Partners of motorcyclists - how do you manage your anxiety?
June 10, 2014 7:30 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend has had a motorcycle for years, since before we met. I've always known he loves motorcycles and will always want to have one. I've always had some anxiety about his safety on the bike - not because I don't think he's a cautious and experienced rider (he is very much so) but because, well, they can be quite dangerous, especially in the city. We live together now and I'm more aware of his comings and goings than I used to be, so I find myself feeling more and more fearful of something happening to him while riding.

I wonder whether he got to work safely each day. There have been times when he hasn't returned my call immediately and I've imagined the worst. I don't want to project this onto him and make HIM nervous about riding, or seem paranoid, so I rarely convey exactly how anxious it makes me. When I have, he just assures me that he's safe and wears all his gear and he has a safe bike and he has never had an accident before, etc etc. I've ridden with him a few times. Seeing how safely he operates did allay some of my fears, but I still worry about him each day. I'm going on a trip with a friend in a few months and during that time my boyfriend will be going on a long distance ride. I hate the idea of spending my trip worrying about him.

I have not and will not ask him to get rid of his bike, as he is a grown man and this is a part of his life that he really enjoys. It's also something he and his (now deceased) father closely bonded over, and I could never take that from him. My question is more about me - how can I manage my anxiety around this better? It's quite draining.

Any other partners of motorcyclists have experience with this? Any tips? Thanks!
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I worry about myself as a motorcyclist just as much, but he could be run over by a bus or stricken with cancer tomorrow. In fact, it sounds like that's much more likely given his approach to riding. That's not to say either will happen. Enjoy your time with him and be in the moment, that's all you can ever do. A lot of people have ridden bikes without dying - in fact, most of us haven't!
posted by kcm at 7:33 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband rides a motorcycle. In fact, despite being an extremely responsible rider, who wears full gear and is generally cautious, he was in a motorcycle accident about a year and a half ago--he lost control of his bike on some gravel and wrecked it. Boy was that a scary afternoon.

After that, everyone told him how "lucky" he was to still be "allowed" to ride but I'd rather see him (responsibly) do risky things that make him happy than live in fear like some kind of caged animal. I've done risky things before and he's never tried to restrict me. That's not what our relationship is about. Still, he's respectful and communicative. He doesn't ride when he's at all tired, mostly goes for short rides, texts me to let me know he got home safe. And he doesn't mind doing that stuff at all. Mutual respect really, really helps.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

My husband rides and introduced me to it, but then I took the Alberta Safety Council course (similar to MSF in US) and it really put it in perspective. Even if you don't want to ride, I think you should take an introductory riding course. You're anxious because the risk is abstract and unknown to you. Taking the safety course and riding a bit will make the risk (which isn't *that* high) realistic and normal.
posted by Kurichina at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

Consider telling him how anxious this is making you and see if he's willing to get in the habit of checking-in with you to let you know he's ok. I don't think that sharing this with him is going to make him nervous about riding and I don't think that you should have to manage this anxiety on your own when some check-in habits could help you feel much more at ease.

My husband was also a long-time motorcycle rider. I never pressured him to stop, but I was honest about how worried I would get if he was delayed and didn't let me know. We worked out a reasonable communication system that helped a lot. At some point, something changed about how he saw riding. He noted that drivers were far more distracted on the road and that riding was becoming more dangerous. He, thankfully, only had a minor accident that could have been way worse, but wasn't. Around this same time, we had a very, very experienced rider in our friend group get into a catastrophic accident that killed his wife (who was riding with him). After that, my husband put away his bike and another mutual friend sold his brand-new dream bike. Honestly, considering how traumatic that was, I don't know if I could have been as OK with his riding as I had been before. Luckily, I didn't have to find out.

Many people who ride motorcycles do so for many years without incident, but it's also a risky mode of transportation. The accidents that people close to me have been in were all caused by careless car and truck drivers. There's only so much that safe, responsible, experienced riding can shield you from and there's nothing wrong with honestly talking to your partner about that and finding ways to mitigate your anxiety.
posted by quince at 8:06 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's also ok if motorcycle riding is a deal breaker in a relationship for you. It was for me. I've had two close relatives in terrible motorbike accidents through no fault of their own.

Generally motorcyclists (like pilots) are incredibly personally safety's the car drivers that don't see them, nor appear to care about them that concerned me.

Because of this, I chose it to be something I wasn't prepared to be quiet about. I didn't want to be in a relationship with someone that spent an hour a day, every day, extremely physically vulnerable.

I'm absolutely not saying you should end your relationship, but letting you know that other people feel very strongly about the vulnerability of motorbike riders and you're not overreacting. How to find a resolution you both are happy with is probably in the "needs more (calm) communication" bracket.
posted by taff at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you and your partner have iPhones, you may find it helpful to monitor his progress using the "Find my iPhone" feature. My partner uses this when I am riding my motorcycle and she says that it helps keep her from worrying as she can see when I have arrived at my destination.
posted by bakery at 10:51 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Partners of motorcyclists - how do you manage your anxiety?
Take an MSF course. Seriously.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:50 PM on June 10, 2014

If you're interested in the iPhone idea but don't have an iPhone, there are many Android GPS tracker apps too. The ones I know (runkeeper, mapmyride, ridewithgps, endomondo, strava) are used to track exercise, but there is no reason why you couldn't use them to track motorcycle rides, and there are probably apps specifically for that too. My partner and I both use Endomondo and when he is out exercising I can see where he is (Endomondo has a live view) and also when he is finished.
posted by blub at 2:26 AM on June 11, 2014

Continuing with the iPhone idea, Waze is an app specifically for drivers and riders that would allow him to share his location with you in real-time.
posted by penguinicity at 2:49 AM on June 11, 2014

You might consider asking him to use a Spot tracker on his bike. It's a cigarette-pack size weatherproof personal locator beacon. Spot's base functionality allows the rider to send "OK", "Need Help" and "911 NOW" messages with the push of a button. Upgrade functionality allow anyone with Internet access to watch the Spot's movement across the map. You could verify that the Spot made it to his workplace before being turned off, or if he travels on the bike you can watch his progress without needing to check in with him.

Bear in mind, though, that he might see this request as an invasion of privacy or excessive nannying. If you ask him to do this, be mindful how you frame the request.

My husband and I share custody of a Spot; if we're traveling together our friends watch our progress. If we're traveling alone (like in this picture, I was on my way to Utah to meet some friends while Mr. Ant stayed home) we can keep tabs on each other without intrusive texts and calls.
posted by workerant at 8:36 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not exactly an answer to your question, but I just discovered this video which deals with the same concerns....
posted by growabrain at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2014

Consider this -- if he has proper motorcycle-safety training, has a valid license, has insurance, wears gear, doesn't drive impaired, and is male, then he's statistically in the safest subgroup of riders who are least likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident, at least according to the Hurt Report (which, granted, is 33-years-old).

This is what I told myself prior to the day I got creamed by a minivan that ran a stop sign.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2014

I solved this problem by buying myself a motorcycle. I still do occasionally get the "she's 20 minutes late she must be dead" anxiety, but frankly I get that even if she's out by foot or by car. And I put it out of my head because it's ridiculous. And when I ride my motorcycle I realize that this is why we are alive and the occasional intrusive thought is more than worth it.
posted by 256 at 8:29 AM on June 12, 2014

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