Taking the time to learn about the interests of someone you care about is a great way to strengthen your relationships — sometimes, even when those interests are something you don’t like.
Eric loves football.
I could count on my fingers how many football games I watched before marrying him.
To me football was an exceedingly dull waste of time. Who in their right mind would want to spend all Sunday watching game after game after game? Well, it turned out Eric did.
At first I did other things while Eric sat enthralled in front of the TV, shouting for joy at random displays of manliness involving catching a ball and running down a field.
One day I realized I’m married to a man who loves football, and because I failed to understand why, I thought I’d attempt to comprehend my husband’s fascination with an oddly shaped pig-skin and some eighty men trying to make each other eat grass.
I committed to sit and
knit through watch one game a week. I chose the game based on if I liked the teams’ mascots or colors. (If I was going to watch something I didn’t enjoy, I might as well avoid ugly teams. Sorry Broncos.)
“Knit one, pearl two, knit one, pearl…” would be going along in my brain when Eric would exclaim, “Go, go, go, go,” or “Get him! Sack him!” I had no idea what “him” Eric was referring to, or what a “sack” was, but I would look up just in time to see a pile of bodies or some guy being chased down the field.
Over the course of a few weeks, I started picking up on key words: turn over, field goal, punt, kick-off return, and the like; but I didn’t know what any of them meant.
One game I asked Eric, “What’s a down?” He looked at me in surprise. I’m not sure if he was offended by me interrupting the game, or shocked that I asked him a question about football after quietly “watching” it for weeks. Either way, he regained his composer quickly and politely answered my question.
Slowly I began learning the basics: What was a penalty, what was special teams, and how did that yellow line get across the field so quickly? Eric never tired of answering the same questions many times over.
After an entire season, though I loved seeing Eric’s excitement for football, mine was yet to blossom. I still found the games boring, even though by this time I understood the fundamentals.
But I stuck with it. The next year I continued to watch one game per week.
Then came 6 October 2003.
Less than four minutes left…
Tampa Bay: 35…
What followed was one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.
For the rest of the game, I found my knuckles were white due to clenching my until-then-forgotten knitting needles (I would relax my hands only to notice I was doing it again a minute later).
I realized I was holding my breath.
The time for every play, though only a few seconds, seemed stretched like homemade taffy as those seemingly impossible 21 points were achieved in less than four minutes.
I had never seen anything like it. (Four minutes!)
Then Indy actually won in overtime when a field goal that was deflected by a Buc, somehow made it the 29 yards, then bounced off from the right upright, yet still went in.
What are the odds?
And through all of this I was a stereotypical football fan — hooting and hollering, wrapped up in the excitement, as this underdog team pulled off the unimaginable.
Eric’s interest in football was now my own.
I moved from passively being in the same room as my husband to actively spending time doing something with my husband. Watching football became something we did together — playfully fighting when we rooted for different teams and feeding off from each other’s excitement when we wanted the same team to win.
My new found interest blessed me in other relationships as well. Following football is a major pastime among most guys I know. Being able to discuss football with a level of clarity has allowed me to have better relationships with coworkers and friends.
Strong communication is essential in a healthy relationship, and when communication centers around a shared interest, it becomes exponentially meaningful, fun, and entertaining.
Think about it. How wonderful is it for you to be able to discuss something you find thrilling with someone else who knows what you’re talking about?
I’m not telling you to go and learn about football, but if there is something your friend or spouse values, take the time to discover what it is all about. You’ll start to see the beauty in it, and your relationship will grow.