updated 18 Aug 2014, 05:01
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Mon, Jun 16, 2014
China Daily/Asia News Network
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Marital ties in the time of World Cup

A domestic beer brand recently launched an interesting advertisement campaign. It invited a star couple to enact a mini-drama, in which a man asks his wife for a 33-day leave to watch the Football World Cup, and the latter magnanimously approves and also agrees to take care of their child during that period.

Not surprisingly, the campaign has sparked a public debate on couples' relationships during the 2014 World Cup.

Many men tend to watch all the World Cup matches while their wives reluctantly assume greater responsibility in household work and other family matters. No wonder, many people see the World Cup as a challenge to marital relationships across the globe.

But contrary to popular belief that the World Cup leads to a rise in the divorce rate, experts with a British divorce service provider website, Divorce-Online, have found that during the four football-crazy weeks in 2010, the number of divorce cases in England and Wales declined by 36 per cent. Therefore, we can't say that many couples' relationships deteriorate to the point of crisis during the World Cup.

As a psychological consultant, I think it's a bit arbitrary to say that the World Cup creates marital discord. It's true that some women feel ignored during the World Cup, but that may have a lot to do with their illusion of having married the perfect man based on their pre-marriage experience of getting their partners' undivided attention.

Studies show that men and women both try to control their partners' behaviour during the power struggle period in their relationship.

But it's strange to see some women trying to discipline their husbands in the same way that mothers do to their sons: Why do you have to watch football? Why can't you accompany me? Watching football on TV is simply a hobby, and a popular hobby at that, with few negative effects.

Some women say being awake the whole night to watch the World Cup is harmful to their partners' health.

Such complaints reflect the same "mother-son" mode of relationship between couples.

Women tend to see their husbands as juveniles, and assume they cannot take care of their health and life, and are thus irresponsible toward the family.

It's not uncommon to see one partner occasionally taking care of the other like a parent. But while doing so, the "parental" partner should not forget that he/she is dealing with an adult.

Moreover, men in general have the tendency of complaining that women (especially their wives or girlfriends) don't understand football at all.

But surprisingly, they also accuse woman football fans of watching football more for the handsome male players and less for their love for the game; they even call women who watch football pseudo-fans.

Male football fans' psychology is interesting. Men emphasise their right to be called "true fans" and refuse to accept that women too can watch football with total dedication and interest.

At the same time, they complain that their wives or girlfriends don't understand football and try to "teach" them the nuances of the game.

This contradictory psychology reflects men's attitude toward the game: they regard football as a masculine sport.

Men tend to think that football is a men's game that women don't understand, and they need to confirm their exclusive right over it by mocking women's ignorance about the game.

Watching football, contrary to what many men believe, does not require special cognitive or thinking ability, and there's no reason why women can't understand it.

It is true that more men than women enjoy the passion and aggression associated with a physical contact sport like football, but it is also true that quite a number of women not only watch the game but also love playing it.

Those who still doubt Chinese women's knowledge about and interest in football should remember that the Chinese national women's team has been the runners-up both in the FIFA Women's World Cup and the Olympic Games. So, people accusing women of watching handsome male football players, beware!

There is, therefore, little reason to assume that the World Cup jeopardizes marital relations. And if it does, there are chances that the causes had been dormant and the World Cup only brought them the surface.

There has to be something inherently wrong with a marital relationship that can be shaken (let alone broken) by a month of football.

Women should dig deep into their marital relationship before blaming the World Cup for their predicament, and men should reflect on their pre-World Cup actions to find out why a football-crazy month forced their wives to reach a breaking point.

The author is a psychological consultant and writer.

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