Where Logic Meets Love

Four Ways the Superbowl Is Like a Bad Marriage

Sunday, February 5, 2012

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Four Ways the Superbowl Is Like a Bad Marriage | Faith Permeating Life

A week or so ago, I asked my Twitter followers for post suggestions, and Erin asked me, "What qualities, dynamics, values, etc lend to a happy and successful marriage?"

Broad as the topic is, I was going to attempt to tackle it today, but as it's Superbowl Sunday, I got the idea to do a fun twist on it instead.

So I present to you: Four ways the Superbowl is like a bad marriage.

1. The Goal Is Winning
The Superbowl is essential a big battle to see which team will come out on top. One team will emerge victorious, while the other will slink away in defeat.

While marriage can sometimes feel like a battle, healthy communication, even when arguing, focuses on reaching a mutual understanding and working out an agreeable solution. If your focus is instead on proving you are "right" or that your partner's feelings about a situation are illogical, you might win the argument, but you're not helping your marriage. Put your pride in the backseat and stop focusing on proving that your way is the best way -- even if it is.

2. The Focus Is On One Big Day
Just like a wedding, the Superbowl brings people together; people throw parties to watch the game (and the halftime show) with their friends and family. They eat, drink, talk, and laugh at the commercials that companies have poured millions of dollars into just for this single day. Then it's over, the football season is over for the year, and people go back to their regular lives.

A surefire plan for disaster is to put ten times the effort into planning your wedding that you do into thinking about -- and talking about -- what married life will be like. Sure, it's fun to get married, but being married is tough work that requires lots and lots of open communication, decision-making, and trust.

3. It Involves Secrecy and Deception
I'm not the world's biggest football fan, but I do know that each team wants to keep their strategy a secret. They'll have a lot more luck getting the ball down the field if the other team thinks they're going one way, and they go the other way instead.

I once heard it said that privacy is good for marriage (like closing the door when you use the bathroom), but secrecy is bad, and I like that distinction. Trust is incredibly important in marriage, and the quickest way for trust in your partner to be eroded is to find out that they've been hiding things from you or even outright lying to you. Birthday gifts and surprise parties aside, if you're having to cover up from your spouse how you're spending your time or money, you're headed down a bad path.

4. People Who Aren't Even Involved Take Sides
A very tiny percentage of Americans will actually be on the field during the Superbowl, but a much, much larger number are rooting for one team or the other. There are far more people invested in the outcome of the game than there are people playing the game itself.

Be cautious about sharing marital issues with those outside your marriage. It's one thing to open up to a counselor or spiritual leader, but another to constantly bash on your partner when you're with your friends. It's rare that I talk with a friend about personal things going on in my marriage, and when I do, it's generally to ask for help finding a solution and not just because I want validation that I'm right and he's wrong. And I tend to agree with Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo's advice that it's bad news if you're, say, a straight female, to spill your marital guts to a straight male friend. If you're upset with your partner, they should be the first one to know about it -- not your blog readers or Twitter followers.

So there are four ways the Superbowl is like a bad marriage. No disrespect is meant to football fans; what's bad for a marriage works well for the big game!

What do you think? Are there other parallels I missed?


  1. Very wise post, and thought provoking too! All important points. I've been especially convicted about #4 lately also. In many TV shows, all the women get together to complain and laugh about their 'stupid husbands' - and I agree with you that that is far from helpful. In real life that wouldn't go down too well. I also think it's related to #1 in that if your goal is to win, you're likely to seek out people you think will agree with you so you feel vindicated.

  2. @Lozzz123
    You're right; it's common to see that kind of husband-bashing in the media, and I think it's common in a lot of groups of female friends. But I do think, like you said, it breeds that mentality of wanting to prove that you're right / justified rather than working toward an understanding with your spouse. It's definitely easier to complain :) But I think it's healthier to keep a focus on solutions rather than trying to prove that your spouse is wrong.

  3. Yes - you are right on all four counts...especially the privacy and secrecy part. I have heard the claim that it is important for spouses to have privacy (confused with secrecy) and to have their own lives. I have always been bothered by this claim. We are marrying someone so that we can share our lives with them. We have a made a conscious decision (hopefully) that we are becoming partners with that person. A partner must be privy to everything about the other person or there will be trusts issues. Secrecy - or living our own lives - is not conducive to partnership. I guess nowadays because of the high rate of divorce, people go into a marriage, unfortunately, with the understanding that it might end up in divorce and, therefore, want to maintain a sense of individuality. The question is which came first the chicken or the egg?...

  4. @Shayna Abrams
    Well, I think it depends on what they mean by saying partners should have their own lives. I agree that it is not advisable to have a "life" that your spouse doesn't know about because then, like you said, you're not really sharing your whole life with them. On the other hand, I have often heard the advice to make sure you have interests different from your partner, and I see the value of this, having seen people dismiss their own interests in favor of their partner's. In that sense, Mike and I do have our own lives--he plays volleyball and video games, I do knitting and choir and programming. But none of those things are secret from one another, and that is really the key.

