Couples Turn to Emotional Martial Arts for Relationship Self-Defense

BOSTON.  It’s 6:30 a.m., but Katie Umlau is already forty-five minutes into a Friday morning workout she says she “desperately needs to get ready for this weekend.”

“I am NOT eating your mother’s stupid pineapple upside-down cake!”


“Work it, Katie!” her instructor, Phil Eversharp says as he checks a clipboard to make sure they cover all the bases in a grueling program of “mixed emotional arts” he designed to get her in tip-top shape to keep the demands of her husband, Max, at bay.  “I’m expected to put up with my in-laws AND bring a dessert,” to a Sunday family get-together she’d rather skip to power-walk with her friend Amy.  “I need something stronger than Zumba.”

“The only golf you’ll be playing this weekend is mini-putt-putt with your children.”


Modeled after mixed martial arts, under which a variety of blows that would be illegal in other sports of combat are allowed, mixed emotional arts combines brow-beating, sarcasm, defensiveness and dubious eyebrow lifts to tone and firm psyches worn down by the work week.  “I was such a wuss before,” says Cynthia Mainwaring, a thirty-something housewife from a western suburb as she completes two sets of ten exaggerated sighs and eye rolls.  “Now when my husband says he’s playing golf Saturday AND Sunday I tell him ‘Not if you want to taste the fruits of the marital bed again in 2020.’  It’s a very effective spin-and-block move.”

“Name three out of our five kids and I’ll let you up!”


Men are playing catch-up in the new discipline, having been caught off guard while watching overweight announcers on TV sports talk shows late into the night.  “I tried the snort-and-sniff of skepticism when my wife said she was going shopping for a little something for her friend Lisa’s birthday,” says Ralph Adamle, an insurance underwriter.  “I nearly threw my back out, and I haven’t even seen the credit card bill.”

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