Love Like Figure Skaters: Why Pairs Embodies the Perfect Relationship


I spent a portion of the past weekend watching the Women’s, Pairs, and Men’s National Figure Skating Competitions. I was literally brought to tears by the perfect marriage of grace, strength, finesse, determination, and vulnerability demonstrated on the ice over the weekend. One of my dreams as a young girl was to be a figure skater, but lack of funds and proximity to an ice skating rink defeated even the possibility of a hobby before it began. I have never lost my love for the sport, and the passion I feel for figure skating gives me, I suppose, a glimpse into some of what others must feel when they gather together to watch things that I don’t understand, like the Superbowl.

Individual figure skaters are inspiring. Their journeys, I imagine, are similar to that of all performers–the biggest obstacle is oneself. The mind can overpower even the most trained athlete causing costly mistakes, and at the same time it is vital to let go in a performance and trust that what one has learned one will perform. Each event tells a story, every move is calculated and yet expected to be genuine and in the moment, and as you get better things only get harder. Also, I have never seen more powerful people wearing so much glitter–my heaven.

As if accomplishing even a modicum of the above weren’t on the brink of impossibility, some figure skaters pair up and do all of the above and more with another person. The more couples I watched compete this weekend, the more I realized that what these skaters have on the rink is what I eventually want for my romantic life. Each skater, on their own, is a superb athlete. They are in control of their craft, of their actions, and their outcomes. But then they are expected to rely on someone else. On another superb athlete, who is also used to taking care of their own actions. In the few minutes allotted for each event they must rely on each other to fly, twirl, catch, continue on when the other falls, spin in tandem, in sync, and almost blindly leap in and out of each others arms (and under their legs and above their heads and on and on and on). As a layperson (I know nothing more of the technical side of skating than what I learned from made-for-tv movies) I can only imagine what that feels like. I can liken some of the mental/emotional side to my own absolutely terrified singing journey, but every sport is different in its own ways.

The commentators all talked about how time together as a skating couple often makes a huge difference in learning to trust each other, which can then make or break a competition. The winning ice couple were very recent partners so it was surprising that they moved so easily with each other in mind. Another new couple that did not do so well was brought down because the seasoned skater was so worried about his brand-new partner that he could not focus on what he needed to do.

One of the most beautiful moments, to me, of pairs skating was the way when one partner faltered the other would continue doing their best, and then the couple would flow back into their routine together leaving behind completely the mistake and working toward their shared goal, telling the same story as though the fumble had never occurred. That takes ultimate trust on both sides: trust that the partner knows what needs doing, that they will do it, and that they will also be waiting for the other to return to their outstretched hand.

I want that. I want a relationship where each partner is completely competent and happy on their own–able to succeed without each other. I want a relationship where those two individuals come together for a shared life, understanding that they will both mess up from time to time, but they are devoted to continue on. Yes, they learn from their mistakes, but they don’t stay hung up on them. They don’t punish their partner for messing up, just as a a champion pairs skater wouldn’t diverge from the program because their partner fell, but the two come back together in order to make something greater than themselves.

It will take something (someone) quite wonderful to entice me out of singledom. Until then, I will be a champion of my own life.

Congratulations Ashley Wagner, Women’s Gold Medalist, Jeremy Abbott, Men’s Gold Medalist, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin Pairs Gold Medalists, and all of your peers. Thank you for bringing beauty into my weekend, and I look forward to watching all of you as you progress to Four Continents and Worlds.

Sincerely,

Emilie

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