Growing up my dad taught me that hitting a woman and abuse of any kind is wrong – physical, verbal, emotional or otherwise. Abuse deteriorates the foundation of what makes marriages and strong relationships survive the test of time. Marriage in its most basic form is about trust, honor, love, respect, and oneness. While we should be outraged at the video and actions of Ray Rice, we need to add another piece to the conversation in helping these families build strong and healthy relationships.
Journey for Life has worked with NFL couples on various NFL teams for over five years, through relationship counseling, mentoring, and enrichment talks. We have had the privilege of meeting couples who truly care for their spouses and work hard at oneness and unity in the relationship. Despite all their good intentions, we have noticed a common struggle: most players grapple with the problem of how to leave “work mode” on the field before they enter the “real world”.
At work, players are encouraged to be violent, to hit hard, and to see their opponents as an enemy to run down by any means necessary. For many of these players, the reality of not knowing how to switch off “work mode” creates mayhem when they reenter the “real world”—which tells them to be civilized—the antithesis of what they are paid to do.
The majority of sports fans look past this glaring reality. In a NY Times article entitled, “Numb to Violence? Fans, Maybe, but Not Players” by sports writer William C. Rhoden (http://nyti.ms/1evJnAs), Rhoden writes, “the ambivalence comes from outside the game: from the casual observers, disgusted yet fascinated by the weekly exhibitions of sanctioned violence in a supposedly civilized culture, and the rabid fans who love their teams and crave the mayhem.” We celebrate the game despite its effects on the husbands and the fathers that play it.
NFL teams that commission their player development departments and chaplains to become more proactive instead of reactive in providing practical marital and family support will make a huge difference in cases like Ray Rice and the now growing list of other suspected NFL players. Here are a few ways Journey for Life has partnered with several teams, organizations and churches to become more proactive in building strong marriages and relationships.
Premarital/relationship counseling. Many young NFL players value their anonymity and privacy, and therefore are not inclined to invest in premarital/relationship counseling, as it necessitates sharing the details of their relationship to an outsider. Contrary to this perception, premarital/relationship counseling enables couples to work through their personal problems and tensions to prepare for marriage. We highly recommend that every couple participate in premarital/relationship counseling to help uncover potential weakness, red flags, and major issues that most couples cannot identify themselves. Especially couples, whose profession seems to challenge marital success and longevity, as evidenced by an article in the New York Times suggesting 60% to 80% of NFL marriages end in divorce. (http://nyti.ms/1qMiEK2)
Couples enrichment talks offer time tested principles on how to make marriage last despite the odds. With the rampant epidemic of fatherlessness in America, these young men need to see marriage and fatherhood modeled. Examples of practical talk/seminar topics include:
- Ten Steps for Resolving Conflict
- Making Love Last for a Lifetime
- Building a Healthy Friendship in your Marriage
- Relieving Stress in Marriage and Relationships
- How to Make the Two Become One
- Communication: The Missing Piece
- “How to Love and Cherish”
- Can You Hear Me Now? Using Listening Techniques to Improve Your Relationship
- Avoiding Isolation and Discussing Life’s Issues
One-on-one counseling that specifically deal with the realities each individual couple is facing. All couples—whether off-season or in the season, new families just entering the league or post career, married or dating—need someone to talk to about effective communication, parenting, and finding encouragement throughout their career and beyond.
While we can respond in outrage to the Ray Rice videos and other instances of domestic violence in professional sports figures, let’s not simply stop there. Let’s turn our outrage into proactive and practical solutions.
George and Tondra Gregory
Journey for Life Founders
This is great to see the church lead the way to helping people understanding all that is required to having successful relationships. To be a pro athlete, requires a surrender of your talent, your body, extraordinary motivation, and drive. Marriage requires some of the same-you are a team, surrendered, and teachable. I’d love to see the media invest more time in sharing about professional athletes who beat the odds and how they do it.
Well said Lilly. There has to be a brighter spot light put on successful marriages in general as the youth culture questions marriage and its importance in view of high divorce rates. Show casing successful marriages helps to recreate a healthy view of love and commitment in a life long marriage covenant.
I’m happy that people are talking about the many ways we can assist these players with their relationships and home life. I look at our players are a microcosm of the real world. We have a high divorce rate in the same way that the US has a high divorce rate, the same for smoking weed/DUI’s and domestic violence. I heard on the news that domestic violence hot lines went up 85% after the video of Ray Rice released. I don’t think that this is an NFL issue… it’s a worldly issue that’s reached epidemic proportions.
Hopefully the NFL can find a way to handle and decrease the violent acts that have been occurring, while being in the forefront of the media. I believe all of us could benefit from the counseling that you have been doing with the NFL!
Assistant Director of Player Engagement, New York Giants
Great insight Ashley! I sure love working with your players and other NFL teams. Let’s continue to work together to help these marriages and relationships succeed. Thanks!
Show casing successful marriages helps to recreate a healthy view of love and commitment in a life long marriage covenant.
Growing up my dad taught me that hitting a woman and abuse of any kind is wrong – physical, verbal, emotional or otherwise.
I sure love working with your players and other NFL teams.