Buster Posey in 2018 (Photo/Wikimedia)
Buster Posey in 2018 (Photo/Wikimedia)

Let’s follow Buster Posey’s example in our own marriages

What fan of the San Francisco Giants won’t miss Buster Posey? Still at the top of his game, the seven-time all-star who won three World Series with the Giants surprised many of us by announcing his retirement at age 34 in early November.

Why? Posey cited the desire to spend more time with his family and a recognition of the physical toll of playing catcher. So he’s retiring after a 12-year major league career.

Posey put his values on the line in 2020, when he took a year off, forfeiting a multi-million dollar salary to stay home and keep his wife, Kristen, and their newly adopted, immune-compromised twins safe from Covid.

What might Posey be teaching us by example?

You might be thinking, “If I had his net worth, reported to be $50 million, I could put my marriage and family first, too.”

But there’s more to it than that.

Focusing on the marriage relationship: Maybe you’re earning a more ordinary income like Jen and Bill, who saw me for couple therapy. They faced challenges that might not result in Posey-like sacrifices but were still significant.

Jen and Bill wanted to restore the passion they’d felt earlier in their marriage. Married for 15 years, both wanted more than the platonic relationship they’ve been in for the past 10 years. But grudges had built up over time that kept them emotionally and, therefore, physically distant from each other.

Both had energy-consuming jobs that took a lot out of them. Also, they were spending much of their free time planning major home remodeling projects, which led to frequent arguments. Jen resented Bill for not including her in some of the planning.

Stress can increase grudge-holding: Often, Jen and Bill became annoyed about something the other was doing (or not doing) but stayed silent and grew resentful. Over time, the resentments would build, and neither would feel loved or loving enough to initiate sex or welcome an approach.

Bill and Jen enjoyed taking walks and traveling together. However, it takes plenty of emotional energy to focus on resolving long-standing conflicts and owning one’s part in contributing to them. I encouraged both of them to recognize how taking on new obligations like remodeling projects would add energy-depleting stress. Doing so could perpetuate their pattern of letting grudges build instead of practicing communication skills to resolve misunderstandings, manage conflicts well and increase emotional and physical intimacy.

Putting projects on hold can increase intimacy: Although Jen and Bill both said they found holding a weekly marriage meeting helpful, they often skipped or forgot to have one because they were so busy focusing on home projects or work matters. I suggested they put some projects on hold for a while, at least.

I remembered the sound advice given to another couple who bought a fixer-upper house consisting of two flats in San Francisco’s Mission district. They spent their weekends working to restore its natural beauty.

Back then, the three of us were young social workers in San Francisco’s child welfare department. Chris, our supervisor, noticed that the couple’s fix-up projects were taking a toll on their relationship. He advised them to reduce the restoration work to every other weekend. They took his advice and restored their relationship, as well!

A different focus: I, too, had to learn to cut down on stress if I wanted to create a happy marriage. If I’d stayed in a high-pressure job as executive director of a family service agency, I probably would have remained single instead of happily married for more than 33 years. The job had been a fantastic learning experience for me, but wasn’t suitable for my sensitive nature.

That work kept me too drained for much social life and distanced me from my closest friends. After devoting so much to the job and the daily commute, I had too little energy for others.

Some people thrive in similar positions. They have personality traits that fit with politics, competing interests or other factors. However, introverted types like me need to keep acting beyond our natural selves to succeed in such an environment, which creates stress.

Setting limits on stress: My husband David, whom I met sometime after leaving that position, would never have taken a high-stress position because 1, He would not work anywhere that required a significant commute, and 2, He would not take a stressful job. Once he stopped a job interview promptly when he saw that the interviewer had a bottle of antacid pills on his desk!

David and I talk about home-improvement projects, but they’re far from our top priority. We remodeled our previous home’s kitchen, which was enough, at least for a long time. We’re happier together when we focus more on enjoyment and relaxing and less on energy-depleting obligations.

Buster’s lesson for you and me: “I want to do more stuff from February to November with family,” Posey said at his retirement press conference. “Physically, it’s much harder now. It’s hard to enjoy it as much when there is physical pain that you’re dealing with. It was getting to the point that things that I was enjoying were not as joyful anymore.”

He acknowledged that he’ll miss the camaraderie with teammates, but he hasn’t wavered from making his choice to put his marriage and family first.

Buster Posey reminds you and me to keep a balance between joy and obligations. Both are crucial for a happy life, as is knowing when to cut back enough on commitments to bring more joy to ourselves, our families, friends and the world!

Marcia Naomi Berger
Marcia Naomi Berger

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, is the author of “Marriage Minded: An A To Z Dating Guide for Lasting Love.” She works with couples and individuals in her private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael.