A few wives and girlfriends of NFL players have started Off the Market, a company aimed at keeping athletes from cheating. But it could have the exact opposite effect.
According to Susan Donaldson James of ABC, Off the Market hosts get-togethers for NFL players and their partners, aimed at helping them maintain a "positive, healthy, sexy, fun relationship." The group also maintains a Facebook page, with posts giving somewhat retro advice for keeping a marriage strong. An example:
Although a widow, grandmother is quite the example of a happy, loving, independent, educated, and powerful woman. Venting to her about my annoyance with picking up after my husband she simply said, "I wish your grandfather was still alive so that I could pick up after him."
Off the Market co-founder Tia Robbins, whose husband plays for the St. Louis Rams, says, "We can't keep anyone from being unfaithful. But we can create the environment." However, psychologist Richard Lustberg is skeptical. He calls Off the Market "about as deep as a tot's wading pool," and says that by giving players access to parties and corporate sponsors while on the road, the group might actually encourage cheating. He explains, "Their capacity to meet people is greater, so ultimately that creates more opportunities. If you drive a car 50,000 miles a year, you are going to have more accidents."
Of course, infidelity isn't an accident, it's a decision — and ultimately, every partner makes that decision for him or herself. As psychologist Sel Lederman says, "If a football player or any other player wants to cheat, they'll do it." Off the Market's Facebook suggestions, which also include "Cater to your mate's pleasures and desires, be it fried chicken or a foot massage" and "Hold your tongue for the day and offer compliments rather than criticisms," seem guided by the idea that one partner can prevent the other's infidelity by being especially sexy and accommodating. This is certainly convenient for the cheater, who can claim that he or she strayed because of a dearth of foot massages. But it's not accurate. Nor are a few parties going to change the entire culture of sports. Lederman explains the sense of entitlement some athletes feel:
Many of them had to work to be where they are. They have put in a lot of extra hours…They have to put in a lot of effort and think, 'I earned it. I did the time.' They think they should get the fun and the glory, or the respect or the adulation or the money.
We as a culture still tend to think of unlimited sex with women as an appropriate reward for successful dudes. If we all treated sex as more of a cooperative activity and less of a good to be exchanged, we might chip away at the sense of entitlement Lederman describes. But that would mean acknowledging problems that go way beyond an individual couple's issues — which is a lot more complicated than posting a few stories about grandma.