After my divorce, I decided I was only going to date athletes. My decision had nothing to do with body fat percentages or max bench press (although those factors certainly don't hurt!). Nor was this decision dependent upon the man in question being some sort of professional competitor. In fact, I define "athlete" as anyone who regularly and passionately engages in sports or physical activity.
So, why did I limit myself to dating athletes if iI didn't care about the size of a potential partner's biceps or the scope of his bank account?
All you have to do is watch the face of a runner in his or her last mile of a marathon to understand that athletes have grit. When the going gets tough, they know how to shift into that extra gear to get it done. This trait is key in relationships when you want a partner that is willing to persevere through the difficult times, rather than simply throw in the towel and walk away.
Athletes know how to work and play together. For those who are on a team, their teammates become their family as they share in the joys and disappointments of sport. For the solitary athletes, they become a part of the larger community of like-minded competitors. Athletes have a sense of belonging; they are loyal to their groups. That same spirit transfers into a relationship, bringing a sense of unity and camaraderie.
Anyone who engages in sports knows how to live in the moment and yet plan for the future. There is a balance between responding to the current game and training for the next. In a relationship, this balance between mindful living and future planning helps to create a partnership that thrives in the moment and will continue to grow in the future.
Athletes know how to make sacrifices to achieve their goals. They willingly (or sometimes begrudgingly!) trade in a momentary desire, such as a day off or a double bacon cheeseburger, for a longer-range aspiration. These are people that know the value of compromise and trade-offs, valuable skills in a romantic partnership. Of course, it's important to remember that sacrifice goes both ways in a relationship!
When you see a baseball player make a sacrifice fly or watch a basketball player give up on the risky, yet impressive shot to pass the ball to a teammate in a safer position, you are witnessing a sportsman who is more concerned about the bigger picture of the game than achieving glory in the moment. This trait in a relationship leads to a partner who can release the need to be right in an argument and instead will keep the focus on the status of the relationship as a whole.
Athletes know how to cheer on their teammates. They use positive messages to buoy one another and to provide support in times of doubt. It's wonderful to have a relationship partner that will be reassuring and provide encouragement when the going gets rough.
A nice pat on the rump is always appreciated and I'm usually willing to reciprocate -- especially with an athlete's butt!
Of course, just because someone has these characteristics on the field does not mean they are going to bring them into the home. But it gives a starting point and a vocabulary from which to build, both for yourself and your potential partner.
Thanks to online dating, I eventually found my athlete. He embodies all of these traits in the relationship and in athletics. And his biceps aren't too bad, either.