Two of my favorite things are participating in sports and spending time with my wife. So, when I can combine these together, it’s one of the greatest things ever! For most of my married life, these 2 activities have been separate though. Running, tennis, and ultimate frisbee dominated my sports involvement for the first 10 years of our marriage. I loved doing them, but hated the fact that it meant time away from Julia and Eli. As long as I wasn’t overcommitting myself, this was an ok trade-off, though. It was important for me to have an athletic outlet, and I have always loved it.
Julia started playing tennis a couple years ago. Right away, we joined a mixed doubles team and have played together ever since. It has been so much fun for me to have both of us doing something together that I love and can share with her. It surprises me when I see how few couples that both play tennis actually play TOGETHER though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “oh, my spouse and I could NEVER play together. We’d kill each other!” I think it’s a shame really. Here is what I think the problem is… Many people are very competitive when it comes to sports. There is nothing wrong with that, BUT there IS something wrong when that competitive nature leads to hurtful actions and words toward the person you are playing with.
Let’s picture a scenario… Your wife hits the ball into the net on an important point. You’re so upset that something like, “Come on! Hit it UP!” or “Aaargh! Watch the ball!” comes out of your mouth. And your poor attitude and muffled grumblings only convey a sense of how disappointed you are in what she is contributing to your team.
Now, imagine how she is feeling…she is probably just as disappointed as you are with losing the point. But, on top of that, she now feels belittled by your disapproval of her skill. She WANTS to feel…that you love her even though she missed that shot…that it will be ok because it’s just a tennis match…that everyone misses shots (including you sometimes) and you don’t judge her for it. Do you really think that getting upset at her or yelling at her is going to get the point back or prevent the same mistake from happening again? As if the only reason she missed the shot is because you weren’t mad enough yet?
Now, I realize most people don’t play tennis, but everyone has SOMETHING they can do with their wife that has a competitive side to it. Board games, cards, video games, sports, etc all have potential for spouses to enjoy doing something together, but also have potential for hurtful attitudes and overly competitive behavior.
Here is my challenge to you:
When you’re competing at something with your wife…ease off on the pressure. Do your best, but have fun first and foremost. And above all, if she makes a mistake, make sure she knows it is ok…that you’re not mad at her and your love for her is WAY more important than a game.