published Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Baumgardner: Marriage also deserves an Olympian effort

By Julie Baumgardner

The Winter Olympics are in full swing and stories abound about the athletes and what it has taken for them to have the opportunity to participate in the winter games. From Katie Summerhayes to Sage Kotsenburg to Bode Miller, whether they actually won a medal or not, they still put in thousands of hours of training to become the best in their sport.

Isn’t it interesting that nobody said things to them like, “You’re a natural, just get out there and make it happen.” Or “You don’t need any training, just be sure to show up the day of the race.” When these athletes expressed serious interest in their sport, they found coaches who designed training regimens to help them reach their fullest potential. Then they had to follow through and actually put in their time.

Miller, one of the most successful Alpine skiers in American history, experienced extreme disappointment when he came in eighth in an Olympic race on Feb. 9, a race he had hoped would lead to a medal and signal his return after having knee surgery. Yet even after such a disappointing run, he returned to the same slope for a training run for another event.

Why is it that people are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be successful in a sport, but many are not willing to put even half the effort into their marriage? If couples actually put in a fraction of the training time of these athletes, imagine what marriages across this country could be like. Many of the practices that make athletes successful could be applied to your marriage.

n Learn about the sport: Put in the time to get educated about what makes for a healthy marriage and the kind of people who are “keepers”; don’t just assume you know. Athletes who don’t prepare end up with serious injuries that could have been avoided. It is the same in marriage.

n Train and be hungry to learn new insights and strategies: Just as athletes constantly seek to be better at their sport, continually learning new insights and strategies for marriage will help you as you change and grow over time as a couple.

n Give it 100 percent: Athletes eat, sleep and breathe their sport. They are devoted to it and, in fact, often travel great distances at significant sacrifice to train with the best. Your marriage benefits when you are 100 percent committed.

n Practice determination: Miller was determined to return to the sport even after surgery and a previously successful run as an athlete. He and many other athletes have a “do whatever it takes” mentality. Most marriages would benefit from adopting this attitude.

n Don’t give up: Athletes can easily look back and reflect on victories and disappointments. Rarely do couples do the same, yet this very thing could motivate you to keep going. Anybody in a relationship worth having will tell you that the mountain tops are awesome, but it is the valleys that taught them the most about their marriage.

Becoming the best at anything is no overnight journey. As with Olympians, they invested their time, determination and perseverance to achieve the goal of a lifetime. Your marriage is the commitment of a lifetime. Why stop short of the victory?

Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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