what football can teach about divorce

Divorce Lessons from the Gridiron

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UPDATED: Ah, football season. That time of year where we spend as much of every Saturday and Sunday as possible inside, pressed into our couches, watching giants collide for our entertainment. It’s a glorious time indeed.

Sure, the game is just a game, but if we look closer, it’s also full of important lessons. That’s part of the appeal, sports represents so many things beyond the confines of the field. And some of these life lessons happen to translate well to divorce.

We recently came across an article on The Good Men Project by Tim Brown, titled “Life Lessons from Football.” Many of the insights apply to daily life. Many can also be extended to relate to men going through divorce.

Football and divorce share many similarities. You butt heads, often need professional referees to make sure everyone plays by the rules, and sometimes the underdog triumphs against great odds. This article highlights some of the more philosophical teachings the gridiron has to offer.

Related Reading: How Do You Get Divorced in California?

Everyone Has A Plan Until They Get Hit

This is a common refrain across many sports. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The general point being, plans don’t always work out. You can prepare as much as you like, but life has a way of throwing the unexpected at you.

In this particular article, the author relates it to football. He writes:

“[T]hough I’ve never played running back (I was a lineman), I’m sure they all think the same way: they are going to get the ball, juke left, outrun the defenders, score a touchdown, and get the cheerleader’s phone number. Then they get the hand off and there’s a huge middle linebacker who plants them on their back, causing them to re-evaluate why they decided to play ball in the first place.”

People often come into our office feeling dazed and confused, like their spouse blindsided them by filing for divorce. Facing the end of a marriage can feel like the ultimate detour from their planned path.

No one expects divorce when they walk down the aisle. But as the article says:

“[I]n life, we like to plan everything out and feel like we know how it turns out. That is, until we face a little adversity. Then we get to find out what our true character is.”

Divorce certainly represents one of the most difficult, stressful times in your life. However, it also offers the opportunity to truly demonstrate who you are. Strength and fortitude you never knew you had may emerge as you grasp the opportunity to begin a new chapter in your life.

Everyone has a plan, but plans rarely unfold exactly as laid out. It’s important to prepare, but it’s just as important to stay flexible, make adjustments, deal with the unexpected, roll with the punches, and know you can get through this.

Related Reading: My Ex Won’t Sign the Divorce Papers

You Have To Want It More

This point may alternately be titled, “Perseverance.” Divorce, like football, is a process. Games aren’t won or lost on a single play. The article stats:

“There may be things that we want today that we may not have. But we cannot give up; we must press forward and endure. We have to continue to have ambition and drive to strive. Our prior circumstances only provide us with challenges for our next steps.”

While going through divorce, it’s all too easy to forget that just because your marriage is ending, doesn’t mean your life is over. In both sports and life, many things lie outside of your control. But one thing you do control is your reaction.

Stay focused on the things that are truly important and valuable. Push for those. Fight for what you want. Know that adversity is coming and know that you can make it out the other side.

Related Reading: 5 Ways Fantasy Football Can Help Divorced Dads

A Hail Mary Rarely Wins The Game

We’ve all watched a football game that ends with a last-minute desperation heave to the endzone. It’s one last grasp at victory. Who doesn’t love the thrill of holding your breath as your team tries to pull out a win just as time runs out?

But how frequently does it actually succeed? The answer is not very often.

The rush of relief and excitement that accompanies scoring the winning points as the time expires is unparalleled. But in divorce, and in life, pulling off a Hail Mary is the exception, not the rule.

When untangling important, complicated issues like custody, visitation, and spousal support, family courts look for established patterns. To continue the sports metaphor, they look at all four quarters of play, not just the final moments. Like on the field, what you do in the first quarter often impacts the final outcome.

It’s vital to create a solid history of well-executed plays.

The culmination of four quarters of consistent work is more likely to lead to a victory than one play at the end. Do the work and put in the effort. This will more likely impact the outcome of your divorce than any other strategy. Not moving out of the marital home and staying active and involved with your kids are two classic plays that reliably achieve first downs.

When it works, a Hail Mary is spectacular, but it’s also not an effective, reliable strategy. Not for football, not for divorce. Preparation, determination, and having a supportive, knowledgeable, experienced team is the best plan to produce results in divorce.

Related Reading: Should I Move Out During Divorce?

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