You might not expect to pick up marriage tips from a baseball team. Yet as my home team, the San Francisco Giants, moved toward the World Championship, I was struck by how they showed similar character traits to those I encourage in my couples therapy clients.
Some spouses I work with have explosive personalities. They become verbally abusive when their partner doesn’t do what they want. Such impulsive reactions harm their marital relationship. In sports and other competitive games, we call someone who acts this way a “poor sport.”
Good sports are respectful, kind, and humble. Professional baseball teams are filled with them. Win or lose, they praise the opposing team’s players and skills. When their own team triumphs, they credit their teammates.
Yet Giants rookie relief pitcher Hunter Strickland lost his grip in Game 2 of the World Series. He’d just given up enough hits to change a 2-2 game into a 7-2 one. His face was furious as he bellowed at a player who had just crossed home plate. Before being escorted off the mound, he seemed to be challenging several Kansas City Royals players to a brawl. I could hardly believe my eyes.
What an embarrassment, I thought. They’ll never let him play again.
Manager Bruce Bochy proved me wrong. “I think it was just frustration on his part,” the Giants manager said. “It’s intense out there, and he’s an intense kid … He gave up a double, and home run and he’s a competitor. Just got away from him, I think.”
Later, a repentant Strickland said, “I got caught up and didn’t control my emotions like I should have. My emotions got the best of me. I’m not too proud of that.”
In a marriage, who doesn’t lose it once in a while? Let he (or she) who is faultless cast the first stone. No one is perfect. Not even you. If your spouse loses it, keep breathing and stay calm. Show compassion, like Bochy did.
If you’re the one who lost it, make sure to do the repair work, like Strickland did. He expressed regret. He was probably told privately to be more careful next time. Maybe he’ll be asked to get professional help for emotional regulation. But he’s still on the team.
After the Giants brought home the World Series trophy, Buster Posey made a great save. During the big celebration in San Francisco, thousands watched pitcher Ryan Vogelsong give an impromptu speech on the stage at City Hall. Then he doubled back to the microphone, screaming, “Vogey out.”
“Well, that was a little weird,” Buster Posey said as he got the mic back. “We’re all a little weird here, though.”
In a good marriage, partners are team players who respect each other. I’m not talking about a fairy tale where happily ever after means no one ever acts strange. Everyone can be “off” at times. Instead of acting embarrassed when your partner flubs, ignore the behavior. Or even better, make a face-saving kind of joke like Posey did, that doesn’t make your partner wrong. You can always talk it over later when you’re both calm, as Bochy may have done with Strickland.
Like good teammates do in baseball, you can create a win-win marriage, even though the intimate, committed relationship is more challenging by its very nature. But it’s possible, and here’s an easy way to succeed in an ongoing way:
Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted is a book that tells just how to enrich your marriage, with loosely structured, gentle conversations that foster not only teamwork with good sportsmanship, but also more romance, intimacy, fun, and smoother resolution of issues. The book is filled with filled with practical tips, techniques, examples, and step-by-step instructions. By customizing its recommendations to fit your situation, you will create a win-win relationship that fulfills both of you.
In a great marriage, you support each other emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically and materially. The two of you are a winning team. And you get to play for a lifetime.