Spouse: Is retirement a dream come true or your worst nightmare?

Retirement: The word you have dreamt of, planned your post football days around, and maybe even prayed for. This is what you have longed for isn't it? No more football seasons where your household happiness revolves around a win or a loss. No more autograph seekers wedging in between you and your husband after a game shoving bits of papers and flesh in your husbands face. Gone are the days of chewing your nails down to nothing while cheering on your husband and his teammates.

You don't have to hold your breath anymore wondering if your husband will walk off the field unassisted or the paramedics will have to carry him off. No more rehab, injured reserve or training rooms. No more company during the season. No more cocktail parties where you are introduced as a pro athlete's wife, your smile painted on as you entered the evening and wiped off as you left to go home. The kitchen countertops crammed with supplements, painkillers, energy bars, and a juicer.

Now your husband will have time for the family; time to talk, energy for walks and playing ball with his own kids. He'll be relaxed and thrilled to be home with you. The time has arrived for life to be about you for a change.

RETIREMENT has begun! And then, the honeymoon and fantasy of retirement ends as quickly as it began and you wrestle with "what went wrong?" This is not at all what you had bargained for.

Now instead of being happy, your man is depressed and can't or won't get out of bed. He stopped shaving days ago and you know he hasn't showered because he has worn the same outfit for days. He is irritated by the kids and at your nagging. Forget the walks hand in hand, his ankles and knees gave there best on the playing field and walking now is a necessity rather than a pleasure (unless it's on the golf course). He is spending money as though it grew on a tree and yet can't or won't get a job. Anger and disillusionment has become his bed companion. You are scared, bewildered, and feeling misunderstood.

Who could possibly know what you are experiencing? Who else could comprehend the depths of your pain and the heights of your anger and resentment? Not your neighbor, not your mother and certainly not your best friend who still remains on the team. Well, Girlfriend, you are not alone. There exists a sorority of Sisters who have walked in your exact shoes, women who understand your pain, fear and frustration.

I know what it is too feel terrified when faced with your husband's depression, which may be so great that you believe he could commit suicide. I understand your resentment when you consider that life has revolved around your husband for so long, and you wonder, "Will my hopes and dreams ever matter?" I know the questions you ask yourself: "Will he ever grow up? Will our marriage make it? Will he really choose me above his love for the game now that it's over? Am I going crazy?"

Without knowing you, I can still assure you that you are NOT going crazy. You have entered into the down and dirty trenches of retirement. The Honeymoon period is over (assuming you experienced it) and the battle for your family has begun. I want to encourage you and cheer you on, because this will not be an easy journey. I know you are strong because you have survived the NFL tour of duty.

In twelve years of football, I have never met a weak football wife. In addition to strength you can choose to possess fortitude and dignity in the face of the coming storms.

You see, the keyword here is "choose." Granted you are not by choice in the circumstances of retirement, but you can choose how to carry yourself through this time of transition. You can be strength under fire or whine and nag long enough so someone will want to throw you into the fire.

Do you see yourself as a victim with no control or as a woman who admits her pain and moves forward to heal? Do you speak the truth despite the possibility of an unpopular response or cower comfortably behind lies? Would your man say that when the chips are down you stand by him or are you blasting past him with palm pilot in hand plotting and strategizing the next move for your family? After all, you've been running things just fine without him for years.

I have described two different women. Their attitudes, belief systems and strengths run parallel to one another. One is likeable, strong and sees hardship as an opportunity to grow and change. The other is hard, unapproachable and critical. She demands her way.

Which woman are you? I know which one I was. You can choose to change, to grow up and become a grace filled woman. A woman who has learned to temper her strength with mercy and posses qualities and gifts that cannot be rivaled.
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