Inside His Head: Football widow needs advice

Dear Husbands,

It’s almost time for football season to start and from experience I know that my husband will soon be so engrossed in all the games that the kids and I will feel nonexistent. I don’t want to be a buzz kill, but it really does hurt my feelings when he “checks out” on us for about three months straight. How can I get my point across without being a nag?

GRAY: Have you ever watched a game? I don’t mean sitting in a corner, rolling your eyes thinking “this is dumb” while a game is on – I mean genuinely trying to understand the sport.

I ask because I believe a lot of wives lump sports into a category of Stupid Men Running with Balls or Sticks without ever sitting through a game. Though neither my wife nor I are particularly big football fans, we both enjoy basketball. Being able to talk intelligently about the team, about new recruits and second-guessing the coach enhances our relationship. We’ve taken our daughter to see games at the arena and she loved all the lights and noise even if she didn’t understand what was happening in the game.

Been there, done that and still hate football? I’ll guarantee educating yourself about his favorite team can go a long way. A simple trip to can give you an idea if the next game is really a big deal or merely another game.

If you suggest going to watch a movie when his team’s playing a non-conference or unranked team he’ll be a lot more inclined to give it consideration. As a bonus, he’ll likely respect you taking the time to look it up instead of assuming all games are created equal.

Still not the solution you’re looking for? Strike a compromise. Suggest he restrict his viewing to a certain number games each week or month, but you’ve got to offer something in return. One of the most equitable solutions I’ve seen friends do is have a get together.

Inviting a few couples over on game days can give you some conversation time with similar-minded wives and will make him interact with your guests instead of becoming a living room zombie. Besides, you can use it as an excuse to order some pizza and not have cooking or dishes for anyone to worry about. One tip: get the other wives on board with the idea first so you don’t end up with a handful of cheering men in your house all day.

Most of us associate nagging with someone saying the same thing over and over without rhyme, reason or consideration. Showing a little respect for something he’s kept up with since he was a child and taking time to educate yourself about his favorite team can go a long way in breaking down the barrier.

MAVERICK: You can’t really make a point on this one without coming off like the bad guy, and here’s why.

It’s pretty clear this is how things have been with you and him since the start. So, you can’t suddenly and dramatically expect him to change just because now you’re seeing where his football watching might be getting in the way of his time with you and the family.

You also have to realize that football is, like most guy hobbies, sometimes hard to fathom from the outside, and particularly by women. That’s not said as a matter of justification, it’s just a fact.

So, keep in mind that while this seems mindless to you, it’s very important and sometimes vital for his sanity for him to scream at the TV or spend a whole afternoon and evening watching guys smash into each other while he drinks beer and eats salty snacks.

All that said, if you want to shift his habits you need to start slowly and be happy with gaining just a little ground now and again.

Instead of saying “All  you do is watch football!! We should spend more time together!!” plan an activity, like a hike or a movie afternoon or anything else fun (shopping for shoes for the kids or following you around the mall is not “fun.”) Give him an activity he has to actually turn down to watch football, rather than a nebulous demand he “Spend more time with the family.”

If he turns you down, go anyway. Don’t nag, don’t sulk, just go and enjoy yourself.

Then try again.

And again.

And again if needed.

He’ll get the hint and eventually play along and realize he’s missing something good.

On the flip side, maybe you’ll find out it’s more fun not to have him around than listen to him whine like a baby that he’s missing his game.

Also, some compromise on his part would be nice and necessary and you’re not off base to ask. Just don’t bring it up while he’s watching a game or getting ready to. Not the best time.

Maybe, around Tuesday, you could make a suggestion that he watch football only one day on the weekend. Let him have Sunday and in return, he acts like a human and a dad and a husband on Saturday.

If he wants both days, ask that he limit his watching to one game each day totally uninterrupted and in return he has to make eye contact, speak with you and hang with the kids for the rest of the weekend.

HUSBAND#3 (a.k.a. the pinch hitter): You are nonexistent. Except for when I need a drink or something to eat. I wait all year for this. I work all week until I’m exhausted. The only thing I have to look forward to is watching the games on the weekend. I mean is that too much to ask? Some uninterrupted time where I can actually enjoy something? A chance to not have to listen to anyone’s problems for a while?

The rest of the year I’m mowing the yard or dragging the kids to baseball or soccer. If I don’t have a chance to watch some violence, I may become violent.

At least that’s one viewpoint. Hopefully that’s not your husband. I don’t know about your particular situation, but I can only assume your husband is plopped down in front of the TV from Saturday morning to Sunday night, plus Monday night and Thursday night.

First let’s start with a baseline. If he’s watching that much football, I’m going to estimate that he’s watching three college games and four to five pro games a week. I’m not counting the flips back and forth to other games and the pre- and post-game shows. I think we both know that that isn’t going to drop to zero. So let’s set some realistic goals here.

He’s going to watch his favorite college and pro team no matter what, so don’t bother with those games. I think you should go for one college game on Saturday, two pro games on Sunday and then either Monday or Thursday night football.

Now to accomplish this you need a strategy. We’re logical creatures (most of the time), but when cornered we will act irrationally. Expect this. He’ll come up with excuses. If you try to counter each one he’ll just feel like you’re attacking, so take it easy.

Start by letting him know that you and the kids really would like to spend more time with him on the weekends. You’ll say this with sincerity, but what he hears is, “I want you to take care of the kids while I do something” or “Let’s go shopping all afternoon with our screaming, griping children”. Face it, it’s just not much fun for us most of the time.

You need to have concrete examples of things you’d like to do that he is actually going to enjoy. I don’t know what he likes, but hopefully you do. If you don’t, you need to find out because if you don’t find something at least close to his football experience, all you’re going to do is make him feel guilty and that will only work for so long.

So once you’ve got your list of things to do, you start negotiating. You let him know that you understand how much he enjoys his games so you don’t want him to quit watching, you only want him to cut back. Use my proposal above. See what kind of response you get. When it comes to the Monday and Thursday night choice, let him know that you can also play games on the off night (wink wink). Hey nothing’s free.

It would also help things if you make it a family affair. The football, I mean. Get involved with him.  Learn the game and watch with him.  If you really care about spending time with him, it has to be on each others’ turf.  Not just yours.

*The mamas want to thank Husband#3 for pitching in his opinion at the last minute.