Men & sport!

For something that has always been an integral part of cultures around the world and throughout history, sport has more recently garnered a somewhat negative reputation. Whether this is due to the exorbitant amounts of money that today’s sports stars earn, the merging of enterprising and sporting interests, the increasing emphasis on image or more generally the over-subscribing of importance to what many see as something fairly trivial; there is no doubt sport has the capacity to be inclusive and divisive in equal measure. This is no less true in our personal relationships, as the stereotypical image of the husband spending hours whacking balls around a golf course or watching two dozen men chase one round a football pitch will testify.

Does sport really deserve to be perceived so unfavourably? As a fundamental aspect of culture, it has always reflected the outlook of the society it embodies, defining roles and establishing status. Furthermore, the origins of the word ‘sport’ go back to Old French ‘disport’ with the sense ‘to carry away’. Sport then, has always been a necessary counterpoint from the world of work and something in which people have immersed themselves, also allowing a sense of identity and social interaction. Those who practise sport are also, to a large extent fit and healthy, take care of themselves and pride themselves on their appearance and performance, all attributes which bode well in the field of life, love and relationships.

Peoples’ approach to recreation and physical activity can be highly indicative of their underlying attitudes and values. Those who play team sports may well foster close working relationships and offer support and encouragement. Those who enjoy head-to-head endeavours like martial arts, tennis or golf are likely to have a competitive edge and a high sense of respect for the other person. Many almost undoubtedly place a great deal of emphasis on developing, growing and striving to be the best they possibly can. Participation in a sport also requires dedication and commitment and the persistence to accomplish goals, reach milestones and achieve. These attributes inevitably extend into our personal relationships and are essential in making them successful and long-lasting.

Men and women’s choice of, and attitude to sport needn’t be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they can reflect points of interest in common and lead to shared experiences. Where two people have a love of the sea, while one may be an accomplished sailor the other might love to dive yet they are united nonetheless and could visit the same locations and each allow the other to discover something new from their common passion. A taste for adventure might find two people at home in the mountains respectively sharing their love of skiing and paragliding. Our choice of sport is an extension of who we are and as a result, reflects essential elements of our character which provide the basis of our potential compatibility with others in a variety of other respects,

A lot can be ascertained about someone’s attitude and approach to life by their relationship with sport. It is important then to look beyond the surface and appreciate peoples’ motives for participating in their chosen practice. Sport defies broad stereotypes of gender and status - women are now well established in various fields of competitive sport and long-held perceptions of who should play what sport or which ones are socially respectable have withered in recent decades. So far from restrictive and exclusive opinions there is now an open playing field, a ticket for you to participate in the most exciting game on earth. What you play and with whom and to what rules is down to you. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to participate and give your all. 

Trust

Trust is a concept we put hand in hand with love. To be loved is to be trusted, it is an implicit faith that your partner will love and care for you no matter what. It is an expectation of behaviour, the ebb to your flow in the tides of love. Trust is indispensable and contributes to our social success, along with an array of factors. The link between love and trust is even demonstrated at a hormonal level, whereby an increase in oxytocin, the hormone associated with social attachment, increases the probability of trust within a relationship.

Within a romantic relationship, as well in other types of relationships, trust grows gradually. Its formation is based on the consistency of expected behaviours associated with trust, such as the verbal actions of your partner matching their physical actions. Do they demonstrate the ability to be there for you in a multitude of ways; emotionally, physically, mentally?  By being there for someone you create the ability for your partner to rely on you and an anticipation that you will show up at any point in the future when they most need you. Only when there is a demonstration of steadiness in these behaviours and feelings do you feel a sense of trust building within the relationship.

 Not only is trust formed with a demonstration of certain behaviours but it is also highly dependent on how we feel.  You may very well have a partner who exhibits consistent actions and words but if you do not attribute this to trust then it limits its ability to cultivate. Trust is a combination of seeking and portraying these behaviours whilst choosing to associate them with trust. There can be a plethora of reasons why we choose not to trust our partner and sometimes the choice stems from a subconscious source.

In some way, shape or form there will be a point where you feel as though your partner has broken your trust. We are all human and make mistakes, in the context of romantic relationships, if trust is broken on a minute scale then it is more important to focus on the response of your partner. Do you both negotiate and repair the breach of trust or does your partner respond defensively when you tell that person about how you felt betrayed?  By observing their response, you exercise the ability to see what having your trust means to your partner and in turn what your relationship means to them. However, if trust is broken on a larger scale, such as infidelity, it can never be fully restored, only somewhat repaired and again it is down to what you expect from your partner and their response to the betrayal. 

