Lots of chicks out there chase athletes around….puck bunnies, cleat chasers, jersey chasers, whatever you want to call it. It would be pretty cool to have a talented, hot, rich husband- get to be in the spotlight, a status symbol…it makes sense why women dream of marrying these types of guys. But the reality of the situation can be much different. Relationships are complicated as it is, but when you throw in a high-stress, high-stakes, high-profile job like being a professional athlete, it can make things a bit more complicated. Look at a sports calendar. It is FULL of games. There is no doubt that your relationship is going to be long distance part time, if not almost full time. If he plays in a different city, it will be 100% full time long distance. That can take its toll on anyone. Anyone who has ever been in a long distance relationship knows what I’m talking about. I have been dating an athlete for a while now, and I learned pretty fast what I need to do to keep the relationship alive on my end, and what I should expect of him on his end.
Rule One: Be patient
I cannot stress this enough. Your guy’s schedule is going to be WAY busy. And when he has off time, he’s going to want to just chill, sleep, or hang out with his buddies. You will not always hear from him, and he will not always respond to your texts. Granted, some guys are better at responding to texts than others, and I’m just making a generalization here – busy guys will not respond to you. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, it just means he’s busy, and you have to understand this. You also have to understand that if he is a minor leaguer, he has a lot more on his plate, a lot more to prove. He may not want to give up his life in his sport for you just yet, you may endure a few years of “waiting” for him. Be patient and support him. He will REALLY appreciate that.
Rule Two: Make sacrifices (two-way)
This rule goes both ways for both people in the relationship. If you are both committed to trying the long distance thing, or the dating-while-in-season thing, you need to both put in time. It means taking the time to call after a game. It means spending a bunch of money on a plane ticket to go visit for a weekend, or sending a care package. I am very aware that this contradicts what I said in rule one, that you have to be patient and not “expect” his call. That is the reality of the situation. He won’t always be able to. But he should do his best to make the time.
If you’re lucky enough to have your guy play in your town, you have to be willing to sacrifice your time to go to as many games as you can, and he has to understand that you can’t make all of them, since you have a life, too.
Rule Three: Good communication (two-way)
I have this listed as rule three, but 1 2 and 3 are all equally important. Any man that is worth your time will know for a fact that women need to know what’s going on or what’s in store. HOPEFULLY your guy will have briefed you on what he’s like when he’s in season. Maybe he has already talked about past long distance relationship failures and what went wrong. My guy told me once before his season started, “Some girls think they can handle the long distance thing, but once reality hits, they change their minds.” That really hit home for me, since I had NO idea what I was getting into. He continued, “you just have to be patient with me.” I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that, but he certainly was right. I learned that I am way more patient than I think. Had he not said those things, I would probably be tearing my hair out going crazy. It was a vague statement, but in hindsight it was really important. I almost decided against the distance thing, but said, “it’s not forever, is it?” No, it’s not forever. Worth a shot.
Keep in mind that when I say “communication,” I don’t mean specifics like “what are you doing right now” type of communication (which is fine for idle chat). I’m talking more about the bigger picture. Where you are in the relationship, how you feel, where you think it’s going, any troubles or bumps in the road are going to happen, you have to be able to power through and solve the problems and not let them fester. Discuss things rather than arguing about them. Ask questions. Talk about possible solutions. Don’t get let emotions get in the way of problem solving.
Rule Four: Don’t be annoying or jealous
This is a general rule that applies for anyone in any relationship. It’s hard to judge sometimes when you’re being annoying because everyone has different opinions and tolerance levels for annoying behavior. You have to keep in mind that your guy is busy doing stuff, and he doesn’t always have time to talk (rule one), so there is no need to blow up his phone or his Facebook page. You may learn pretty quickly when you are being annoying, based on his reaction to what you do. If you keep unnecessary communication to a minimum, your guy will be happy. Yes, you can send him the random “I love you” text, but don’t overdo it. Use your best judgement.
You also have to keep in mind that your guy is in the spotlight. He may have to go places: signings, public appearances, charity appearances, sign autographs after games. He will meet people. He will meet lots of people. He will meet other girls. DO NOT (referring to rule three) get bent out of shape about this. Do not stalk his female friend additions on Facebook. If you have trust issues, DO NOT get involved in this sort of relationship. It will eat you alive. If he ends up cheating on you for whatever reason, he is a jerk and isn’t worth your time. Move on.
