Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Reason to Cheer: How to be a Supportive Spouse

“HE IS NOT PERFECT,” I wanted to shout.  I knew he was wonderful -- I chose to marry him.  But although I adored Craig, I began to fear that I might be the only person who could see that he was not always perfect. 

Sensing my frustration, a friend told me about “Mark and Kelly”.  The story completely changed how I viewed my role as Craig’s wife:

“As a child, Mark was put on a pedestal by his parents, teachers, and friends.  He was smart, athletic, and he always seemed to work harder than the other children.  As he grew older, the pedestal grew higher as his hard work and natural gifts helped him develop into a collegiate sports star.   

When he was drafted to play in the NFL, thousands of fans suddenly knew his name.  The fans lifted him so high upon his pedestal that he could no longer see the ground.  

Mark had no idea how high he was standing.  He was a star from as far back as he could remember.  

Then, one day, Mark met Kelly.  He was smitten.  She adored him too.  As they fell in love, she leapt onto the pedestal with him.  Mark was so in love with Kelly that he didn’t even hear the fans’ cheers anymore.  He only heard her.  It became her applause for which he played. 

A few months after they were married, Kelly turned her gaze from Mark and began to look down from the pedestal.  She was scared.  They were really high in the air.  She thought Mark should be scared too.  “We’ve got to get down,” she warned Mark.  “This pedestal is too tall.  Hang on tightly or you’re going to fall”.  

The more she looked down, the more frightened she became.   As she found herself hanging on for dear life, she couldn’t use her hands to cheer for him any more.  That was okay, though, because she reasoned that clapping would only continue to elevate the pedestal higher and higher.  Kelly was sure that her warning of the danger of being too high was Mark’s only chance of becoming grounded.  

A few years into their marriage, she began to shout to the fans,  “Stop cheering, he is not as great as you think.”  Mark didn’t pull his weight around the house.  He was gone six and a half days a week, on the road for games, and gave his body entirely for the sport that he loved.  When he was home, he was too sore to play with their kids or do chores around the house.  Can’t they see that?  Kelly wondered.

The more the fans cheered for him, the more Kelly feared that Mark’s ego would inflate as the pedestal continued to rise.  What she didn’t realize is that Mark only heard her.  He didn’t play for the cheers of the fans.  He played to impress her.  From the day they met, he always had.  

But after a while, Kelly forgot how great he was and why she started cheering for him in the first place.  She was unhappy in her invisibility as a sport’s wife and scared at the top of her husband’s pedestal.

The cheers would, inevitably, stop.  When Mark’s career was over after that season, the fans disappeared. When they did, there was nothing left to balance the criticism he heard at home.   

Years later, a fan asked “Didn’t you used to be Mark?”  He nodded, remembering the way they used to see him -- the way he used to see himself.  

There was nothing left to counteract Kelly’s shouts of his shortcomings.  Sadly, Kelly and Mark began to see their marriage through the story Kelly told.  They believed the lies.  In the silence, only memories remained of the healthy marriage that might have been... if only she had cheered along.”


Here are five easy ways to cheer for your spouse:

  1. List the positive traits that first attracted you to him.  Keep them where you will be reminded of them.  
  2. Speak only positively of him to others, no matter what the situation.  Let him overhear you complimenting him to others.
  3. Celebrate all of his victories and accomplishments with him, big and small.
  4. Place a sticky note on his bathroom mirror for him to find in the morning that says, “I believe in you!”
  5. Wear his jersey!  Football fans aren’t afraid to show their loyalty, show him that you are his biggest fan.