“My husband is a sports fanatic and it’s destroying our marriage,” said Gloria, 28, an administrative assistant in New York City who has been married for 18 months. “Every night Carlos flops on the sofa, flips on the TV, and watches a game until bedtime. He’s so crazy about our hometown teams — the Yankees, the Knicks, the Giants — that he screams obscenities if the referee makes a bad call, dances around the living room if his team makes a good play, and calls his friends to rant and rave while the game is in progress. On weekends he’s either watching ESPN, playing pickup basketball in the park, or at a Yankees game with his brother, a season ticket holder.
“If it were up to him, I’d cheer right along with him. But
I really couldn’t care less about sports. I watched some games just to make him happy but then I dozed off out of sheer boredom and he got upset. Most nights, I watch the Food Network or HGTV in the bedroom.
“For the past 18 months I’ve been lonely and bored. I’m tired of crying myself to sleep, wondering what I can do to make Carlos understand how much I miss his companionship. I don’t expect him to quit watching sports or skip the World Series. I simply want him to watch fewer games so that we can go to an occasional movie or browse in bookstores — stuff we did before we got married. Is that so unreasonable? But Carlos always says, ‘I am here with you — I just happen to be watching baseball.’
“Clearly we have different concepts of togetherness. Yes, we are both present in this apartment, but we’re not emotionally connected. About four months ago I hit rock bottom and stopped having sex with Carlos. Since our sex life had always been great, I thought this would motivate him to change. ‘You sit in front of the TV all night ignoring me, and now you expect me to be affectionate?’ I say when he crawls into bed and kisses me after I’m asleep. Carlos complains but he’s not upset enough to stop watching sports. I’ve also stopped cooking his favorite foods. As far as I’m concerned, he can eat chicken noodle soup! I still love him but I don’t want to be in a marriage in which I’m invisible.
“I was born in Puerto Rico, the third daughter of a plumber and a seamstress, who moved our family to the Bronx when I was 9. From Dad I inherited my love of Latin dancing; I have fond memories of doing the salsa and mambo in our living room together when I was a little girl. From Mom I inherited my love of cooking and decorating. My parents pushed me to excel in school, so I worked hard, got good grades, and went to junior college, where I studied office administration.
“I spotted Carlos at the train station one morning about three years ago and thought he was the handsomest man I’d ever seen. For months I stared at him from afar, too shy to introduce myself. Then one morning we both missed our train. As we waited for the next one and then sat together on the ride downtown, Carlos told me he was 33, a divorced father, and a paralegal at a law firm. Before I could figure out how to give him my phone number without seeming too eager, he asked me for it and called hours later to invite me to play miniature golf.
“I fell in love with Carlos’s fun-loving personality and sense of romance; he was the first man to sing me love songs. We saw each other four nights a week, and there was never a dull moment as we went out dancing, saw movies, and listened to music. We never ran out of things to talk about. Soon Carlos introduced me to his daughter, Lucy, then 6, and we hit it off. He has joint custody with his ex-wife, Sylvia, and on the weekends Lucy spent with Carlos, the three of us went on picnics, visited museums, and baked cookies. It was so much fun! He barely mentioned sports. I had no idea he had this obsession.
“After we’d dated for a year, Carlos proposed. We got married six months later. Going from dating to living together was a huge adjustment — and, frankly, not what I expected. He changed overnight: Suddenly, the high-energy guy who liked salsa dancing and fine dining was more interested in staying home to watch the Knicks than in spending time with me. Unsure what to do, I tried to watch with him, figuring he’d also watch my favorite shows with me. But he refuses. He also takes no interest in my decorating projects. For example, I’m trying to choose fabrics for new kitchen and bedroom curtains, but the other night Carlos was too focused on the Yankees to give his opinion. ‘Pick whatever you want — I trust your taste,’ he said, turning up the volume.
“Worse yet, Carlos has turned Lucy, now 9, into a superfan, as well. When she’s here they watch every game together, and he’s teaching her how to play basketball. At first I thought that maybe Lucy was feigning interest just to please him. But gradually I realized it was genuine and felt her pull away from me. Before her dad and I got married Lucy loved to help me cook; now she only wants to hang out with him, which makes me feel like an outsider.
“Carlos’s sports fixation is hurting our social life, too. Recently we planned to attend a surprise 30th birthday party for my best friend’s husband, but at the last minute, Carlos said, ‘The Yanks are playing the Braves — tell everyone I have the flu.’ Furious, I went to the party and lied to my friend about his absence. I was too embarrassed to tell the truth: My husband is a selfish, insensitive oaf who puts baseball before his wife’s happiness.”