Marriage Is A Team Sport
Sports are huge in my family. My wife, our two sons, and I were all university sports athletes, so you can imagine how much time was spent in gyms and rinks and on diamonds (and in the least expensive hotel we could find for all the tournaments).
Sports taught us profound life lessons about training and teamwork, about winning and losing, about owning the results of our effort and making peace with what we can’t control.
The insights we gained from a life of sports continue to shape our character and even our work with FamilyLife — strengthening the marriages and families of Canada. Here are two sports analogies that help me think better about marriage:
A Healthy Marriage Is More Like Golf Than Tennis
In tennis, only one player can win each point. Either I get it, or you get it. We are, in the sporting sense of the word, enemies. The dynamic in golf is completely different. Unless we play the game for a living, golf is not played in opposition; it’s played side by side. In golf, we don’t have enemies; we have partners. This is the right attitude for marriage, but it can be difficult for highly competitive people.
If sports have taught us to keep our elbows up, take a number and get even, to destroy and defeat the other, to win at all costs, we might be a difficult person to be married to. We might need a new perspective — to think about marriage more like golf, specifically like a two-person scramble.
In this golf format, each player plays their own golf ball. Then they decide together which ball is in the best position for the next shot. Both play from there and once again mutually decide which shot provides the best option moving forward. Like a great marriage, right? Two people working together, doing their best, sharing successes, and covering misplays.
A Healthy Marriage Is More Like Baseball Than Football
Football is a game of field position. You don’t have to score on every possession; you just need to gain ground. If you do, scoring is inevitable. But when you are losing field position, you are doomed.
Because field position is critical, teams fight for every yard, they dig in and make every effort to resist being moved — great characteristics for a football team but pretty destructive in marriage.
I talk to lots of men who feel like they are pinned on their own goal line in their marriage, who are either digging in or trying a desperate hail Mary play to get out of danger. And I encourage these guys to think differently about marriage — to think baseball and not football.
When you fail in baseball — let’s say you swing and miss — you get another pitch, another chance to do it right. If you don’t get a hit at bat, you get another turn in an inning or two, and even better, you start with a new count — no balls, no strikes — a true new beginning.
The key is forgiveness, to forgive each other just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). We aren’t backed up to our end zone today because of the mistakes of yesterday, and we don’t back our spouse into the end zone either. Each day is a clean start, a new inning, a new at-bat, another pitch and a new opportunity to get it right. To love better, communicate better, care better, lead better.
And that my brothers, to make another baseball analogy, is how to get home safe.