When I coached soccer, to be successful, we focused on building speed, developing strength, and practicing skills. Being successful in a relationship is not much different. In soccer bursts of speed can create a huge advantage, but also knowing when to slow down or to change direction has value. In relationships, our timing is essential. For example, knowing when to keep quiet or speak up is a key component to effective communication. Some couples blurt out their thoughts and feelings impulsively which can create huge conflict. Or one person can’t let things go even if it is midnight and time to go to bed. Being able to call a timeout when discussions are heated and respecting each other’s space for a limited amount of time can allow emotions to settle.
Just as soccer is a physical sport that requires both endurance and strength, let’s face it marriage can be tough. Being in a long-term committed relationship requires perseverance and patience. Relationships require strength of character and sometimes heavy lifting. Sometimes we need to apologize even when we don’t think we did anything wrong. Our partner is angry or hurt by something we said or did, but we didn’t think it was so bad. Because we love that person, value the relationship, and respect their feelings we choose to apologize. It takes strength to swallow our pride, set aside our ego, and humble ourselves. All relationships have conflict and sometimes managing the conflict can be difficult. But talking it out constructively, acknowledging each other’s feelings and finding a compromise can result in resolution. Forgiveness also requires great strength, especially when the other person has not acknowledged their wrongdoing or apologized. We forgive to heal our own pain and sometimes to reconcile with the other person. Forgiveness is a choice and a gift that can enable negative feelings to disappear.
In all sports, practice is the key to success. Relationship skills are required to maintain a healthy and successful partnership. Like most things in life, use them or lose them. We need to practice assertive communication, listening, conflict management, and trust building. For men, emotional awareness, sensitivity, and expressiveness often don’t come naturally, but can be learned and acquired over time. For some, learning to be attentive and affectionate may require effort and intention. We get better with most skills with consistent practice, determined commitment, and acute focus. The joy of winning in a sport pales in comparison to the jubilation experienced when you have a successful marriage.