Football Widow Woes

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Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, a new advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker.  Send your questions to [email protected]

Hi, Al:

Now that the football season is well underway, I am resenting all the weekend time taken up with my husband watching games with or without his football buddies. The college games are on Saturday (sometimes Thursday and Friday, too), and the professional games are on Sunday as well as Monday and Thursday night, so I’m beginning to feel Football claustrophobia.  We hardly ever get together with other couples because they guys don’t bring their wives or girlfriends because the women have so little interest in watching football. My only option  is just try to be friendly and cheerful to his fellow game-watchers when I’m really grinding my teeth with resentment and disappointment.

The side-effect that is in some ways even worse than the main issue is the distance that is created between us because of his involvement with the all-consuming nature of the football culture and my resentment of it.  With the lack of shared interest, my interest in intimacy really takes a nosedive because I feel like he doesn’t care about us. My feeling is in strong contrast to his all during the season, since watching football with his friends makes him feel so good. Naturally, our love life suffers.

Normally, he is a loving husband who takes good care of me, so I guess I should just get over being mad and get through the season.

Any suggestions besides “GO RAVENS!”?

Sideline Barbie

Dear Sideline:

You don’t love football and you resent the amount of time your husbands spends with it—I get it, but you do love your husband, right?  The football and his involvement with it is going to be there, so you can’t change that reality. However, you can change the reality of how you feel about it.

One way is to stop dreading your husband’s football season of watching and socializing with his football buddies. Part of your angst is just imagining how you are going to be miserable.  Somewhere along the way, I heard that “depression is living in the past, anxiety is living in the future, and happiness is living in the present.” Let go of the rope in this tug of war between what you remember and what you expect, so you can be happy in between.

You can create a whole new dynamic between your husband and you when it comes to football by trying to share his involvement.

Tell him that you want to learn about the game from him—he’ll probably be flattered. While you watch the game together, ask him to explain a particular aspect of the game that seems confusing, but don’t say you don’t understand anything because mostly likely he’ll get frustrated. Just focus on a small piece of the mayhem, for example: “What is pass interference?”  (Don’t ask why it’s called “play-action” because nobody knows.) He’ll recognize and appreciate that you are paying attention.

Don’t despair that the entire spectacle resembles “ignorant armies clashing by night.” The game does have a logic to it, just like any other activity. And don’t worry that most of it still makes no sense because little by little (remember that football is a ”game of inches”), the “fog of [gridiron] war” will lift.

As you begin to understand individual elements of the game, you will gain a basic understanding of what’s going on.  (My wife even understands why a team will “go for it on fourth and 5” when it’s on the other team’s 30, after years of saying, “What’s the difference between a punt and a kick-off, again?) You’ll be surprised at how the sport can start to make sense as you keep putting the pieces together to solve the puzzle of this complicated game and, more important, your husband’s passion for it.

So get off the sidelines, Barbie, and get into the game—of understanding your Ken, his passion for football, and most important of all–his passion for you. Maybe you’ll even start to look forward to having people over to share the love—of the game, that is. It could be a gamechanger!

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  1. I so look forward to Whit’s End — always such sage advice, given with gentleness and humor. I will be quoting him frequently, especially this week’s kernel of wisdom: “depression is living in the past, anxiety is living in the future, and happiness is living in the present.” Kudos to the editor for bringing him into the “Fishbowl Fold”!

    • Thanks, Millicent. I look forward to the questions every week. That “kernel” applies almost daily.

  2. I can’t believe you are wasting ink (albeit vitual)on this issue when we have real issues going on in the world. At least your article on Syria was not a bunch of fluff.

  3. This business of encouraging children to be be aggressive – to battle eachother – is what leads to road rage. How about physical activities that promote kindness instead of humiliating the other teams?

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