There are a number of studies that indicate that professional athletes divorce at a significantly higher rate than does the general population. These studies were mention in Sports Illustrated and in The New York Times.
While the divorce rate among Americans is approximately fifty percent, pro athletes divorce at a rate that is approximately seventy percent.
Most of these studies have focused on marriages involving a male athlete married to a female. Perhaps this is because there are simply more male athletes than there are female athletes in the United States
There are eleven reasons that might explain why athletes’ marriages end in divorce.
- Elite athletes spend a great deal of time and energy developing their physical skills. Consequently, some of them fail to develop the kind of interpersonal and relationship skills which are required in order to have a successful marriage.
- Athletes are under pressure to perform well in every game. This pressure to perform can create a lot of stress for some competitors and they can experience anxiety and depression regarding the way they play. Prolonged anxiety and depression can produce conflicts in relationship.
- Some athletes love media attention. Others find this kind of scrutiny to be quite burdensome. Being in the public eye frequently and losing one’s anonymity can be stressful for some professional athletes.
- The travel that is part of professional sports can be grueling for the athlete and for the athlete’s spouse.
- When an athlete gets traded, his family may be uprooted. This can be a source of significant conflict and significant marital stress.
- Some players acquire huge sums of money at a very young age. Managing success and fame can be difficult for a young person.
It is interesting to note that a high percentage of well paid athletes get into financial difficulty due to poor money management and bad financial planning. A couple that was once wealthy and becomes impoverished can have a very tough time adjusting to and managing a different lifestyle.
This change is status can disrupt a marriage.
- An injury can impact the athlete’s earning potential and his life very rapidly. When injured, some athletes experience significant depression and anxiety. These kinds of mental illnesses, if untreated, can cause a couple to end their relationship.
- Being faithful and monogamous can be challenging when a man is on the road and is approached by groupies who want to connect with the “athlete-celebrity.”
- Young women seeking fame and fortune might prey upon athletes and marry them for the wrong reason.
- Athletes can get accustomed to being the center of attention in high school, on campus and in the city in which they play.
It can be hard for some athletes to get this kind of constant adoration from their spouses.
- Over the years, many spouses of professional golfers, football players, baseball players and basketball players have reached out to me because they were worried about their husband’s declining performance and potential loss of their high incomes and the lifestyle that went along with it.
In one instance, a pro golfer’s wife called because her husband’s income on the tour had taken a significant downturn after he had his one and only win.
In another case, the wife of a major league pitcher called because her husband was going to be sent back down to the minors.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist, Author, Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist and the Founder of www.HighNetWorthDivorces.com.