The balance of marriage and hunting is a challenge. For some couples, the process is more natural than for others. The best balance results in an enriched marriage. The worst balance leads to a hunter's spouse feeling resentful, lonely, and jealous.
My passion for the hunt was somewhat confined during the first years of marriage. Work required us to live in the south where I did not particularly enjoy hunting. Instead, I saved money and flew to the northwest every year for a week of archery elk. Rachel was aware of my passion, but she did not fully realize it until we moved back to the mountains.
After the Army, we relocated to the glorious state of Montana. Here, I can hunt bucks and bulls from the first week of September into the last week of November. After the long winter is spring bear. Then it's back to hiking and scouting for big bulls all summer until September finally returns.
Rachel suddenly saw my passion for hunting and the outdoors in full blast. She saw hunting is not just a week trip once a year. Hunting is a lifestyle. When it's hunting season, I am in the woods. When it's not hunting season, I am thinking about and planning hunts. Call it an addiction, but I am definitely one that dreams about the fall all 12 months of the year.
To my credit, I knew I could not hunt whenever I wanted for however long I wanted—not if I truly valued my wife and her needs. I have seen other hunters do this and they had marriages I did not envy. Fortunately, Rachel wanted to take part in my favorite passion because she saw how important it was to me. Rachel wanted to be invited into the adventure. This was a blessing while simultaneously presenting a new challenge: I was a very impatient teacher and very driven.
For complete transparency, we have experienced many ups and downs along the way to where we are now. I remember one of our lows during late rifle season. We had hiked into one of my elk holes before light. The mountaintops were turning pink as dawn crept upon us. I had already pushed my luck that morning with my intensity. I was grumpy and impatient about something or other and I made some thoughtless and judgmental comment to my wife. The cloud burst and tears sprang forth. Needless to say, we had a long walk back to the truck as the sun came up followed by a longer conversation about how hunting should look in our marriage.
With that in mind, I have recognized Rachel and I approach hunting from opposing perspectives. Rachel came from a much more relaxed hunting background. For her, the hunt was mostly about being together outdoors. A little late in the morning, forgetting a piece of equipment, or stopping for a snack were no big deals. I, on the other hand, focused more on accomplishing the mission—no breaks, no going home, no forgetting equipment, and no being late! Today, we still exemplify our individual traits, but we have each grown towards the traits of the other.
I have learned teaching my wife is not the same as teaching men. Rachel learns differently and responds to critique differently. She does not always want to go as hard as I do and that is ok. Physically, Rachel is in excellent shape and out walks most men. The differences are predominantly the knowledge gap and my perspective versus hers on what "fun" means. When I hunt, I am out there with a goal in mind. Come hell or high water, I stay in the woods no matter how tired, sore, hungry, cold, hot, or wet I get. My bride is not always a fan of this.
Balance is always the key. I want to hunt with Rachel and enjoy our time together. However, I still need time to get away and do my own thing or get out with the guys. Rachel and I both see time spent in the woods together as valuable for our relationship. We both want to fill our tag and accomplish a goal. The more we can work as a team to fill our freezer the better.
The lessons we have learned hunting together pour over into other areas of marriage. We have both recognized and learned to value the differences between the two of us. I have learned some of these differences in a marriage are simply the result of how God created men and women while some of the differences are due to how we have been shaped as individuals. I have learned to respect my wife and meet her where she is. It is slowly making me less selfish and more patient. Slowly.
We have grown and learned much, with much left to learn. I think our journey is normal. A relationship that lasts is one that bears through growth and trial. I am thankful that hunting is a part of our journey.
Nothing good comes easy!