I posted your question on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AikidoAdviceForWomenAndAFewMen
and the following are the responses.As you can see there is quite a lot of advice here! Hope it helps

‪Ro Ma‪ It's because of the very true love. there are strong emotions involved. A true yin-yang‬
‪Take what he teaches you to use with others not him. And never try to make aikido techniques work with him,
Like · Reply · Yesterday at 9:04pm‬

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‪Christina Gilsdotter‪ I can't give advice on how to untangle it other than to say it is tied to the relationship you have. (You don't have this problem with other sempai.) It may also tie into your very normal need for control of your own body when you are establishing who controls what in the relationship. All relationships, especially romantic ones, have to negotiate who will take charge of what element of the ongoing interactions. On the mat, everyone has to take turns being nage ("in control of the technique") when practicing, and relationships don't naturally run like that. Instead, all relationships gravitate toward letting one person take charge of given type of thing, either because one person is better at cooking OR cares more about the cooking (to pick a random topic as an example) and the other person picks up the work of managing another area (say, managing the finances). If no agreement can be reached, the parties tend to manage such topic areas independent of each other, fight a lot, or the relationship breaks down. So I would say the struggle is real, normal... and all there is to "do" about it is to acknowledge (to yourself or to both of you) that this block is present on the mat, that it is OK to have it, and continue to breathe. Who knows what will come of it?
Unlike · Reply · 4 · Yesterday at 9:10pm‬

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‪Christina Gilsdotter‪ (Speaking as someone who dated her sempai once also)
Unlike · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 9:10pm‬

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‪Alister Gillies‪ Aikido is radical empricism - you have to find out for yourself by trying and failing. Your 'own' failure is extremely important and paves the way for what becomes your 'own' understanding. Strangely, perhaps, people who invest a lot of personal emotion in giving and receiving can make the worst teachers and students; anyone who has had driving lessons from a parent or spouse knows what I am talking about.
Unlike · Reply · 2 · 16 hrs‬

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‪Derek Nabel‪ Speaking as someone who was the sempai I'd say the easiest (and safest) thing to do would be agree to attend separate classes if good options exist or agree not to instruct each other at all. It was very frightening for me to see discomfort even though I was consciously doing my best to be respectful etc. Hopefully you are blessed with a partner who "gets" the problem and is as desperate as you to change the situation. Even if your partner hasn't mentioned it they are likely REALLY aware of the awkwardness.
Like · Reply · 1 · 16 hrs · Edited‬

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‪Laura Hilker‪ I always felt that if my husband ever decided to come to Aikido, I'd have him go to a different class than me, and if we did come to the same class, I'd stay away from helping him for that very reason. I know that I have a hard time learning certain things from him, I'm pretty sure the same thing would go the other way as well.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · 16 hrs‬

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‪Peter Zalinski‪ It seems to me that a lack of compartmentalizaton may be the issue... even spouses with a strong sense of 'this is my space, that is yours, here is how we cooperate' may find that they have different reactions in a public space where more than one role is in play in the relationship. It could be the very 'equality' of the relationship off the mat interferes with the inequality of the relationship on the mat. You can see it as a potential conflict of interests or an opportunity for growth -- and manage it accordingly to retain harmony within the various relationships.
Like · Reply · 14 hrs‬

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‪Crystal Aldrich‪ It's because you value the relationship more than your training. I've never dated a Sempai but my best friend is a Sempai. I had to create (that boundary) and acknowledge it. Now I can take his teachings as advice of a best friend.
Like · Reply · 2 · 14 hrs · Edited‬

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‪Shoshana Brassfield‪ I find this emotion completely understandable! There are some things you want to be able to share and you just don't want your romantic partner to condescend to you about it. I say, let him know that even though you appreciate he's just trying to be helpful, you would prefer him not to give you instruction unless you ask.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · 13 hrs‬

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‪Lee Alexander‪ If the sempai is teaching his own class, and you don't like to be taught by him, don't attend that class. If he is trying to teach you during someone else's class, he is complicating things. There should only be one teacher per class. While sempai can and should help their cohei, they should do it through their ukemi, not through their words, unless specifically asked. One teacher per class, please.
Unlike · Reply · 10 · 12 hrs‬

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‪Aikido Advice for Women...and a Few Men‪ Thanks all. This is Ginny. My husband and I are both 5th dan, when we started he was my Sempai for many years. It was difficult taking instruction fr him because of that natural dynamic between someone so close and familiar. It was like taking advice from your parent or sibling. Irritating. However, know that these interactions are normal. Many couples in Aikido go thru this. My husband is my greatest fan but he would also point out my deficits. It made me I determined to improve. Yes, i had to work hard. Now we have a mutual respect for our individual perspectives but do we still get irritated? Of course! That's life.
Like · Reply · 2 · Commented on by Ginny Breeland · 5 hrs · Edited‬

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‪Lijnie Reijers‪ I used to date my sempai until I married him (yesterday it was our 15th anniversary) and later on he even became one of my senseis. It was - and sometimes still is - a struggle. Since your personal relationship is based on equality where as your sempai-kohai is based on hierarchy. Sometimes I take my emotions with me on the tatami, but as soon as I realize that, I tell myself that I should focus on the training and the learning and leave all other matters aside. When that's very difficult I just take more distance and try to protect myself and my husband of getting frustrated by training with someone else or attend other classes. I've also told him about these difficult moments where I can't help myself, feeling blocked and frustrated by the feeling he'll always be one (or more) step ahead of me. By feeling unseen because I'm just a student of him while on the other hand I'm his wife! So it's a thing you need to figure out for yourself and see what works best for the both of you. For us it all works pretty well since he has been my uke during both my exams for 3rd and 4th Dan good luck!
Unlike · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs · Edited‬

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‪Andrea Kaus‪ This is one of the few questions I feel qualified to answer. I am the sempai in our dojo and I am married to the Sensei. We have been together for 15 years and married for almost 9. We agree to leave our personal relationship at the door of the dojo. When we enter the dojo, he is the instructor and I am the student, period. He views me as both another student and assistant instructor and I view his instruction as such, independent of personal overtones or undertones. It means recognizing and letting go of my ego or any proclivity to be "right" or in control, but that is part of Aikido training anyway.That doesn't mean that we don't acknowledge that we are married or even joke about it (as in, "don't forget that I have the keys to car," or, " you have to leave the dojo sometime . . . " or "ow, dammit, just wait an hour to hear about this"), but we leave the personal connections and whatever we might be dealing with together or apart outside the threshold of the dojo. As he says, if it is ours, it will be waiting for us when we leave, and if not, we have given it a chance to go away. He has the same policy for parents and children that train with us: once you are on the mat, you are not parent and child anymore, just two students training together. ‬

‪He is also very aware of the tensions that a being a couple can create among others in the dojo too. I received my nidan rank in another dojo, but when it came time to advance to sandan in his dojo, he arranged for me to test at a sister dojo under another sensei with a higher rank than him, as well as inviting two other senseis to oversee the testing. He observed but did not participate in the test or the decisions. Just know that as long as you are in a relationship with the sempai or anyone higher ranking than you, there will always be whispers and rumours that your advancement is due to that relationship rather than your own personal development. You will have to take extra steps to make sure that, even if everything is above board, that everything appears to be above board as well.‬

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