In some cases, we carry the psychological harm that an intense breakdown in trust can cause from a past relationship forward. It is imperative for healthy a relationship that these negative associations are left in the past and with your ex-partner and are not brought into a new relationship. New associations need to be made in relation to your current partner, as opposed to subjecting them to the same low standard of trust from a previous relationship. It is unfair to hold a person accountable for another person’s actions. You need to wipe the slate clean and look at your new love with a new sense of trust. For, as previously said, to be loved is to be trusted.

 

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody, is to trust them” Ernest Hemingway

Want the fairy-tale?  Set goals!

As experienced psychologists here at Seventy Thirty, we know only too well how many people take a deterministic view of relationships, expecting fate to take a hand and throw us in the path of our perfect partner, whoever that may be.  More people fail to find someone through holding on to this treasured belief than for any other reason.  The fact is, as with any other area of life, people who are successful in finding and maintaining an amazing relationship are proactive and positive about it.  Somehow it doesn’t seem ‘sexy’ to think about goal-setting in terms of relationships. 

We grow up with stories of Cinderella, we see Hollywood movies and at no point does the romantic lead ever sit down and write a list of relationship goals – it doesn’t fit the romantic image we want to unfold.  The irony is, setting relationship goals is the best way to create your happy ever after.  In every other area of your life in which you want to achieve something you would set goals, make plans and take action, so why should it be different with our romantic life?  If relationship goal-setting seems like a clinical approach, suspend this thought and consider that this could well be the very intervention that we take which maximises our chances of creating our own fairy tale.  We just need to be our only fairy Godmother…

Be clear about what you want in a partner and relationship

Start by defining a few key points you are certain you want in a relationship.  It might be trust, kindness or a sense of fun for example.  Then think further about your key preferences in terms of the physical characteristics and traits you would like your partner to have.  This is not about creating a ‘made to order’ partner list, but rather about getting clear about what you want and what you could probably not compromise on (although as the saying goes, there is always someone you’ll make an exception for….!)

Set goals for what you want to achieve

Do you want to go out on more dates?  Socialise and meet more people generally?  Join a matchmaking agency?  Meet someone with whom you have common interests or a particular lifestyle?  Improve your communication in relationships?  Get married and have children?  Be clear about not just the type of person you want, but your vision of the future and how you would like your relationship to be.

Plan for your goals using the SMART approach (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound)

As you would with any other goal you set, start making plans for meeting the type of person you want and creating the relationship you want.  Will you go to specific events, join a particular club, determine to go on a set number of dates a month, sign up for coaching?  Whatever you decide on, make sure your plans are SMART so that you can make yourself accountable and track progress.

Take action

Whatever you plan, you need to make sure that you now take action.  Make it happen.  Even taking action towards your goals will give you a magnetic energy which will draw the right people to you.  Take steps towards your goals every day and take a positive stance in the face of any set-backs.  Remember the most successful people in relationships are the ones who are proactive, aware and positive in their approach, whether this is to find a partner or to create a magical relationship.  As the old adage goes ‘true love isn’t found, it’s built’.

Be positive about past relationships

Many of us look back at past relationships with sadness, regret and sometimes bitterness. There is a tendency to think that if a relationship is over it has ‘failed’.  However, very often they are just meant to run their course, and even if there was difficulty which led to a break up, there is much to be learned from these past relationships.

Although there can be negative reasons why couples split, it is productive to try and look at past relationships through a positive lens – both parties were probably doing their best given the person they were at the time.  This can be a difficult concept to accept, but holding on to bitterness or resentment about previous relationships will inevitably affect your openness to future connections.  Focus instead on how these relationships can provide insights which can be implemented to help create our ideal partnership in the future.

In order to learn from past relationships we need to think about how both parties behaved.  Always take responsibility and remember that it takes two people to create conflict in a relationship, as there is always interaction from both parties, and both have choices about their behaviour and whether or not they stay in the relationship.  For example, if one partner has had an affair, the tendency is to blame the other party without considering their own behaviour.  But this may mean key behaviours are not identified and are therefore repeated in the future.  Did they, for example, turn a blind eye to certain events, not wanting to believe what they indicated?  Did they pay less attention to their partner over time and ignore their needs?  Did they have subconscious fear of being alone, and therefore accept what was happening rather than confront it?  This is not about condoning distrustful behaviour in relationships, but instead learning about the complex interplay of behaviour which leads to negative situations in relationships.

