Basketball and the Grace of Marriage, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Basketball and the Grace of Marriage


June 7, 2010

Joshua and I are both basketball players.  Among other things.  It may sound weird to say as 30-somthings, but it is a real part of each of our identities and it actually played a fairly significant role in our getting to know one another early in our relationship.

See, we were both high school basketball players on highly successful teams.  I hate to have to actually go here, but for the sake of completeness:  Josh’s high school team was state champion in South Dakota for years and years in a row.  My high school team played in the final four in Florida 2 out of my 4 years.  My junior year we played for the championship.

Now, here is the first insight into Joshua and me.  His team won the championship game and my team came in second.  Don’t think that EVER escapes mentioning in our household.  Also, of note, is that his team was first in SOUTH DAKOTA.  They only have one Congressional Representative!  Not a big pool of competition if you know what I mean.  My team came in second in the hugely populous state of Florida.  Not too shabby and I think those two facts together even the playing field, so to speak. 

We were both role players on teams that functioned as strong units.  I think that has all kind of impact on how we can be so different and still able to work so well together.  We get the concept of team.  We get what it means to work hard everyday so that we have what it takes in crunch time.

I mentioned this played a fairly significant role in getting to know each other.  Well, Joshua and I had two classes together our freshman year of college.  One huge chemistry class and one very intimate seminar.  We took advantage of the opportunity to “study together” for the chemistry class, but also started meeting to play basketball together early in the mornings before seminar.  1-on-1 at 8am. 

It is a complete testament to how interested in Joshua I was that I woke up that early, walked all the way across campus and played 1-on-1 of all things. 

I was basically a pretty shy girl when it came to basketball.  I loved the team aspect and giving it everything I had, but I was never a 1-on-1 kind of girl, much to my sweet father’s chagrin.  But for these morning outings, I dug deep and did my best.

Which makes me think back to the night before our wedding.  We had a priest say a vigil mass just for the two of us.  He mentioned in his homily that we should be on the look out for special graces that come to us through the Sacrament of Marriage.  Special gifts that God gives us along with the gift of grace and one another.

I have thought of that from time to time over the years, and it is only in the last several months that I realize what one of the graces of my marriage has been for me as an individual.  I think it started back on those mornings we were playing 1-on-1.  My grace is confidence.

I have become a much more confident person through my relationship with Joshua.  I project an image of confidence that did not exist in me prior to our relationship.  I would NOT have stepped on a court to play head to head with someone before I met him, and certainly not against a boy.  But with Joshua, and for Joshua, I did.

Reader Comments (2)

  • Hi guys! I am engaged so I’ve been checking out this website, and I was so surprised to see you on it! I am a second year JV in Missoula and I heard you speak at orientation this past year. I’m engaged to one of my housemates that I met during my first year of JVC in Spokane. We’re getting married this summer. I was encouraged to hear that you had a non-traditional marriage timeline. I’ve heard plenty of “I can’t believe you are getting married right after JVC!” I’m curious if you thinking being JVs together impacted your marriage.
    Jackie

    jedeve
    • Hi Jackie,
      Congratulations on your engagement! Joshua and I DID find our time with JVC particularly formative as a couple. Generally speaking, post-graduate service is some of the only “lay formation” available outside a degree program. For us specifically, being from completely different types of families and completely different regions of the country, our JV experience helped us to be shaped in the same values and share an intensely formative experience. Our shared life in community made the experience of starting our own household pretty easy and very “intentional” as you can imagine :-)

      Stacey

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Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Many years ago, Joshua and I were trained by the excellent folks at Northwest Family Services in Portland to offer relationship communication workshops. One of the wonderful bits of information that the workshops offered was called the Four Communication Danger Signs. The four signs of impending communication danger are: escalation, invalidation, negative interpretations, and avoidance/withdrawal.

One of the things we have always appreciated about working with couples is that it provides the opportunity for us to reflect and take a new look at our own relationship. So too with these workshops. As we were learning the material, it was abundantly clear to us which danger signs were particular pitfalls in our own relationship: escalation and avoidance/withdrawal.

Having identified those danger signs all those years ago, we have paid particular attention to them in our communication patterns with one another. We try not to fall victim to them and when we do, we try to name them as soon as possible. The effort to avoid them is so much a part of our marital communication that we have even written about them here more than once. Needless to say we feel aware and cautious of them.

Sadly, just because some of the other signs were not present years ago does not mean that we are immune to them.

Recently, as we prepared to meet with a local couple, I came across the list of the four danger signs again. Truthfully, up until then, I had actually forgotten about the invalidation and negative interpretations dangers. After refreshing my memory with the description of each of them, I quickly realized that while Joshua and I are vigilant about not falling prey to escalation or avoidance/withdrawal, we are actually increasingly bad at invalidation!

Invalidation is when one person subtly or overtly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. It could include interrupting, eye rolling, sighing, sarcasm, name-calling, insults, and other such interactions.

Now on some level this makes sense. I think it is a simple product of the length, and therefore complexity, of our relationship with one another. Joshua and I do not get so far as using the most overt or extreme examples of invalidation like name-calling or insults. But the other subtle examples creep into our communication more and more.

So while our old tried and true patterns of communication are still present, we have gotten quite excellent at improvising in new and creative ways. When we are not at our best, this “creativity” quickly morphs into laziness. And in our experience, laziness in marital communication can easily lead to stepping all over each other’s human dignity. In the midst of conflict, we have even gone so far as commenting upon how good one of us (Josh) is getting at eye rolling; or how heavily one of us (Stacey) sighs. Interrupting is just a foregone conclusion (and I am the worst at it).

It’s ugly stuff to be sure.

The other night on our way home from our conversation with the local couple, I mentioned this whole realization to Joshua. I told him that while I think we are getting better at escalation and avoidance/withdrawal, I am increasingly aware of how badly we do with invalidation. At which point he paused and then agreed by saying, “Yes, you are very bad at that.”

Which is hysterical and awesome on a couple levels: first, his response is the opposite of invalidating – it is affirming of my position and I love being affirmed, even if it is pointing out my weaknesses. Second, it was a light-hearted way of responding to a pretty heavy realization which indicates that we are in a good place and able to talk about this without too much guilt.

I immediately responded, “I know!” and we shared a laugh and had a very good exchange about our mutual susceptibility to invalidation.

So here we go again with learning new things about ourselves and the nature of our self-emptying, loving commitment. On the one hand, the personal lesson is consistently the same: somehow, I am not perfect. But the multifarious ways in which we fall short of perfection are always new and abundant. As are the opportunities to grow in holiness through our life with one another.


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