How Pickleball Saved My Marriage
Well, not really. But it did help.
I know, I know. If you hear one more person talk about how they love pickleball you’re going to punch them in the face. I get it. (It’s replaced Cross-Fit as the new way to get people wishing you’d leave the party.)
But this piece is not about pickleball. It’s about long love. And how you need to keep fun in your relationship or you may drift from each other and find yourselves miles apart—or maybe bored apart.
Long love needs fun, too.
Dinner at Piccola Trattoria is great. Binging all eight seasons of Suits is good fun. Netflix Comedy Specials are a hoot. Shared history, kids, and their kids, are an endless source of discussion. But as love morphs into long love, you kind of need more; or at least it jazzes things up to have more.
Pickleball became that for us. You can enjoy it within minutes of picking up a paddle because it’s easy. (Getting good…now that’s the tough part.) It’s competitive. It’s great exercise. It’s usually played outside. And it’s very social since you normally play doubles.
Okay, I’ll concede, playing with the person you live with can be tough. It can get tense and testy. But I have a solution: just chill out! Don’t overvalue winning. Don’t be such a knucklehead. Value the camaraderie and the play.
Because think about it, there aren’t that many things like this in a relationship. Some couples love to hike or work out together at the gym. Okay, you have your thing already. Others spend time at the lake or go on exotic vacations. Alright.
But some of us don’t have those things.
Joyce and I didn’t. And it wasn’t like we felt like there was this big old hole in our relationship. But when pickleball came along, we realized how nice it was to laugh on the court, to rib each other, to accuse the other of having ‘concrete feet’, to high-five each other, and then to toast each other an hour later as we ended our day tired.
Do you know how long it had been since we high-fived each other?
Because long love is tricky. It is its own skill. Keeping a relationship from getting sour and going stale takes effort. It takes mental energy and new ideas. It takes self-awareness and couple-awareness. Long love may be one of the most undervalued competencies in life.
It wasn’t like we set out to sriracha our love with a silly game.
We didn’t think it would solve any problems.
It hasn’t made me a better husband. (It’s going to take a lot more than that!)
It hasn’t made her a better wife.
But it sure has brought an element back into our relationship that I remember from our very early days, one that drew us together in the first place, one that made our being together feel unique, one that we felt at an Air Supply concert at the Colorado State Fair in 1980, and one that made us look at each other and say, You, yeah you, I think I’d like to grow old with you.