Pickleball & Marriage: Real Talk
The last few years took a turn that I didn’t see coming. Did I think when I married my husband that I would eventually spend all of my vacation days and most of my free time devoted to a sport called Pickleball? Not exactly. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was, and even after I learned about it I actually thought it was a game my husband and his friend made up themselves. I was more then a little confused the first time he told me he was going to a tournament, “a tournament? for that game you and Bobby made up?” turns out I had some of the details wrong.
If you don’t know what Pickleball is, join the club. I’m often met with confused faces when I talk about it to friends. It’s sort of like badminton, sort of like giant pingpong, sort of like the loudest version of tennis you can imagine. The smacking sound of a small wiffle ball against paddles sometimes haunts my sleep. If you want to see it played out here’s a video!
Most of my summer weekends are dedicated to watching my husband compete in tournaments. Most people you find at the events are there to play, so I have the somewhat unique experience of looking from the outside in. I don’t play, except on the rare occasion my husband helps me get a workout in and runs me around the court playing singles (my highest score against him is 4-11 in case you’re curious, although I have a sneaking suspicion he gave me most of those points). A lot of my time at tournaments is spent screaming from the sidelines (sorry, not sorry, other pickleballers), refilling water bottles, offering him food thirty times a day until he’s completely annoyed, and occasionally cat napping if I come across a good sun spot and we’re in a lull between matches.
I wasn’t always involved with tournaments, or Pickleball at all, when he started. When he first caught the bug I wasn’t only working full time, I had a hefty commute and I was really trying to build a career for myself, so even my limited free time was spent working. By the time things finally slowed down a little for me, Frank was already deeply entrenched in the Pickleball world. He was already going to tournaments on his own, and Pickleball felt like it was very clearly his thing (at least to me). Most weekends and a lot of week nights he was spending playing, so to say I wasn’t initially the biggest fan of Pickleball may be an understatement.
In long term relationships it’s easy to let life sweep you along and not realize where you’re headed before you end up right in the middle of it. At one point we looked up and realized we were barely spending any time together, and we needed to change something if anything was going to work. Pickleball was definitely not the reason we had issues, but it had become such a huge part of Frank’s life without being a part of mine at all that it became a clear disconnect between us. So we decided I’d start coming to tournaments and be more involved with Pickleball.
It was an awkward transition, to put it nicely. I knew no one, and Pickleball is one of those esoteric worlds that can make you feel like an extraterrestrial that was just dropped into the middle of a square dance. I’m sure it was more than a little frustrating on Frank’s end too. Do you want the truth? It sucked for a while. We’re coming up on eight years of marriage this week and that time period sticks out in my mind as one of the hardest to get through. Even at the time it felt like a make or break situation for our relationship. It took time and a hell of a lot of perseverance. We fought, we struggled, and eventually it started to suck less. I made friends, I found a rhythm for myself at tournaments, and slowly but surely I found myself truly loving watching my boy run around the court, unable to restrain my cheering.
So here I am, making spread sheets of tournament schedules and counting down the days until the next one. Despite the negative feelings it brought initially it’s become a huge positive in our relationship. It’s easy to let changes eat your relationship from the inside out, but if Pickleball has taught me anything, it’s that getting through those changes can be painful and frustrating, but they can also be the absolute best thing to happen.