DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from "Mateless in Milwaukee" whose husband was a football fanatic. I just ended a 21-year marriage to a sports nut.
At first I thought it was a nice pastime, but soon our lives revolved around sports events. We rarely went anywhere for a vacation for fear he'd miss a football, baseball or basketball game on TV, or it might interfere with his softball or hockey schedule.
All social events were sports-related. Whenever we were in the car, he insisted the radio be turned to a game. Conversation was allowed only during commercials. Once, when we finally went on a "family vacation," he drove us three hours out of our way to watch a hockey game. If I complained, he accused me of being a "poor sport."
When we got cable with ESPN, I knew I was a single parent. Of course, I'd been a single parent for years and couldn't admit it. He has no friends other than his football, softball, hockey or basketball teammates.
Our children have only a mild interest in sports, and the ones who aren't athletic have little to talk to their father about. After a while, I cultivated friends, interests and a life that had nothing to do with him. I quit asking him to do things with me. I had plenty of time to pursue other interests -- every Sunday and Monday nights, and any other time there was a sporting event.
I thought I could change him, interest him in other things, create a more balanced time for recreation. I was wrong. You can't change anyone. I should have left years ago, but waited until the children were grown.
I am happier now than I've been for many years. My advice to that young wife in Milwaukee is: Get out now, before there are children and before you resent scheduling your life around sports. Our culture supports and encourages more dedication to sports than to marriage and family. The next relationship I have will be based on mutual interests. Sign me ... NEVER WANTS TO HEAR THE SCORE AGAIN
DEAR NEVER: It takes two people working together to make a marriage work. The letter from "Mateless in Milwaukee" struck a nerve with many readers. I received a mountain of mail from people who wanted to comment. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: You forgot to mention one very important option to "Mateless in Milwaukee" regarding her husband's football obsession. You should have suggested that she try to share what is apparently a very important part of his life.
Learn about the game; help with the football league activity and host some game-day parties. Get creative with food ideas in which everyone can participate. Ask the guys to bring their wives/girlfriends along. This way you can socialize in another room or everyone can watch the game together.
Ask your husband to explain the game -- and there are plenty of books available to help you learn the fundamentals. Maybe I'm a bit prejudiced because I've always enjoyed football, but cuddling with my husband on a Sunday afternoon while watching a game is heaven to me.
A couple who shares each other's passion will score touchdowns instead of incomplete passes. -- SOARING HIGH IN EAGLES' COUNTRY
DEAR SOARING: Many couples wrote suggesting that "Mateless" join the party. Others, however, felt that more balance was needed in the relationship. Since that letter generated such a tremendous number of letters, tomorrow I'll print more of them.