Separate ways

I used to think I liked - and sort of understood - football, but my hubby has changed all that


Unlike previous World Cups, I didn't suffer from withdrawal symptoms when the tournament ended this time round.

In fact, I caught just three out of the 64 matches that were played. In past World Cups, I had watched at least half of them.

It's all H's fault.

He has made me forsake football.

And no, it's not because he doesn't like the game, but because he does.

While he's an ideal husband in many ways, he becomes sneery and impatient whenever we talk about the sport.

Whenever I make a pronouncement about football or a player, he'll look incredulously at me.

"You don't know much about the game do you?" he'll say dismissively.

Or "Do you even understand what offside is? Explain it to me."

Or "Haven't you ever played football before?" (Don't be silly; of course I haven't.)

During the finals of the recent World Cup, Argentinian Rodrigo Palacio came on as a substitute to take on Germany.

Now, the most interesting thing (to me) about Palacio is his rat-tail hairdo. His head is shaven except for a long, thin, off-centre strand of hair that's tightly braided.

In the closing minutes of extra time, Palacio came quite close to scoring.

"Hahaha, " I laughed out loud, clutching H's arm excitedly. "Look at his hair, hahaha, it's so ugly."

H, irritated, said: "He nearly scored and you talk about his hair? B****y hell, darling."

It's enough to shut a woman up.

It's clear he doesn't find me a good football couch companion.

My running commentaries have left him cold and he has concluded that I really don't know much about the game.

He also can't understand why I'm more interested in the players than in the way they play.

He gets irritated by how I'm constantly Googling or checking Twitter feeds.

You're not even watching the game, he'll say.

I am, I'm just multi-tasking, I'll reply.

I need to find out more about the players (although, truth be told, Googling about players usually leads to Googling about their girlfriends, wives and children which, in turn, drives me to the clutches of celebrity news website Mail Online).

He also finds me needlessly noisy. I scream, shriek, gasp and moan my way through games, punching and pinching and squeezing him at exciting turns. But the most you get out of him when he watches is a couple of strangulated oohs and ahhs at missed chances.

Little wonder he hardly ever asks me to watch a match with him.

It wasn't always like this.

Before we got married, I gushed to him about football all the time.

I impressed upon him that I was a big fan of the English Premier League and went on about players and games I'd watched.

He didn't seem to mind. He made concurring, murmuring noises. In any case, he gave me the impression that he wasn't a football fan, preferring tennis instead.

He was then living in Wales and didn't have a TV subscription at home. If there was a big match and he was in the mood to watch it, he'd catch it at his gym or walk down to the neighbourhood pub. We'd talk about the games but he didn't seem to care much about them.

Football was my game.

When I went over to visit him in 2010, he surprised me at the airport with tickets to watch Liverpool play in Anfield that very night. I was thrilled.

It was my first visit to the home of a team I had supported for years. We drove from Heathrow to Anfield. The stadium was packed and smaller than I'd expected and I remember eating a tasteless hotdog.

It was a match against Portsmouth, since relegated from the league. Liverpool won 4-1.

The next morning, when we were checking out, I realised the Portsmouth team were staying there too when we saw then manager Avram Grant and a few players in the lobby. I was excited by the sighting.

In the early days of our marriage, we watched EPL matches on TV.

Over time, though, I watched fewer and fewer games while he started watching more - EPL, Champions League, waking up early for the big matches.

Part of the reason was that he didn't seem to enjoy my company. A larger part, though, was that I somehow lost interest in the beautiful game.

Despite decades of proclaiming myself a fan and all those hours in front of the TV, I didn't really miss it.

It occurred to me that him being stuck in front of the TV for two-hour stretches gave me lots of private time.

I could Google in my bedroom without him passing judgment, play with my dogs, catch up on e-mail, read a book or just sit and stare.

There comes a point in a marriage when you realise you don't need to do everything together and that it's okay - healthier even - to have different interests and to carve out your own space.

I hit that point early this year, around our 31/2-year mark.

I used to insist that we do yoga together on weekends, but it soon became apparent that he doesn't have the body for it. He's not flexible enough. He prefers going to the gym and likes me going with him, but I find it boring.

In the first few years, we would argue about it, resulting in me dragging myself to the gym just to make him happy or him reluctantly joining me at yoga and suffering for it.

We've since decided that it's better that we do what we like. It means less time together on weekends, but at least when we meet up again, we are in a good mood.

Giving each other space means you accept and respect that your partner is different, and also that you have no right to impose your likes on him.

I suppose the key is to be upfront about it. Rather than sulk or be passive-aggressive when he doesn't show enough interest in what you're passionate about, it's better to talk about it and make clear that wanting to do your own thing doesn't mean you desire his company less.

As an article I read on the Internet noted, you and your partner got together not only because you had shared interests, but also because you were attracted to interests he had which you didn't share.

This was what made him exciting to you and there's no reason marriage should change things.

And so, through a strange twist of fate, football is no longer my thing but his.

I give him space to enjoy it and I'm perfectly fine with that.

Twitter @STsumikotan

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