Have you ever noticed that we don’t hear much in press about NFL marriages until something goes wrong? Happily married couples don’t make headlines.
When people learn that I study “love in the NFL,” they tend look surprised and ask questions like, Isn’t that an oxymoron? “NO!” I want to shout! I’ve interviewed hundreds of NFL players and NFL wives about their relationships. I’ve watched NFL couples interact over years of marriage. I’ve been an NFL wife and I count other NFL wives among my closest friends. As a friend and a researcher I’ve talked with hundreds of NFL wives about their most meaningful moments and their deepest secrets. The truth is, most married NFL couples report being very happily married.
Life in the NFL comes with a unique set of challenges. Fans feel entitled to know everything about every aspect of players’ lives, which makes privacy hard to find. The hyper-visibility of NFL players can leave their wives in their shadows, feeling isolated and alone. Many NFL couples are also far away from their families and loved ones, so they do not have their families to lean on.
In addition to their loneliness, NFL wives live with the reality that even married NFL players can be targets for women who seek to date them for their high salaries and fame. So, what makes happily married NFL couples so happy and what makes NFL marriages last?
Despite the uniqueness of the profession, what makes NFL marriages last is not entirely different than what makes marriage work for the rest of us. Here are four secrets of happily married couples that can help your NFL marriage stay healthy and strong:
Four Secrets of Happily Married NFL Couples
1 They Protect the Team
Above all else, happily married NFL couples protect their marriages. Happily married NFL couples see themselves as a team. Just like football coaches teach the importance of protecting the football team, they know that protecting their marriage is important too. They have boundaries for themselves and for their marriages.
Importantly, they set the rules and boundaries for their marriages together. Making rules for someone else to follow makes one a parent, not a partner.
As you sit down to think through and write down the rules and boundaries for your relationship, here are a few questions to consider. There are no right or wrong answers; these questions should just help get the conversation started:
• How can I make you feel safe in this relationship?
• How do you feel about me being alone with someone of the opposite sex?
• Do you feel that you have full access to my social media accounts?
• Do you have a shared bank account or separate accounts?
• How do you feel about people hugging or kissing members of the opposite sex?
• What’s the most appropriate way to react to inappropriate comments from someone of the opposite sex.
2 They Support Each Other
The most happily married NFL couples serve as the most supportive person each other’s lives. NFL players receive praise from fans and criticism from their coaches. But, more than anything, NFL players report that their wives are the person they most want to think highly of them. They care most about praise from their wives
Remember, when you fell in love? You probably didn’t fall head over heels for someone because they were great at telling you about flaws and shortcomings! Build each other up. It’s great to think your spouse is amazing and to tell them so. The most happily married NFL couples also speak highly of each other to others. We believe what we most often hear. If you hear yourself say that your spouse is great, you’ll start to believe it!
3 They Invest in Each Other
Time can be hard to find, particularly in the midst of an NFL season. But the most happily married NFL couples know that investing time in each other is important. They date each other, even beyond team functions. They schedule date nights on their calendars and book their babysitters months in advance. Regular date nights keep couples connected and marriages strong.
4 They Communicate in a Healthy Way
Happily married NFL couples communicate with each other in a healthy way. Disagreements and arguments are bound to happen. But, according to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, the couples whose marriages are most likely to stand the test of time have an average ratio of 5:1 - five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. For example, a wife ignoring her husband when he asks a question is a negative interaction. Holding hands, patting their back, winking, kissing, or even listening intently to what they are saying all count as positive interactions.
Happily married NFL couples know that communicating with each other in a healthy way can save their marriages. Some couples think that arguing may doom their marriage. That’s not true. It’s okay to argue, it’s how you argue that matters.
*This article was originally published on the NFL Player's Engagement website at http://www.nflplayerengagement.com/next/articles/nfl-couples/