The Journal of Best Practices

Marriage, Asperger's, and being a better husband

A Happier Marriage Through Fantasy Football

Elevate your game.

My wife Kristen and I have a date this Thursday evening. And pretty much all day Sunday. And after the kids go to bed on Monday, we have a date then, too. It’s almost as if we’re stars in our own, private Cialis commercial, minus the parallel bathtubs and implied erections brought on by slow-motion food preparation.

Achieving these heights of romance after a decade of marriage isn’t easy for most couples, and this is especially true for Kristen and me. Not because we don’t hold a flame for each other—which, happily, we do—but rather because I’m an exhausting chore of a person. Spending time with me just isn’t fun. If Kristen wants to listen to music, I’ll serenade her with didactic lectures about why her taste in music stinks and why she should listen to jazz fusion. If she wants to play tennis, I’ll spend the first half-hour of the match stretching and warming up. Same goes for sex, because, let’s face it, at a certain age, safe sex amounts to not pulling a muscle.

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As with any great success, it was simply dumb luck that turned us into people who regularly do stuff together: my friend needed an eighth couple for his spouses-only fantasy football league.

Fantasy football has been around for years, and it’s really one of the dumbest things I’ve ever experienced. Players are drafted, and then you, the coach, spend the remainder of the NFL season agonizing over your roster. Even when your favorite real-life team wins, it’s impossible to enjoy the victory if your make-believe fantasy team had a lousy week. Still, though, there’s a lot to be said for co-managing an imaginary football team with your spouse. Here are a few reasons why this particular hobby works for us:

It’s completely neutral.

Some people genuinely share their spouse’s special interest: the wife who gets way into Warcraft, the husband who shares his wife’s passion for charitable fundraising. That’s definitely not us; Kristen and I are more apt to judge each other for the things we’re into. At least I am. But when it comes to managing a fake team of athletes whom we have no control over, we have a blast. We are rooting for precisely the same outcome—a win—and neither of us cares how it happens. Some weeks I handle the roster, and some weeks Kristen does it. There’s no “Dammit, you’re doing it wrong,” there’s no “I told you so.” Just: “Hey, do you want to pick our players this week?” Notably, when Kristen picks the line-ups using her decidedly unscientific methods (“That guy doesn’t smile in his photo, so I benched him.”) we tend to win.

We’re in it together.

There are stakes involved, but fantasy stakes don’t really matter; it’s impossible to get bent out of shape when something doesn’t go well. We commiserate when our team loses, and, silly as it may seem, this actually brings us closer. Together, we celebrate our victories, which also gives us closeness. Throughout the week we are pulled in different directions: work, kids, chores, errands. But come kick-off, we both stop what we’re doing and become one unit.

It’s social enough for her, solitary enough for me.

Kristen thrives on socialization and fellowship, two words that send me racing to my hidey-hole in the back of the attic. Even when I’m hanging out with my best friends, after a couple hours it’s enough, already. Joining a couples’ fantasy football league gives us an opportunity (and a reason) to interact with our friends throughout the week—which Kristen loves—without having to go anywhere or see anyone, which I love.

It’s a binding commitment.

During the off-season Kristen and I like to take walks together, or schedule coffee dates throughout the week. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to follow through. Things come up, and inevitably a morning walk gets cancelled. But thanks to an insatiable appetite for revenue, the good people at the NFL consistently provide Kristen and me with five viewing opportunities each week: Monday night, Thursday night, Sunday noon, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night. That amounts to five opportunities each week to cuddle up on the couch and watch millionaires inflict horrific and completely unnecessary injuries upon each other—and what could be more romantic?

Kristen is not a gracious winner.

As long as I’m on her team, that’s a good thing. The instant we gain points on our competition, Kristen wraps her arms around me and takes a picture of us in her Team Finch T-shirt, specifically to taunt whomever we’re playing against. She doesn’t shy away from trash talk, either, and something about that makes her incredibly attractive, even as she disses my closest friends for their inferior starting line-ups. Does it make me petty and detestable to love this kind of attention from Kristen during football games? Yes, of course it does. It also makes me pathetic. But she’s really pretty, especially in our team colors, so I can’t bring myself to care.

Will fantasy football make your marriage fun and brimming with romance? Probably not. In fact, fantasy football seems like the sort of thing that could actually take down a marriage if not used properly. Then again, it’s not about fantasy football. If it seems as though the fun is missing from your relationship, it may just be that you’ve lost common ground. And if that’s the case, you might consider finding stuff to do together—stuff that’s totally neutral, stuff that’s beyond idiotic, stuff that suits both of your personalities and interests—and then make it a binding commitment. Whether it’s cooking together, bathing in separate tubs on a cliff at twilight, or competing side-by-side as pretend football coaches, the key is finding easy opportunities to establish common ground. That’s how you can elevate your game.

David Finch is a New York Times best-selling humorist, essayist, and public speaker.

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