This is football season in the United States. No, we’re not referring to soccer. We acknowledge that soccer is also called football in many countries. But American football is quite different from soccer football. Yes, there are some similarities; but American football involves much more physical combativeness between teams that involves lots of tackling, shoving, piling on top of your opponents and running an oval ball back and forth to its intended goal line at opposite sides of the football field. The team that successfully runs this ball to their goal line more often than their opponents run it to theirs, WINS!
It’s a real rough and tumble game between teams; but it can also be a lot of fun. Plus, it can bring in a lot of camaraderie within each team.
But how is marriage similar to American football? Actually, there are a lot of similarities.
Marriage Like a Football Game?
First off, we want to clarify something. We’re not proposing that marriage is a game. It is not! God takes marriage seriously, and so should we!
And marriage should never be a combative contact “sport” (as it is in American football). However, you are in close contact with each other in marriage and in football. So, there is a loose-fitting similarity here.
Plus, we shouldn’t be combating with other marriage “teams”. We do NOT live in a marriage friendly world. So, it’s important to attempt to stick together to support and cheer on other marriage “teams”. We need each other!
But it’s the major commitment, determination, and the intentionality it takes that holds more similarities. And yes, even the work you need to put forth, applies to playing a good game of football, and in building a good marriage.
Here’s another similarity: You are part of a “team” both in football, and in marriage. There are 11 players involved in a football team. But there are two involved in a marriage—a husband and wife. Everyone else involved is to take a sideline position. (That’s true even if they are holding supportive positions.)
Those with a singular “I’m in this for myself” mindset should not enter into either one of these commitments. That’s not how football works well, nor does it work well in marriage.
But there are also many other similarities.
Football and Marriage Similarities
So, we’ve come up with some additional similarities. See if you agree. We hope you will allow the Holy Spirit to talk to you as to how this applies to your marriage.
• In football as in marriage commitment is vital!
Don’t play if you’re not committed to put your all into playing football. It is similar in marriage. If you’re not fully committed to giving it your all—don’t get married. Marriage (unlike football) is not a game. It’s for grown-ups who are willing to do what it takes to make their marriage work. And in marriage, as it is in football, you are part of a team. This is not about doing your own thing solo. That is called “being single” — not being married.
• Team spirit is important!
It’s like the old saying, “It’s one for all and all for one.” That applies to football AND marriage. Both involve partnership and working together.
• Win or lose, it happens as a team.
In football, the whole team goes down if you lose the game. In a similar way, within marriage, if one spouse loses, you both lose. How does it benefit your marriage if one of you “wins” at the expense of your marriage partner losing? Even in marriage, if one loses, you both lose. It’s important to strive to find “win/win” solutions for both of you.
• You need to believe you CAN win as a team.
A defeatist attitude will lead to defeat, almost certainly. Trust in your coach. (In marriage, God is your “coach”.) Look to your other teammate(s) to help you, and don’t give up.
Also, With Marriage as With Football:
• Take the good skills you have, and keep working to improve yourself.
Do what you can to be an even better teammate. Apply yourself to learning the skills that are needed. Those that stop doing this, or won’t apply themselves for whatever reason, are in trouble.
• This is not about tackling each other.
It’s important to always keep in mind that you’re on the same team. Don’t overpower your teammate. Fight the outsiders who want to take you down. But purpose to work together. Realize that you may not always think alike, but you can think together. And you can build togetherness.
• It’s important to keep the passion.
That’s true in football, as well as in marriage. In football, we often hear of teams losing because they “lost their passion.” They didn’t give it their all—they lost the spirit. The team started the game out with a lot of enthusiasm; but somewhere along the line, they allowed themselves to lose their vision of keeping the dream alive.
Along the same line, (blogger) David W. Jones talks about the passion involved in American football and in marriage:
“Comparing marriage to football is no insult. I come from the South where football is sacred. I would never belittle marriage by saying it is like bowling, or playing bridge, never. Those images would never work. Only football is passionate enough to be compared to marriage. With other sports, players walk onto the field. In football they run onto the field. …In other sports, fans cheer, in football they scream. And in other sports, players ‘high five’, in football they chest, smash shoulder pads, and pat your rear. Football is a passionate sport. And marriage is about passion.”
In Both Marriage and Football:
• Refocusing is sometimes needed.
If you lose the passion in your marriage, then put the effort in to refocus together on your goal. Intentionally look towards each other, rather than in different directions. Look for ways to recapture the passion. This will involve determination, intentionality, and depending upon God to help you. His very name means LOVE, so who is better to teach you how to love each other again?
