“My Partner Is Uncomfortable With Me Training Jiu-Jitsu. What Do I Do?”

You should always spar with a variety of partners.

I know, I know — “Dump them!”

Alternatively, if you don’t want to end an otherwise fulfilling relationship, there are more ways to settle jiu-jitsu-related disputes without either side issuing ultimatums.

While those of us who train jiu-jitsu understand that there’s nothing “weird” about grappling (aside from the neon spandex and choking each other with clothing), BJJ is often a strange concept to those outside of the community. The “real world” doesn’t often put us in positions of such close physical proximity to other people in a platonic setting, and as with most uncommon scenarios, it’s hard to imagine how you’d feel in that situation if you haven’t actually been there.

If your significant other feels some unease about you training, ask them why. For many people, it’s the physical closeness that makes them jealous or uncomfortable. And while it’s easy for BJJ practitioners to roll their eyes and say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a sport,” what non-practicing spouses (perhaps especially those who may already struggle with self-esteem issues) may see is their partner with their body pressed up against someone who is likely in decent shape, sweaty, and shares a common hobby.

Of course, we know that mid-roll, all we can think about it “submit or be submitted.” But again, that’s because we have the experience to understand this unique dynamic between training partners.

Other people simply aren’t comfortable with the violence (yes, even “safe” violence) that jiu-jitsu athletes practice. For people who have never trained before, their only experience with jiu-jitsu may be what they’ve seen in MMA, which is often paired with blood, black eyes, and submissions that come on hard and fast. Again, if your significant other isn’t confident about their own self-defense skills or even if they come from an abusive background, this disconnect between their anxieties and the reality of BJJ may prompt them to worry about what could happen if their partner decided to use those techniques on them.

No matter what reasons your partner may have for being uncomfortable with your training, the best way to help them understand your side of things is to have them try a class. Sitting on the sidelines and watching can help, but it can also exacerbate their anxiety if they have concerns about you training with particular people. Getting on the mats themselves can help them put their fears and insecurities to rest as they develop a better of your mindset during training.

Make sure your partner is also involved with team activities outside of the gym, where applicable. If they have more opportunities to meet your teammates and coaches, they may feel less like an outsider or a “secret.” The families of our teammates are valued members of the community, and being welcomed with open arms may help your loved one feel better about the people you train with.

If your significant other absolutely won’t even try training, encourage them to take up other hobbies that meet the needs jiu-jitsu meets for you. Parents, in particular, can get so wrapped up with taking care of the kids that they may set their own physical and emotional needs aside. Help your partner research other physical and social activities that they could also fill their time with, even if it means sacrificing some of your own time (which, yes, may include some of the time you spend training) to ensure they also have an outlet.

If the issue of training vs. leaving jiu-jitsu forever remains a great divide in your relationship, it may be worth bringing the issue to a professional counselor who can help you navigate the specific issues in your relationship. It’s up to you to decide whether your relationship is more important than your ability to train jiu-jitsu, but consider the pros and cons before leaving either one behind.

Your relationship should be a source of happiness for both of you, and if the activity you love most proves to be a dealbreaker for your partner, you both may be better off taking different paths. Beyond this, though, be wary of anyone who makes you give up something you’re passionate about because of their own insecurities. It doesn’t have to mean that one of you is right or wrong, but simply that you each have your own wants and needs within a relationship.


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