Dangerous game: pretending to love sport, or anything. Photo: franckreporter
It might have been a click-bait headline in the Daily Mail, but it grabbed my attention nonetheless.
"Is football ruining your relationship?"
Apparently there's been a comprehensive and wholly definitive study performed in the United Kingdom that reveals fights about the footy are a top source of tension within relationships. A full third of couples surveyed said it was the number one contributing factor to a bust up.
Singles who can manage more than a mere muttering about the sport seriously impress prospective partners on both sides of the fence. And, in this situation at least, it seems that faking it doesn't matter. Especially if you're male - 43 per cent said they'd passed off an opinion encountered elsewhere as their own.
The research was carried out by a smartphone company affiliated with the so-called 'beautiful game' known here as 'soccer'. So you can see the strength of it. But it raises an interesting question, why do some things that bring us together, also tear us apart?
It's not just sport. There are many things we do when trying to build relationships with people that are more reflective of a desire to please, not the things we truly find pleasing. Sometimes, we pretend we enjoy adrenaline sports when really we don't. Sometimes we pretend we enjoy cooking when really we don't. Sometimes we pretend we like the sex being had when we really don't. In other words, we fake it. And it matters.
For example, I once knew a girl who styled herself along lines she thought her new boyfriend was drawing for the sake of making herself into his perfect woman. He indicated his love for fishing, so she bought a rod and tackle. He hated old movies, so she never brought up her collection. He was into public displays of affection, she said she was too.
The whole way, she told herself, and her friends, she was compromising because it was the mature thing to do. She justified all the adjustments as self-improvements. She said he was "bringing out" the best in her; aspects of her personality otherwise concealed. Perhaps there was some truth in what she said, at the time.
But as time wore on, and she continued to change while he stayed the same, something happened. Something perhaps not entirely unexpected in the eyes of us onlookers. Resentment crept in. Disdain. Contempt. Toxic fumes upsetting the love canary.
"Why won't he change for me like I changed for him?" She had begun to complain, a lot, and I distilled it to this basic dispute. "Why won't he change for me?" Because he never asked her change. He never asked her to make those adjustments. She made them, and made out like they were her own - how could she now expect thanks and reciprocity?
Yet she did, as many of us do. So keen are we to be loved, to be wanted and accepted, that we'll do almost anything it takes to attract and sustain the attention of someone we've set our sights on. Problem being, we're too busy looking at them, and what we think they'll like the look of to see what's really going to make us happy. We're blind to who we are.
Is football ruining your relationship?
Perhaps. Perhaps there really is something wrong with the amount of time your partner devotes to football, or whatever their key passion may be. Perhaps they're spending their energy and attention on this pursuit because it allows them to put aside their worries about your romantic ambition. Perhaps 'football' is their escape from your shared reality. If that's the case, I suggest you do something about it.
But perhaps it's not football that's ruining it. Perhaps it's you. Perhaps you faked it at the first and now you're resentful of the lie. Either way, it's interesting to contemplate those things done at the beginning and whether they'll tear your love apart. And whether there's anything that can be done about it. Can you undo a commitment to something, without undoing the commitment made to someone?
And, when it comes to dating, how far can you go before you cross the line? In the getting to know you stage, there's a lot to be said for trying new things, and pushing old boundaries. Why shouldn't you partake in your partner's passions? You might learn something after all.
The trick is keeping track of your own boundary lines. Knowing your own values. Knowing yourself. Unless you have a firm idea of who you are and what you want, flexibility is a tricky task, and compromise a slippery slope.
Football should be something you enjoy, or at least indulge. It should never be something you suffer.
Katherine Feeney is a journalist with the Nine Network Australia.