Take the ball first: Why Bill Belichick’s kickoff strategy could kill your marriage.

make the first moveHe may be a brilliant football coach of the best team in the NFL over the last 14 years, but if you apply his kickoff strategy to your marriage, it likely won’t end as well as the typical Patriots game.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Belichick’s kickoff strategy, he basically prefers to let the other team have the ball first. He'd rather have the ball to start the second half after the Patriots have a chance to see what the other team is doing and where the Patriots may need to adjust.

For the longest time, I applied the same “strategy” to my marriage.  I kicked off. And waited for her to make the first move.

Deep down I knew I was flawed, but thought: “if she would just [___], then I will [___].”

I blamed her, and dug my heels in.

Finally, I decided to make the first move. 

I took the ball and focused on what I could control to improve our marriage.

(In reality, she had been making moves for a while… I was just too dumb to notice.)

Almost immediately, we began connecting on levels we hadn’t connected on in years.

Our marriage improved, and has continued to improve ever since.

In Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown tells a story called “the Marble Jar,” which further illustrates the importance of taking the ball first.

The marble jar is a large glass vase that her daughter’s third-grade teacher kept in the classroom to reward kids for good choices. When the kids made good choices, she’d add marbles to the vase. When they made poor choices, she’d take marbles out. If and when the jar was full, she’d throw a party.

Although the Marble Jar story struck several chords with me, none of them was as important in my mind as the connection between the marble jar and making the first move. 

She explains: “The chicken-or-egg dilemma comes into play when we think about the investment and leap that people in relationships have to make before the [trust] building process ever begins. The teacher did not say ‘I’m not buying a jar and marbles until I know that the class can collectively make good choices.’ The jar was there on the first day of school. In fact, by the end of the first day, she had already filled the bottom with a layer of marbles.”

The teacher ignored the vulnerability inherent in going first. What if the kids didn’t care? What if she ended up with an empty vase and a bag of marbles? What a terrible idea that would have made the marble jar!

She didn’t let that stop her. She went first. Her action started building trust from day one. She boldly placed a large empty vase and a bunch of marbles at the front of the room and let the kids know how to fill it and what would happen if and when it got filled.

She took the ball first. And she scored. Trust.

Have you been waiting for your wife to make the first move?

Are you stuck in the “if she would just [__], then I will [__]” mentality.

Try taking the ball first. Just try it. Take it second, third, and fourth if you have to.

Heck, try it for the next 30 days. Or longer. As long as it takes.

Because, while it may not be the first day of your marriage, it can be the first day that you take control and start building a more rewarding relationship full of trust.

Let Belichick defer to the second half in his Patriots games.

The game we’re playing is much more important than his anyhow.

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