It is also important to identify whether there are patterns which keep occurring in relationships.  Do you always attract the same type and go through the same experience?  Consider why you are drawing the same kind of person into your life.  Is there something you need to address in yourself?  For example, someone with poor self-esteem is likely to attract someone who does not value them highly.  They will set their sights lower rather than higher when it comes to selecting a partner, often settling for someone with issues or negative traits that will inevitably lead to difficulties in the relationship.  Until the root cause is identified, it is unlikely you will ever attract the right person and create a healthy relationship. 

Whatever the issues and upset we have suffered in previous relationships, it is important not to take these into the future.  Nobody wants to pay for the mistakes of a previous partner, so it is important that we don’t tar future partners with the same brush based on the poor behaviour of someone else.  This can be very difficult, especially when trust has been given and broken, but it is essential to give every new relationship a chance, and have faith in your increasing wisdom and ability to identify and resolve any problems that arise.

Is Religion a Big Deal?

 Within each of us lies an inclination, a compulsion to want to connect with and relate to a force or being outside of direct experience, a higher power, the supernatural, a particular deity, we gravitate towards the transcendental, the sacred and the divine. Many think of religion in terms of the half dozen world religions, and their subgroups. Though the fact that our religion is at once a very individual, but also universal human need presupposes that for all the categories and subdivisions, that delineate the nature of humankind’s relationship to divinity, its nature is of infinite and breath-taking variety and scope, a tapestry of immense proportions perpetually shifting and differing across the world and throughout time.

 Such a fundamental aspect of our existence invariably means that religion has become a definitive element of our identity, and our definition of ourselves is often inevitably established and reinforced unfortunately in the extent and manner of its difference to others. Where there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the subtlety of another’s beliefs and little acknowledgement of its value, prejudice prevails and peoples’ perceptions of this crucial area of human existence are reduced to broad brushstrokes and crass stereotyping. If we allow our attitude and behaviour towards people to emanate from this limited perspective, then we cannot reasonably expect to be able to relate to this person with any depth or apprehend the importance of their own affinity with divinity.

 Our understanding of different religions and their beliefs and practices is often clouded by the opinions of our family, friends and associates, while societal norms and the influence of mass-media and social networks can leave it riddled with misconceptions. Such an obfuscating outlook can impede our ability to empathise with the other person, appreciate their beliefs and respect their right to worship. Many deeply embedded social events and family occasions within closely-knit communities have their basis in a shared religion, as well as these societal ties and religious doctrine reinforcing accepted standards regarding marital practices and choice of partner. Given then, religion’s significance in terms of who we are, how we see ourselves and others, and the decisions we make from the choices we have; it is unsurprising how incredibly influential it has been on our selection of a life partner and our relationship with them.

 Which is why perhaps there has been a tendency more recently for people to describe themselves as agnostic or spiritual, favouring a less rigid outlook on humankind’s connection with the sacred. This way, we can appreciate the religion in the person rather than the person in terms of their religion. It would seem that people don’t wish for religion, although an essential aspect of our lives, to be the dominant factor in our relationships, or for it to dominate those relationships. That said, the major religions today are for many a source and channel of contentment, solace and power, enriching the lives of those who follow them and the people they know. Being such a fundamental element of human nature, it cultivates numerous qualities and endows people with a fulfilling sense of purpose and direction in their lives.

 So in traversing this sometimes delicate area, particularly in a world that is increasingly cosmopolitan and where intermarriage between different ethnicities, cultures and religions is ever more common, it needn’t necessarily be a question of your religion or your relationship. By abandoning preconceptions we become more likely to attract people into our lives we never would have otherwise. By focussing on the person, we can see in what ways their religion is important to them and how it makes them the person they are. From this perspective, the decisions both big and small that have to be made are done so from a position of mutual respect and understanding and the relationship itself is strengthened and ultimately more harmonious, as it is a platform from which to share experiences and learn about each other. Religion is ultimately a form of self-expression in our relationship with the higher power and like anything else in life its variety and the freedom to do so in the manner of our choice is what allows for the remarkable diversity and progression of humanity. Religion and relationships are not mutually exclusive but beautifully inclusive, let’s give them the chance to work for each other.