By David Schel
As baseball season nears the home stretch, football is gearing up. Sports, like entertainment in general, provides needed distractions from life’s difficulties. It also mirrors what goes on in our relationships and, in particular, marriage.
I say this as I’m going through my annual ritual of mustering up the energy to face another season as a New York Jets fan. Twenty years ago I moved from New York to California, but the New York Jets are still my team. I married them forty years ago, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Every time I thought they couldn’t play any worse – they did. We’ve been victory poor and it feels like rooting for them has taken 20 years off my life. They’ve let me down more times than I can remember. Unmet expectations – I’ve got a ton!
Every year, though, they tell me things are going to be different. I remember last year’s promise of a winning season, too. The Jets traded for Tim Tebow whose unconventional style and knack for winning was going to breathe excitement into our team. We were going to try new things, get wild and crazy, and recapture our youth. It didn’t happen, and there was an ugly divorce. Tim remarried our archrival. But now at season’s start, once again, as always, I’ve recommitted myself to my team and am excited for the new season.
The fans of the Miami Marlins baseball team have had a rough go of it with their team as well this year. The Marlins sit in last place with a beautiful new first place stadium. As the story goes, the city spent a lot of bond money building the stadium and then the team shed its expensive payroll – its superstars. Hence the team plummeted to last place, with low attendance and less tax dollars coming into the city than expected. A once hopeful relationship soured into ugly words and lawsuits. Marlins President David Samson defended criticism by saying that just because the team went through a divorce didn’t mean they lied on their wedding day.
And therein lies the problem. I assume the Marlins had good intentions just like every bride and groom on their wedding day. And so, at first glance, it seems David Samson was correct – divorce doesn’t mean the team lied on its wedding day. However, the flippancy with which Samson remarked speaks volumes to the ever growing dilution of our word as our bond everywhere in life. Today, when rationalizing away ownership of problems is as common as loyalty no longer is, when free agency in sports is only outdone by free agency in marriage, then yes, divorce does in fact mean we lied on our wedding day.
So what does all this mean for our marriages? Someone once said professional sports is tens of thousands of people who need exercise watching a few who don’t. The funny thing about being a fan is when we win, it’s just that, “we” won. We are as much a part of the team as the players. When our team is struggling and losing, however, somehow we become expert at telling “them“ all the things “they’ve” done wrong. I can’t count how many times I’ve sat on the couch – potato chip crumbs all over my shirt and my unshaven face stained by mustard – yelling at my favorite player: “ You idiot – how could you miss that play!”
Likewise, the slip-ups our spouse makes never seem to go unnoticed either and when things are not going well we’ve got easy answers for what ” they “ should do better.
But words from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi about football are as true for sports as marriage. Like football, marriage requires “perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, [and] dedication….”
Being a New York Jets fan has always been difficult, and this upcoming season has difficult written all over it. Still, I’m never going to quit on my team. I’ll just have to cheer harder.
Does not mean you lied … just means your word is no good. If your word is no good, no one can ever again rely on any promise you make.
I would imagine very few take marital vows with intent to break them. The real test is whether your word is good when marriage is not all you had hoped it would be.
Great article, and such a poignant truth – modern people are not incapable of lifelong loyalty for better or worse. In fact it is an important part of the finding an identity and a group to belong to — in the UK where I’m from, switching soccer loyalties is pretty much an unpardonable offence; a friend switched teams in early childhood, and is still given grief about it nearly 30 years later! I’ve noticed the same thing when actors are replaced in TV shows or movie franchises – fans are deeply resistant to it and grumble for years afterward that “they’re not as good as the original”.
This is nothing to do with acting abilities, but loyalty – people are loyal to the original. It becomes an important part of their life tapestry and narrative to stick with the original and follow it through. But somehow this has stopped applying to the narrative of marriage,. Interestingly I was reading some research the other day which said the most psychologically healthy children are those with a strong sense of a family narrative. And of course what divorce does is make that narrative skewed, incoherent and broken.
If only we could have more people as dedicated to the narrative of their family as they are to that of their sports teams!
Good point about lack of responsibility. But we always need to distinguish between “getting divorced” as the defendant in a No-Fault divorce and “divorcing your spouse” as the plaintiff — remember that 80% of divorces are unilateral and therefore 40% of the people involved in divorces had no choice in the matter.
I’m am 50/50 on this topic. My first marriage was based on emotions. It felt good. I missed all the red lights because I was happy in the moment. The only thing that changed really in the 10 years together was “fun”. We stopped having fun together. It didn’t “feel” good anymore. I’m on my 2nd marriage and feel the same way. Life is busy with 2 babies. There isn’t anytime for fun. We are so willing but have no family/friends close by. There is zero time for “us”. Two seperate lives passing by each other in the busy craziness. Some marriages are able to survive this phase and some cannot. Couples have to fight the gap that can happen over night. If the gap is huge, divorce city. I think the key is to prevent the gap because once the gap reaches a certain point, there is no turning back. You are now
Your enthusiasm you decide to get married. You feel ecstatic. During our time of high elation you may tru;y have felt tht you would do anything ever to cause a break-up on your apart. On your big day you make the typical vows to your partner: to love honor and cherish your relationship, and then you further affirm som ething like these serious “serious vows.”:
“I, take you, to be my lawful wife/husband. To have and to hold from this day
forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and inhealth; to love
honor and cherish; forsaking all others, until death do us part.”
In the spirit of celebrating your love (and maybe even writing some of the vows yourself) and you add a few well-intenioned romantic phrases:
I will always love you.
We will be together forever.”
Life seems wonderful, for a while, and then sometimes turns bad. You may later realize that you may have lied. Not intentionally—to your partner.especially not our marriage vows.
We may even say things that we cannot possibly know. But no one can positively predict the future. You just may not know that you will love your partner forever. But you don’t know for certain, Nobody can foresee what the future will bring.
So, what would a more honest marriage vow look like? Perhaps something like this:
I am deeply in love with you. I am so to grateful build a life with you. There is
no one I know that I would rather have as a partner in life. If that ever begins to
change, I vow to talk to you about it as openly and honestly as I can. I ask that you
do the same for me. We will lovingly and respectfully go from there.
Roy, while I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying, changing the traditional vows could essentially be the last step toward there being absolutely no difference between marriage and cohabitation. As it is, with unilateral no-fault divorce and our divorce culture, there really isn’t any distinction between cohabitation and marriage. I addressed this further in a piece I wrote called “I Didn’t Realize We Were Living Together” at davidschel.com .
Roy, we are at a pivotal moment in time. The seventy, eighty, and ninety-year old’s who pass on over the next thirty years take with them the last remnants of traditional values. While not every aspect of this lifestyle is something we might want to hold on to, each new generation is farther and farther away. So, again, while I agree with the spirit of what you are saying, I feel it would do more harm than good.
Changing our “standard vows” because too many people have proven to be disingenuous in taking them is akin to a parent giving in to a child who wants to do something unwise because “everyone else is doing it.”