What Do Beach Volley and a Good Marriage Have in Common?

As I watched the Olympics I never thought I would enjoy beach volley as much as I did.  Not only was the female USA team great technically but I saw something that I truly loved.  As a marriage and family therapist, my mind puts together what I see and what I do every day: helping individuals connect and deepen their love.

Kerri Jennings and April Ross impressed me in so many ways.  Here are some that a happy marriage shares with this team:

  • Each one of them gave their best regardless.  Even if the ball came to them too high or too low or too far away, they gave it their all to get it and save it.  Marriage is like that.  In a marriage we go through tough times sometimes due to personal crisis, sometimes because life throws unexpected balls at us, and sometimes simply because we find ourselves in a disagreement about beliefs or how to do things.  In a good marriage partners always give their best to the relationship and persevere even though it gets hard.    Even if we do not get to the ball or our response is not perfect, knowing that we will give it our best and that our partner will do the same is critical.  Knowing that our partner will have our back and that we will hold them if they fall allows and strengthens safety in the couple.  Safety is key for a strong emotional connection, creativity, and exploration.
  • Even if one of the partners had messed up, Jennings and Ross expressed encouragement and support.  As humans, we will mess up.  There will be times when we don’t say things in the best way, or we might do things we might later regret.  Knowing that your partner will back you up regardless, that they will always cheer you and be there to walk with you through whatever consequence, is another key element for safety.
  • I saw so many hugs and pats on the back!  Jennings and Ross hugged and were physically and verbally supportive.  Regardless of gaining or losing a point, they gave each other a hug.  This was the physical expression of their support and being there for one another.  In a marriage, physical closeness is very important.  Physical closeness involves sexual and non-sexual closeness.  Letting your partner know that you are there for them through a hug, a kiss, holding their hand, looking at them kindly in the eyes and in a non-judgmental way are basic aspects for a caring and emotionally connected partnership.

The dynamic Jennings and Ross created was that of a healthy partnership.  A partnership based on respect, encouragement, support, and genuine caring for one another and for what they were doing together.  In a good marriage, partners show these characteristics of partnership by being there for one another in a non-judgmental way, listening and validating where the other person is at emotionally,  assuming good will from both partners regardless, and having the security of knowing that you are together, no matter what, to hold each other.
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