple of years later, because she was a peach. But at the time, I thought she was screwing up my training, so I had to dropkick her into the Rejection Resort…one-way ticket.

Being in a relationship with a weightlifter isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s probably tough being with anybody who has a driven, obsessive personality, whether that person is a lifter, coach, gym owner, cop, musician, or whatever. I can only speak for lifters because that’s what I am, but I’m sure it’s the same for everyone who lives with some kind of high-intensity commitment to the goals they’re pursuing.

Weightlifters can be pretty selfish. It’s almost a job requirement if you really want to make it to the top. You basically have to see your workouts as being the most important parts of your life, and everything that has the potential to botch them up has to be eliminated. Athletes who live this way are a little irritating to the average citizen because they act like they don’t give a frick about anything but their training and competitions. This isn’t exactly the foundation for happy joy.

Civilians often have a hard time with us because many of them just don’t understand why we live the way we do. Dedicating our lives to pounding our bodies for no money doesn’t make any sense to them. I once dated a gal who asked me, “So you spend all this time working out and you don’t get paid for it? What’s the point?” Ouch, I could hear the axe falling in the background. I can totally understand where she was coming from, because I would probably feel the same way if I was a regular person. And if you’ve ever tried to explain your weightlifting commitment to a civilian, you know how painful it us.

You have to have a giving personality if you want to have a successful relationship with somebody. The things that are important to them and make them happy…those things have to be a priority to you. And you can’t just smooth everything out with tender comments like, “Look, you know I love you, right? So what the hell is your problem?” You have to actually DO nice things for them, and that requires effort. Putting effort into anything besides school and training isn’t usually something a weightlifter is interested in. If you’re not a giving person, then you need to be with somebody who’s willing to put up with a lot of crap. These are the ones who will stick with you, even when you’re acting like a self-centered schmuck who comes home pissed off after bad workouts.

Plus, another thing that makes this difficult is that you’re usually low on money during your big lifting years. Being broke (or almost broke) is part of being a high-level lifter, and it makes dating tough. Even if you want to do nice things for your girlfriend or boyfriend, you can’t because you don’t have any money. I remember the days of standing in front of the ATM and seeing the words “Insufficient funds for withdrawal” staring at me. The days when your P.O.S. car breaks down and you find out it’s going to take $300 to fix it so you can keep getting to the gym, then you start wondering how you’re going to eat next month. And you’re going through all of this because you’re completely dedicated to something that makes your back hurt. Yeah, we’re not normal people. This is probably why a lot of lifters date other lifters. Nobody else understands us or wants to deal with our lifestyle, so we just stay with our own kind.

What happens as you get older (at least in my personal experience), is you start to find balance in your life. Gradually, you develop an ability to keep training and be a better partner at the same time. Having balance in your life might seem like it’s going to make your lifts go down a little, because you don’t think you’ll be as sharp if you focus on anything besides yourself. But it can be done, and it won’t necessarily cause your total to drop into the toilet. Besides, you need to grow up and change a little as you get older, otherwise you’ll be in the same position at forty-five that you were when you were twenty. At least that’s what I’ve found. I’m in great shape in the relationship department now, but I had to pay some hard dues to get here. It might be the same for you, so hang in there.

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.

Read more by Matt Foreman


scott pauly 2012-05-22
Ya...been there, done that. Great article Matt.
Mykolas 2012-06-20
As someone who is currently 18, this is quite scary to think about. I want to acheive a good total, I enjoy lifting, though right now its somewhat easy to put everything but lifting and school aside. I don't party; I don't care for it, though at the same exact time... I LOVE being social and having fun at the same time. I guess I have to decide which is my focus. Yes, I want the "civilian" lifestyle, be able to have a social life, meet a nice girl, have fun. If I wasn't going to make training as important(it would still be a big part of my life), I couldn't accept half-assing any other aspect of my life. If I was to lessen my time lifting, I could never stand to sit around and play video games all day. I would need to live an amazing life.

I want to go on vacation with friends, I want to have FUN in life. Lifting is a lot of fun, don't get my wrong, it just requires a lot of dedication when you want to get good.

And as for the money etc, damn that feeling really sucks :(

Good article,

TJ 2014-06-20
Sounds like Matt Foreman is also a civilian based on the definition of the word civilian.
Matt Foreman 2014-06-21
I’ll mention something about my use of the word “civilian” since a few people have commented on it. I’m aware that the definition of civilian specifically relates to people who aren’t in the military, police, etc. According to that definition, it doesn’t exactly apply to Olympic lifting. I understand that. But I like to use it in the weightlifting context because it illustrates the big separation between two different groups of people (weightlifters and non-weightlifters). It’s a creative writing choice, plain and simple. It’s not intended to disrespect or minimize the people who serve in the armed forces. My father was a Marine who got shipped to Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my grandfather was a WWII veteran. The discipline they raised me with was the foundation for my whole life, especially my weightlifting career. So I have tremendous respect for our military, always have. Hopefully, everybody can enjoy the things I write without getting too hung up on the way I use one particular word. Either way, I’m probably gonna continue to use “civilian” in this way because I like it.
Tim Weaver 2015-07-16
I write for a living. Choosing the word "civilian" isn't a creative use, it's a wrong use. Words have meaning. I like the article overall, but this is just pretentious.
Ashley Fox 2015-07-16
Just dropkick the haters to GTFO resort with a one way ticket. I thought this was article was awesome and being in my 20s I can definitely relate.
Sarah 2015-07-16
Just date another weightlifter...problem solved. :)
Dave R 2015-07-17
In my experience with dating, when the other person does not share in the others passion or even support it, the thing is going the wrong way eventually, and that one-way ticket gets punched. Great article Matt!
Alisha 2015-07-17
Wow, seriously? It takes a very particular personality to be a "non-civilian" as Matt calls it. Military, police and fire risk their lives to protect other people, yes, but Matt isn't talking about the job itself, he's talking about the certain characteristics that almost all these people have within them that give them the drive, the courage and the determination to walk onto a battleground where the wrong step can instantly kill them or the police officer that pulls someone over, having no idea that they have a gun waiting for them or a fire fighter that runs into a enraged fire to search for any sleeping children that didn't wake up from the smoke. All these kinds of people have the tenacity to never give up or quit, no matter how hard it gets or how many times they've already failed or seen failure. Men and women continue the firefight with gaping holes in their body or their own skin burning through their turnouts just to finish the job they came to do. And then, guess what, they come back and do it all over again. These are the attributes that military, police and fire carry with them; there are also many other "civilian" people out there that have those same attributes, they just chose a different career. Weight lifting is hard. You fail more than you succeed; you get injured, sometimes small, sometimes big. But if you are serious about it (or any other sport or passion you have), you always come back. The conviction and dedication that you must have to keep fighting for something you want to accomplish, no matter the consequences is something that almost all "non-civilians" have as well as some "civilians". This is what Matt is talking about. A certain trait among us. And I am both, a fire fighter and a weight lifter. Great article Matt, thank you.
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