With Valentine’s Day around the corner, February is the month we tend to focus on our “special” relationship (or lack there of). I thought it would be appropriate this month to take a look at how pickleball impacts and influences our relationships. I share some insight on the relationship my wife and I have regarding pickleball, and what I’ve seen from my time traveling around the country.
How Pickleball Impacts MY Relationship
As you may know, my wife, Wendy, and I learned to play the game at the same time, and we were both immediate fans of the sport. We played together, traveled together, competed together and are now in the pickleball business together. (Heck, we wrote the book on pickleball—together!)
While we are lucky enough to get along extremely well together in most of those domains, I’ll be the first to admit that she’s threatened “pickleball partner divorce” on me more than a few times when we play in tournaments. (Evidently even being “The Guru” I’m not quite as patient with my wife in tournament play as I am with my students…)
On the days when I go play by myself, she tells me pretty clearly, pretty quickly when she’s heard enough of the “shot by shot” analysis of my morning of play. (Happily, when we do go play pickleball together, she will usually re-hash shots with me ’til the cows come home…)
Overall, I’d say we’re both pickleball fanatics but not equally so. Between my work, my passion for the game, and our growing family, I definitely spend a lot more time in what we affectionately call “Pickleball-Landia” than Wendy does.
So that’s a quick look at the nature of OUR relationship as it relates to pickleball. But of course, we are just one example….
How I’ve Seen Pickleball Impact Other Relationships
Some couples seem to compete together in tournaments with less conflict than we do (though I have to wonder if one of them isn’t secretly wearing earplugs and THAT’S the true secret to their success).
Others have learned that it’s best for their relationship to avoid playing together in tournaments altogether. And we have all heard the biting remarks from a couple who probably SHOULDN’T be playing on the same court together, but haven’t figured that out yet…an awkward and uncomfortable situation for everyone on the court.
And those are just a few of the variations of couples where BOTH partners play.
We’ve had plenty of times when we go out to dinner with a pickleball friend and their non-pickleball-playing spouse. It’s a true challenge to keep every topic of conversation from turning back toward pickleball.
“Oh, you spent six months in Costa Rica when you were in college? Don’t they run a pickleball tour to Costa Rica now?”
“Ouch, you strained you back painting the house last weekend? I strained my back last year and I couldn’t play pickleball for six weeks straight—it was hell!”
“Wow, who would believe that those basketball players make that much money nowadays… I wonder if there will ever be that much money in pickleball…?”
“Do I like ballet? I love ballet… people sometimes joke that it looks like Prem is doing ballet on the court when he plays pickleball…”
I swear, there isn’t a topic that exists that can’t be brought round to pickleball one way or another!
And yet, I have seen how this tendency can quickly lead to a new friend who is sitting at the table with eyes glazed over, daydreaming about something—anything—other than pickleball…
It seems that there are a couple variations of these spouses. There’s the calm and benevolent partner, who interacts with the afflicted loved one with a high degree of patience and understanding. (Much like they might treat a well-loved, aging dog with incontinence issues…) 🙂
But then there are the spouses who are, understandably, driven a bit mad themselves. [Read a confession from a non-playing spouse: A House Divided]
They are still mourning the loss of their beloved partner. Perhaps they are reflecting on the days when weekend breakfast was a leisurely time of shared companionship, rather than a quick peck on the cheek while grabbing a granola bar and and shouting a brief, “Love ya! See you later, Honey!” They are struggling to make peace with the foreign, new addict they are now sharing a bed and a home with, perhaps even resenting this person who lives, breaths and talks pickleball morning ’til night…
Over time, pickleball fanaticism has even been known to be a contributing factor in the demise of a long-term relationship. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of couples whose relationship was born and continues to flourish on the pickleball court.
How Does Pickleball Impact YOUR Relationships?
This month, I challenge you to take a good honest look at how pickleball is affecting your relationships with your loved ones.
How is Pickleball Weakening Your Relationships?
- If you and your partner are both pickleball fans, what conversations have you been avoiding by spending time talking about pickleball instead?
- If your loved one doesn’t play much, it’s easy to avoid addressing sticky situations in your relationship by heading to the courts to sweat out your feelings and engage in playful banter with people you don’t have such a complicated relationship with… but what are you doing to foster a closer, more engaged dynamic with the person closest to you?
- How are your own fears and insecurities in life playing out on the pickleball court?
- Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself in general and you let your doubles partner push you around?
- Do you have a tendency to “play it safe” by not taking risks in life, so you over-compensate by playing aggressive, low percentage shots?
- Do the cracks in your relationship with your spouse/life partner become evident on the court, where her insecurities or your overbearing nature really stand out?
What decision will you make TODAY to change these destructive patterns?
And equally as important…
How is Pickleball Strengthening Your Relationships?
- Do you feel good about yourself, because you’re in better shape than ever, and that makes you a happier, easier person to be around?
- Do you find inner strength in the routine and sense of community you feel every time you head to the court?
- Are you especially grateful for the fun, camaraderie and companionship you feel with your doubles partner?
- Did playing pickleball help you get through a really tough time in your life?
What decision will you make TODAY to acknowledge to yourself and express to the people involved how the relationship you have with them while playing pickleball has made your life better?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a few more stories from other players, but right now, take a moment to post your comment below and tell me how pickleball has affected your relationships (for the better and worse) and decisions you are making TODAY as a result of this awareness.
(Or, if you want to tell your story but prefer to keep it anonymous, just fill-out this online form.)
Then pass this article along to the other pickleball lovers in your life.