• Pay attention to, and follow the leading of your coach.
Coaches cheer you on, guide you, and help you to “win” as a team. In marriage, the Godhead is your coach. God the Father, Jesus your Savior, and the Holy Spirit, your “Wonderful Counselor” —all three are available to help and guide you.
• Knowing and following the Playbook is vital!
In football, it’s the playbook, that has your “plays” laid out for you. It contains important things you need to know. If you don’t know, and apply as a team, what’s in the playbook, you’ll most likely lose.
In marriage, it’s your Bible that will help you to know how to best live together as a great team. The principles for loving each other are the principles for living, which are there for your guidance throughout the Bible. It’s vital to know what’s in it and APPLY what you learn!
• You each have different talents, that combined together, can help you to be a great team.
It’s important that you discover what they are, combine them together, and use them intentionally, as you should.
• It is “normal” to get tackled.
As a matter of fact, tackling and/or falling down is normal! In football, that’s what the other team tries to do. They work to trip you up and make you fall so you can’t get to the goal.
In marriage, life continually throws the tackles (lead by the enemy of our faith, plus, living in a fallen world). We’re told there will be “troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28) in marriage, as well as “trials and tribulations” that we will experience in life (John 16:13). But what’s most important, is what we do with the troubles that tackle us.
We are to get up, and help each other get up. We are to work together as a team to defeat the enemy of our faith, not allowing ourselves to fall to defeat.
• Good communication is important.
You need to be able to read each other’s signals when it’s important. That will take intentionality to learn more about each other. You also need to learn the skills it takes to work together as a successful team. In football they often call a “huddle” and “gather in together in a close-packed group” to determine different strategies for playing/winning the game.
Sometimes in marriage it’s beneficial to huddle together as a husband and wife. But the difference is that you take more time to mutually share so you can better agree to what is best for your marriage partnership.
Plus, in Marriage and in Football
• Sometimes a teammate will get hurt.
Unfortunately, it happens! Your own teammate may even hurt you. Hopefully, it’s accidental! If it isn’t, you definitely need to seriously work on that one. This will require more than one serious “huddle”. It’s important to figure out how to approach life as healthy, supportive teammates, rather than opponents. If there is abuse, then it’s imperative to impose tougher measures and boundaries.
• It’s important to pay more attention to what you’re doing right or wrong.
Don’t allow yourself to get too fixated on what your teammate is doing. Look more at what you are doing right or wrong.
In football, the players look to their coach to straighten out the “wrongs” their teammate is committing. Team spirit is important, with everyone working together, combining their talents for success.
This same principle is important in marriage. Keeping score on who does what, can sometimes lead to problems. You aren’t your spouse’s Holy Spirit. Help when you should—gently correct when you should; but don’t take over God’s job. Focus on what you should do for the betterment of the marriage, and give God the elbowroom to work on your spouse. You are God’s colleague in helping and loving your spouse. You are not the one who is to take over, and do what only God can do.
And don’t pull a “Sarah.” She was the wife of Abraham, who essentially thought that God wasn’t doing what He promised fast enough, so she came up with her own solution. (See: Genesis 16.) As a result, this world has been paying a huge price ever since. Beware of causing harm to your marriage because of your impatience or thinking you know how to do things better than God does.
It’s also important to know:
• Keep in mind that you have observers watching you.
In football, the team sees that they have a stadium of people watching them. The fans expect them to win. It’s important to please them, if the players want to stay on the team.
In marriage it’s somewhat the same and yet also different. Yes, there are observers. We have a “great cloud of witnesses” watching us at all times. Some are human, and some are not. It’s important though, to always watch how we talk and how we live our lives. This is so that others, when they see how godly we interact with each other, may be drawn to want to know our God better. It can spur them on to wonder, “If God can do this for them, maybe He can do that for us!” God wants to use your interactions to draw them to Himself and give them hope.
• Always keep the goal in mind.
It’s IMPORTANT! In football, it’s what the teammates play for—to get to the goal to score more times than the opposing team. That gives them victory!
In marriage, our goal is finishing well. It’s important not only that your spouse is pleased, and that others observe how you live “a life of love” (Ephesians 5:1) together, but also that God is well pleased. There can be no sweeter victory than to hear the words spoken by our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.“
With all of this in mind, remember that football is fun, but it also has a lot challenges. And the same is true for marriage. It can be fun, but it sure can be challenging, as well. Hang tough! The rewards can be out of this world amazing! We pray you make it your goal to experience this sweet victory!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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