Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock has a compelling point in his recent article about athletes and marriage: He says that if you're an active college or professional athlete, you shouldn't fool yourself about being able to exercise the Herculean level of personal discipline that would be required for you to be faithful to a spouse.
I agree (generally speaking). While I'm not one to say that all doctors, lawyers, military personnel, auto mechanics, or carpenters (you get my drift here, I hope) should make the same choice because of the intense demands of their professions, I also know that it's extremely important for us all to be honest with ourselves. The fact is that high-level athletes are constantly exposed to all kinds of temptations, and they usually have no one to rely on that can also talk them out of making the most expedient decisions in the heat of the moment.
Let me remind you of what I said in a previous article on The Real Athlete Blog, "Dialing up True Love While Temptation is on the Other Line." I concluded that message to athletes in the following way:
"The bottom line is, don’t allow yourself to believe the hype that sports fans and the media generate about you and other high profile athletes. Since temptation is always staring you in the face, you need to be more disciplined than they are. Even though they may think they want to live a life like yours, they don’t see that all you really want to do is play the sport you love, and give and receive authentic love like anyone else."
Of course, I talked about self-discipline in that hopeful way because I don't want to underestimate anyone's strength of character. However, the ugly truth is that very few high-level male athletes can muster the restraint to resist sexual advances from fans who are both attractive and adoring. That's understandable too, in light of the fact that if you're a high profile athlete, you know that not enough of your admirers are inclined to deny you what you want.
Temptation is indeed seductive, and constant temptation is addictive. So since you're certain to face constant temptation while you're a high profile athlete, why on earth would you place yourself in a position that will all but guarantee that you can't live up to your wedding vows?
Essentially then, getting married while you're experiencing constant temptation is somewhat like playing a game with your arms tied behind your back, because you'll be unable to defend yourself adequately against certain types of actions taken by others, and you'll also be limited in the kinds of initiatives you can take. On the other hand, why be in a hurry to get married anyway, since most athletic playing careers are over before the player's 35th birthday anyway?
I do understand, though, that you may feel great pressure to stay true to the family values that were instilled in you as you were growing up. After all, marriage is an important part of our lives that we need to honor and preserve, and clearly, the generally agreed-upon best way to honor and preserve marriage is to keep it monogamous.
But it's hard enough to remain monogamous over a long period of time even if you're not having a steady stream of sexual advances thrown at you. So if you're a high profile athlete, the likelihood that you'll be able to stay faithful to your spouse is very small, given all the traveling and public appearances that you do. Therefore, the last thing you need to add to your plate is guilt.
I'll end my remarks with the observation that you have plenty of pressure to face as it is, with your need to stay on top of your personal game, to win, and to make public appearances on behalf of your program and or league. So to avoid complicating your life unnecessarily, you're best move is probably to wait on the nuptials until you can vastly improve your odds of honoring your spouse, your family, and the institution of marriage.
Helen L. Horvath, MA, PsyD (Cand)07-17-2009
Beyond the issues you mentioned is a hidden issue that goes to the manipulation and game playing. Both men and women play games; yet, the game playing I am speaking of is more perverse - it is why there are so many baby mamas.
Professional athletes need to take the extra step to determine WHY someone is in their life. Selecting a woman who hangs at the fence to get your attention during practice may not be the best move - only the athlete knows. Often what sounds like a good idea ends tragically.
Many do not take the time to learn how to interact and listen to their inner voices; they are on the emotional high of success. It is generally during the high of success that a woman will target an athlete for 'love'. I have spoken to many professional athletes who feel set up by what has occurred in their relationships. Many did not see 'it' coming.
What is the 'it'? The emotional and psychological abuse that is in many relationships. Many professional athletes are not taught how to deal with the "Cruella de Ville's" in their lives. The women may not hit the man; yet, she mentally wears away at his spirit hurting his professional standing and ability to remain successful in his sport. He cannot figure out why his life is so chaotic; each time he 'corrects' the issue the woman finds something else to create more chaos. These are the relationships that need to have a period put to them BEFORE you walk down the aisle.
For more information about relationships - visit our website at www.hwassociates.us.
Dr. Timothy Thompson07-17-2009
Thanks for focusing on the issue of the women who deliberately take advantage of high-profile athletes for various kinds of selfish gain. That's definitely a major problem that helps to compound the athletes' challenges.
The more useful information that the athletes can get from the knowledgeable specialists like yourself, the more sources of good advice they can turn to when they need the facts to help them choose wisely!
Tim- I have to agree with both you and Whitlock. Athletes who take the plunge are really just taking a huge risk. The divorce rate in America is over 50%. Professional athletes as a group are much higher. I recently read somewhere that over 80% of athletes get divorced after they retire. Not to say that it can't be done (as Tim points out), but the odds are highly stacked against pro athletes.
Helen- I think you make great points with respect to the vulnerability athletes have to women who take advantage of their "emotional high of success."
Recently, Richard Jefferson did put a period on his relationship before he walked down the aisle.
Although it might not have been handled the best from a public relations standpoint, at least he was able to make the right choice for himself and call it off before it was too late (even if it was in the 11th hour).
Tim and Matt:
What is described in the article is exactly what I describe in my book...cycles of abuse. So often professional athletes get drawn into a relationship with a women who can only hold their interest so much. It is part of the course work that I teach professional athletes; recognizing the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships. It is not about the woman or the man; it is about the fact do they actually have things in common beyond someone's money or stature. If the relationship is junky in the beginning; it will be junky throughout the relationship. People just need to open their eyes to their individual truths...