Rule Five: Trust the relationship (two-way)
Another two-way rule that is VERY important. Sometimes it’s better to not know what they are doing. Let him have time “with the guys.” Don’t give him 20 questions like where are you, who are you with, were there any girls there – because the answers are most likely at a bar, with the guys, yes there were girls there. Unless your guy is an antisocial loner, he will go out with his teammates as often as possible. This needs to happen so don’t try to force it otherwise. You have to trust each other to stay faithful. If you do not have this, a long distance relationship is NOT for you. Or any relationship, for that matter. (To put it into perspective, there have been periods of 24 or 48 hours where I haven’t heard from my guy. Do I like it? No. Do I know he will call me or text me later? Yes. Do I text him anyway? Yes. Do I give him shit about it when he does actually call me? No.)
Rule Six: Make decisions on your own
If you are having a rough time in life, jobs, whatever, you may not always have him there to lean on. You have to make regular life decisions on your own or with other friends (emphasis on “regular life,” since any huge life-changing decisions should always be discussed with your guy). NEWS FLASH: most guys give zero shits about what petty small-scale decisions you make (should I get the blue dress or the black one? Should I make my pin number your birthday?), so this could probably be applied to any relationship. Guys appreciate independence. Dependency and helplessness is NOT attractive in a distance relationship.
Rule Seven: Do not expect him to make any big decisions while in season
While your guy is in season, he probably has NO idea what’s in store for him after the season is over. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about it, he just has no idea. I don’t have an excuse for them as to why, they just don’t. Don’t grill him (rule three) on what his plans are. Don’t pressure him to make decisions right now. You can certainly ask, but be prepared to accept a non-answer (rule one). If time is limited for whatever reason, use your supportive girlfriend status and motivate him to make some sort of plans for himself. Talk him through it using logical unbiased questions. Sometimes your guy needs you to give him a push. Don’t get jammed up if he initially resists. The fact that you brought it up and are encouraging him to make decisions is enough.
Rule Eight: Get to know his sport
This is sort of self-explanatory but it can mean a lot to your guy if you follow his league or his sport in general. It can give you something to talk about and can give you a good idea about what sort of pressure he is under and what is going on in his life. If you don’t understand part of it, ask him. I still have no idea how to spot the difference between a fastball or a slider or a changeup. I understand the fundamental differences, but I don’t see it when I’m looking at it. Just looks like a ball traveling really fast. Yet I continue to ask…
Rule Nine: Be Encouraging
Another self-explanatory rule. Your guy will have ups and downs, just like any sport season does. It is your job as Supportive Girlfriend to be there through all of it. You can’t be a fair-weather girlfriend. Your guy may shut down or get really annoyed with his team’s or his own performance. This will affect you. You can’t take it personally (rule one), you need to be there to talk to him. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, you have to accept that. Put yourself in his shoes. Relate his experiences to some of your own experiences and how you overcame it…put it into perspective; it will help you understand it too.
Rule Ten: It IS all about him – to a certain degree
All of this may sound like a load of crap to some of you. Relationships ARE supposed to be 50/50, give and take, a balance of everything. In some cases, you have to shift that balance to accommodate. As a pro athlete, your guy has a more than full time job. He doesn’t have all that time to put in half the effort, make half the trips, spend half of the money. You as Supportive Girlfriend have to understand this and deal with it. Sometimes you have to bend over backwards for him, and you should be willing to do that. If you’re not able to, he should understand that. At the same time, if he doesn’t acknowledge your effort and isn’t appreciative of everything you put into the relationship, and he isn’t willing to accommodate to your life after his season is over, he is not worth your time. This is only a temporary shift of balance.
A lot of these things I said in these rules are contradictory. Saying two-way communication is important but then going back and saying you have to be ok with him not talking to you. It really doesn’t make much sense at all, I’m aware of this. There are times when its ok to accept non-communication and there are times to not. Use your best judgement.
Every now and then you have to take a step back from the relationship and look at it objectively. Am I still happy doing this? Is this guy worth waiting around for? If he decides to play for a few more years, would I be able to do this for another season? Five more years? If he lands a big(ger) contract and has to move somewhere else, what would I do?
These types of relationships are a constant test of your mental and emotional strength. A relationship built on a good solid base of trust and communication can last, if you both do your best to keep up with it. As for being in the spotlight on the red carpet on a player’s arm, it’s probably not going to happen. You might have a few opportunities to parade around with him for banquets or other appearances, but for the most part, you are not visible. Reality bites sometimes. Bottom line is, he is busy and you come second to his sport. You have to accept that, no questions asked. But when his season is over, it needs to be about both of you.