    Even though Mike and I have joint banking accounts, I do know a lot of people keep theirs separate, and I don't have an issue with that if it works for them. But I see what you're saying about the chicken and the egg--if you keep things separate because "what if we get divorced," are you making a divorce more likely by starting out with that mentality?

  5. Great list post.Love the comparison to the Super Bowl. Well done-fellow Sits Girl

  6. @JessicaInterests and separate lives are definitely two different things (in my opinion). I believe that not only is it OK to have diverse interests within a marriage, but it may even enhance the marriage.
    As far as having separate bank accounts....I am not one to say that I don't think that is a good idea of it is working for them...but one of the ways that my husband and I are able to build our trust (because trust needs to be established somehow - it does not just come naturally, unfortunately) is by being very transparent with money. I know about every dollar that he makes and spends and he knows about every dollar that I make and spend...not only that I don't even consider money that I make my own. I consider it his. Again, I am not one to say I am right and you are wrong...I just find this to be a crucial element in my marriage.

  7. Nice article! I like the distinction between privacy and secrecy.

    About #4, though: Most of my friends are straight men, and most of the people in my life that I've thought were my friends until they suddenly proved untrustworthy were straight women. That is the reason I am more likely to confide in a man than a woman. However, I've found an additional benefit: A man is more likely to say, "Well, have you considered that he might be thinking X? Have you tried doing Y?" whereas a woman is more likely to say, "Hmf, men! That's just the way they are!" In other words, I am more likely to get advice that helps me understand and work with my partner and maybe solve the problem from a man (who at least partly relates to him) than from a woman (who is more likely to take my side so that I get no insight). I have heard some people advise that venting your relationship problems to a person of compatible sexual orientation gives the person hope that you'll soon become available and thus incentive to help destroy your relationship, but I really have never seen a FRIEND try to do that, only men I hardly know who happened to catch some venting (that IS something to beware of)--whereas I have known divorced women who seemed to be trying to help destroy my relationship so they could commiserate with me!

    Of course, telling your partner first when you're upset, before complaining about him/her to other people, is excellent and important advice!

  8. @Shayna Abrams
    There's definitely a lot of trust in our relationship when it comes to money, because I pretty much manage it and he trusts me to keep track of things. Because we use Mint.com (and he checks it from time to time to see what his remaining grocery budget is), we're definitely very transparent about money. But I think it's possible to keep your money separate and also be transparent, in a way--each person takes care of the things they're responsible for paying for, and you are honest with each other about whether you have enough savings, are in debt, etc. I wouldn't want that setup, personally, but I think it can work for other people if they are still honest, transparent, and responsible about it.

  9. @'Becca
    That's interesting to hear your experience with having straight male friends, and the perspective they're able to provide. I thought you might have a different view on this, since we've discussed before that you have a unique relationship with your friends, in that you were even able to be sexually intimate with them without becoming romantically involved, so it's not surprising to me that you could be emotionally intimate with a male friend and not have that lead to problems in your relationship. Unfortunately I've seen more than one relationship among people I know fall apart because one partner became too emotionally intimate with someone other than their partner, and Tony and Alisa have heard about this happening many more times among their listeners, so in general I think it's a situation to be approached with great caution. (Here's a blatant example of when this is a poor decision from a blog I read.) You do make a good point that it's also unhelpful to confide in any friend, regardless of gender, who has a cynical view of relationships and is going to encourage you to think negatively of your partner. That ties in to the main point I was making about people outside the relationship taking sides--there's a difference between getting advice from a third party and just using the opportunity to tear down your partner.

  10. How about the belief in offensive and false gender stereotypes? I feel like it applies for both.

  11. @Mórrígan
    Hm, yeah, interesting. Definitely saw that with some of the Superbowl commercials this year, like that Teleflora one. As John Green said on his sports Twitter feed, "It's misogynistic to state that women have sex in exchange for flowers, and that their motivation for sex is a desire for flowers."

    And if that actually is how your relationship works, then yeah... that's not great.

  12. I love the second one. I definitely remember having an epiphany in the midst of wedding planning when I realized that the wedding was just a party, but I truly couldn't wait to have it be over so we could get back to our everyday life as married people!

    And the fourth one is one I hadn't thought of much before, in relation to the Super Bowl or marriage. One thing my husband said to me before we got married is that he never once has heard his parents say anything bad about the other one to anybody. That struck me as a bold statement! I try my hardest to not engage in even joking-complaining about my husband, but it's difficult sometimes! It's true, though, that nobody really knows--or can possibly know--what a relationship is like from the outside.

  13. @Katie
    It's definitely a high standard to never say anything negative about your spouse to anyone! As I wrote about last year, when Mike and I are around friends I can sometimes slip into the mode of constantly poking fun at him to show how close we are, or something. I've gotten a lot better, but it can be difficult when you see that happening all around you--both on TV and among other friends. There's no good reason to tell other people the things he does that bug me just to get a quick laugh.

  14. Saw your blog on the awards list by "Peaceful Controversy" and I love it! Good reads.

  15. @Mollie Player
    Thanks! Welcome to Faith Permeating Life!


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