Do you like football?
Not everybody does, of course, a reality that can lead to frustrations in marriage.
My wife, Jean, isn’t a raving fan of the game, but she appreciates the enjoyment the boys and I get from both playing and watching it. That said, we’re not overly “plugged in” to a regimen of watching on television. Because we don’t watch regular TV at all, catching a Sunday afternoon game is a treat.
But what about the husband or wife (women make up 45 percent of the NFL fan base) for whom football is a major passion? Could there be too much of a good thing?
I want to share some wisdom on the subject from my colleague and friend, Dr. Greg Smalley. Greg heads up Focus’ marriage efforts. He recently shared a bit about the very real problem football season represents to many marriages, and what couples can do to help minimize and even resolve, the conflict.
First up, let’s examine the problem.
For marriages that are “unequally yoked” when it comes to football, the football widow (or widower!) feels alone. Why should so much time and money be devoted to watching a game played by people we don’t know – and who don’t know we even exist?
Okay, but what if you’re the football fan? If your spouse regularly blows off your interest in the game, you might very well feel disrespected. On what basis are they trivializing it and calling it “just a stupid game”? After all, perhaps the non-football fan enjoys watching old movies … movies featuring dead people acting out fictitious scripts!
And so the couple experiences conflict. What can do they do? Greg offers some suggestions for both the football widow, and the football fan.
For the football widow:
1. Be respectful and recognize the benefits.
Try not to marginalize or ridicule your spouse’s love of football. After all, it’s not all bad. For many fans, the love of football goes beyond the game. It’s something they can look forward to all week and a chance to blow off stress. For others, football provides a time to bond with friends or other family members.
2. Sacrifice and watch a game.
Marriage goes both ways, so you can probably come up with various examples of your spouse doing something he or she dislikes for your sake. Now’s the time to return the sacrificial love by sitting with your football-loving husband or wife as a way to bond and connect. You can do your own thing – read a book, work on a crossword puzzle, catch up on Facebook, take a nap. Just being close together will help your spouse feel loved.
3. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
If you’re truly committed to overachieving, get interested in your spouse’s favorite team. Most fans are happy to share why they love their team and help a rookie understand how the game is played.
Your involvement might help make the game into a family affair complete with a pre-game meal, special snacks for the game or other fun family traditions. Celebrating a win together or mourning a loss can help create special memories.
4. Do self-care.
If you can’t bear the thought of sitting through a game, don’t sulk or nag – instead, take advantage of the time! Think of the game as an opportunity to work out, go out with friends, or indulge in a hobby. If your spouse is home, leave the kids and have some alone time! Whatever you do, using the time to pursue your unique interests and likes might even make you look forward to football season.
5. Turn the game into a social event.
You probably aren’t the only football widow/widower in your circle of friends, so use the game as an opportunity to connect with other couples or families. Those who love the sport are free to enjoy the game while the others can catch up, play board games and have their own fellowship.
For the football fan:
1. Practice moderation.
Excessiveness and extreme behavior is never good for your marriage, so you need to think about balance and fairness. Even the biggest football fan should recognize there is no need to watch 30-plus hours of football during the week – if you’re parked in front of your T.V. on Thursday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night, then your marriage needs balance. It’s up to you to practice self-control and devote some of that time to nurturing your marriage and family life.
One tip Greg shares is to DVR the games. That will help fans skip through the talk and the ads and watch their favorite teams in much less time.
2. Express gratitude to your football widow.
A simple “thank you” acknowledging that your spouse is making a sacrifice goes a long way.
3. Serve your spouse during non-game days.
During the week, tend to your marriage and your household duties. Be intentional about taking your wife out on a date or taking part in one of her favorite activities. Watch his favorite T.V. show during the week. The bottom line is this: The more your spouse feels served, cherished, valued, and connected during the week, the more likely they will be to support your football hobby.
Whether you’re a football widow or fan, it’s a good idea to keep short accounts. Talk through your feelings with honesty, vulnerability and respect. Make an effort to have that discussion at an opportune time when your spouse has an open heart and can focus on what you’re saying. Together, you can come up with win/win solutions that will help you both feel connected with each other.
Have you experienced football woes with your spouse? If so, let me know what compromises have helped keep the peace and maintain marital unity in your home. Your advice might help another couple out!
-Why did you deal with the football widow first, as if it’s their problem?
Why did she(he) get five exercises and the fan only three? Very slanted.
– I can relate my fiancé goes to his parents ever Sunday to watch the game even if I don’t go. He has been doing it since we’ve been dating. I would like for him to tape his games and be able to do our own thing but his mom is very controlling.
Carolyn Lancaster says
– I wish you offered more here. We have 3 young kids and my husband still insists on watching a lot of games, leaving me to fend for myself, as it were. I guess he’s willing to step away if he’s needed, but it’s exhausting taking care of 3 5 and under. He’s also not one to “take care of” our marriage. Date night is rare and not affordable. He doesn’t really talk about his feelings… mostly just football. So while I appreciate this article, there are still some gaps in the advice.
– Thanks so much for sharing, Carolyn. We hear your frustration, and we’d love to offer some more specific help. If you’d like to speak with a Focus counselor, please feel free to call us at 800-A-FAMILY (800-232-6459) between 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM (Mountain) M-F. We’ll be happy to arrange a callback, free of charge. God bless you!