Keeping Marriages Together
By Shaun Alexander
Author, Former NFL MVP
I met my future wife the first day I was in Seattle. Two years later we were married. By that time I was becoming one of the faces of the Seahawks. I was in the second TV season of “The Shaun Alexander Show” on Fox Northwest. I was traveling the country and speaking for companies, my foundation, churches, military groups, FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), and even with the great evangelist Billy Graham. The training schedule of a NFL player is always packed. You can’t be great if you don’t prepare for it. So training alone can be enough. With all those things in my life you could say I had a full plate. Then I got married….
My problem is that I tried to make my wife a side dish. Just scoot the potatoes and greens over, I need to add some macaroni. That was a big mistake, a big, big mistake.
Eighty percent of NFL players are divorced within two years after they retire. You can see how this happens because you have a full plate and often that doesn’t include a meaningful place for a wife let alone other family members.
So here’s what happens to most professional athletes. The wife becomes a side dish and the husband carries on with his life. They don’t connect and become one. A marriage should be a real team. Then eventually they don’t feel needed or loved by one another. The problem is sometimes you can’t see the marriage is crumbling because of the amazing ride the NFL takes them on. But when it ends, the NFL is over and then what do you have? Two people who don’t know each other and are used to being together but not being connected. That relationship usually lasts two years.
Going back to my bride, Valerie and I, the first plan was that she was the side dish and I was going to make room for her on my plate. Then one day I noticed that we looked like all the other marriages in the NFL. My bride and I sat down and talked about it. To say that we were not going to be a part of the 80 percent crew would probably be a lie. We had no real foundation of being together. And the crazy thing is that 90 percent of the people around us would have said we were a model marriage. (Wrong)
So, together we cleaned off the plate. Now it was 100 percent empty and we made the new plate together. You want to talk about a humbling experience. It was a challenge for me to really get to know the heart of my bride on things and even harder to see my own heart through this process.
At the same time please know your roles in marriage. I’m the leader, the captain, the quarterback of the team. So I do make the final call and it is on me to figure out how to put everybody in the right place at the right time so we can win.
But I figured out her role: the helper, the watcher, the alarm - the real MVP running back that makes it a lot easier to win.
I finally put my wife in the right position. I made her my MVP. I didn’t put her on the plate. I allowed her to make the plate. We became a team in every decision and that means not only do we care about each other but our decisions are best for both of us, not just me. What a change it made in me, my wife and our family. Try it and tell me what happens.
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