Health & Wellness

Are you a sports widow? Here's help.

What do you do when your competition is not another woman, but another guy shooting a ball?As March madness kicks into high gear, women whose husbands are sports fanatics can feel neglected and abandoned — it’s the classic “football widow" syndrome. But you’re not doomed to annoyance and resentment if you can meet your husband halfway.Your goal is not to get your man to stop watching sports. After all, you wouldn’t be pleased if you were forbidden to engage in an activity that gives you great pleasure. It’s OK for you not to like sports — just as it’s OK for him not to like shopping.Don’t forget that there are benefits to sports fandom. Sports fans have something to look forward to as well as a good avenue for blowing off steam. They are able to identify with a group and bond with friends over the game — all are plusses for mental health. Sports often create common ground for fathers and children.A problem exists only if you feel your man’s sports fanaticism is negatively affecting family or couple time.One good strategy is to do your own thing while your husband is watching the game. Plan your own day out with your female friends or with other women in the same boat.If you want to stay with your husband while he watches the tube, don’t feel obligated to watch intently. Do your own thing — read, write, do the crossword puzzle, brush the dog.Use sports as a way to bond with others. Turn the game into a social event. There’s no rule saying you need to actually watch the activity on the field. Catch up with your friends, and spend the time talking rather than watching. Make the game a family activity, too. When your team wins, you can go for pizza and celebrate. When your team loses, you can go for pizza and commiserate.

It’s pointless to tell your man you hate sports or you don’t get why he likes them. It’s better to try to get involved. If you have any interest at all, have him explain the game to you. (Don’t do this during a game. Badgering him with “What is happening?” is like talking during a movie and likely to annoy him.)Have him discuss not just the rules but the players. Their personal stories are often far more interesting. Every team has its backstories and personalities — the bad boy, the underdog, the comeback kid.Still if your man is watching sports to the point your marriage is suffering, he might be using sports to avoid you. Sportsaholics and workaholics sometimes immerse themselves in outside activities to avoid their home life.If he places sports too far above your life together, it could be that something bad is brewing between you. In this case, his sports fandom is masking the real issue, and he won’t reduce his reliance on sports until that problem is solved.

So you should let him know that, while you want him to enjoy watching the game, you feel a distance between you, and you should brainstorm about ways to create inclusion. Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Don’t try to get a sports fan to give up sports. Instead, consider the positive aspects of sports fandom, and meet your man halfway.

Dateline special: All across the country millions of innocent wives are caught in a love triangle, battling for their husband's attention with the players of their favorite sports teams. Now, , the wives are fighting back by catching their unknowing husbands on videotape while they watch a game. Josh Mankiewicz travels from coast to coast to report in, "Honey, You're on Hidden Camera," airing on Sunday, March 18, 7 p.m.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .

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