Like Sex with Dr. Jess on FacebookFollow Sex with Dr. Jess on InstagramFollow Sex with Dr. Jess on TwitterSubscribe to Sex with Dr. Jess's channel on YouTubeSubscribe to Sex with Dr. Jess's RSS feed
Sex with Dr. Jess


June 19, 2018

What Kind of Role Do Sports Play In Your Relationship?

The World Cup is well underway as evidenced by flags on cars, front stoops, storefronts and even bicycles across the country. And since the year’s matches take place in Russia, many fans are waking up extra early or staying up into the wee hours of the night to cheer on their teams.

But aside from the obvious sleep disruptions, what role do sports play in intimate relationships for fans and athletes? Jess joined Jeff to discuss related research today on The Morning Show. Check out the summary and video below and let us know whom you’re cheering for this year!

1. Sports play such an important role in Canadian culture — from hockey to cricket, we have fans of all persuasions. How does sports fandom affect the marital relationship?

When I was looking into the research on sports and intimate relationships, I came across a group of headlines that read something along the lines of “He loves sports more than he loves me.” It seems that the perception that sports are more important than the relationship has an obvious deleterious effect, but this could apply to any pastime. I also came across stories of couples who say that fantasy sports take a heavier toll on their relationship due to the time investment, the potential of gambling addiction and the financial toll when they lose. If couples disagree on whether to bet in the first place, this effect is intensified.

Additionally, I found research suggesting that when parents are overzealous about their children’s participation in sport, the sport loses its appeal (as it’s no longer fun) and it takes a toll on the parent-child and spousal relationship.

2. So do sports play any positive role from a fan’s perspective?

I also uncovered research suggesting that sports help to foster community (even if you’re a fan of a losing team), as fandom has a positive galvanizing effect and provides a sense of belonging. Overall, being a sports fan can be good for your health, foster safe spaces (e.g. spaces in which men can express emotion), and experience vicarious success.

When you watch sports with a partner, it offers you a common language and when you watch with family, it can bridge the generational divide. Your grandfather may not be interested in apps, but you can share the interest in a sport regardless of age.

3. What about the amateur athletes — the ones who play in house leagues late at night when rink time is affordable or the golfers who head out for a ten hour day on the green. How do their habits affect their relationship?

We do come across couples who fight about time spent on the field or on the golf course, but sports are not the culprit in most cases. They’re often a symptom of a breakdown in communication or a lacking in some other area (e.g. expressions of desire and appreciation) as opposed to the source.

And when couples play sports together, they benefit not only from the endorphins and health boost, but from the playfulness and camaraderie. Couples who sweat together report feeling more in love, connected and motivated.

4. What should you do if you’re not happy with the way your partner approaches sports?

Forget about the sport. It’s not about the sport. It’s about how you feel in response to their perceived behaviour. Rather than complaining about golf, ask for what you really want — a night out/in, a planned date, a devoted conversation without phones or more sex. Be specific about what you want instead of complaining about what you’re not getting.

And if they’re playing a sport, ask to join them. Don’t let your own excuses hold you back.

5. What about the pro athletes? Does going pro affect your relationship positively or adversely?

Pro athletes have to contend with the effects of the spoiled athlete syndrome. They’re accustomed to being adored, pampered and catered to and this socialization usually begins from a young age. Research suggests that their partners have to adapt to their often unrealistic expectations and play the role of parent, assistant and even therapist. The power dynamics make for a challenging situation which may explain the higher divorce rate in this population (estimated to be between 60 and 80 percent).