Diary of a Marriage: Rah-Rah-Rah!

When it comes to marriage, sometimes your most important role is cheerleader.

One of Em's celebrations from a past victory of J. and his tennis team.

This week, the high-school boys’ varsity tennis team that J. coaches won the league championship. If you’d seen me at the match, you would’ve thought I was watching the Wimbledon finals from the player’s box, rather than a high school match in a teeny suburban town, standing next to a handful of parents wearing business suits and loosened ties, looking on as their kids served and volleyed and missed and won and lost. But it was the first time in school history that they’d won the league championship, and my husband was the coach. I couldn’t have been prouder than if he’d won on Centre Court.

And that’s the thing about marriage: You’re not only your spouse’s best friend, family, and confidante, you’re also their built-in cheering section. Their Number One fan. You’ve got to be there on the sidelines — sometimes, literally! — to yell the loudest, clap the hardest and smile the broadest when they win. You are a cheerleader, just without the pom-poms and megaphones.

I was standing next to J., watching a slow-moving doubles match, when the final singles kid won to push the team to a 4-3 victory.

“We won,” he said matter-of-factly. J. is not one for extravagant shows of emotion.

I squealed and hugged him. “Ohmygoshcongratulations!!!” I am a big fan of extravagant shows of emotion.

I watched him give an end-of-match speech to his huddle of players, all mini versions of J., only with Justin Bieber-esque hair and cute navy uniforms. He offered the players restrained congratulations and briefed them on the following day’s match. I knew he was excited, deep down. But you can’t show that to the kids, he said. Not yet. There’s still a district tournament coming up. They can’t rest on their laurels at this stage in the game.

Still, I high-fived the kids, my cheeks hurting from smiling. They said thanks and called me Mrs. Goulet, which was weird. I took pictures of the team sitting on the bench post-match, catching a group of boys contemplating how angry J. would be if they dumped the cooler of melted ice on him — a high school version of the Gatorade bath, I suppose.

When J. and I got home, I squealed some more and hugged him.  “It’s pretty cool,” he said, ever the stoic. I amped up my enthusiasm, willing him to relish this moment, small as it may be in the grand scheme of things. It was our Wimbledon and, damn it, I was going to get him to celebrate. But he had grading to do and I had a story to write, so we left our wine corked and spent the rest of the evening working.

A long while later, as we finished getting ready for bed, J. piped up. “Remember that first match, where we lost? I really didn’t think we’d end up winning the league.”

He was ready to celebrate.

So I went over and sat on the bed with him, and he started talking. He gave me his review of the match — who played well, who had the most trouble, did I see that one double-fault at a crucial point of a set? — while a little smile played at his lips. He talked about the rest of the matches they’d need to win to go to the state tournament, what seed they needed to get. I just sat next to him and listened, asking questions every once in a while. And we talked late into the night, a restrained little celebration, just as he likes it.

How are you and your husband or fiance each other’s biggest cheerleaders? Do you make a special effort to show you’re their Number One fan? What does he do to show how much he supports you?

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