Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady divorce: That could have been me

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I spent 33 years in the National Football League as a team chaplain helping players and their wives try to stay married. Some did. Some didn’t. 

There’s a reason why. Having a working marriage is really hard in the NFL. I am heartbroken for Tom and Gisele, but they really aren’t unique. Marriage is really hard no matter what you do for a day job.

Most of us spend years getting educated and training for a profession, but how many years do we train for the biggest commitment of our lives? If you are like most couples, the answer is little to none. 

Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen
(Getty Images)

My wife Ann and I write relationship books, travel the country to conduct “Weekend to Remember” and “Vertical Marriage” relationship retreats and host a daily radio show/podcast on marriage and family. The couples who read our books, or attend a conference, or tune in online have more training in one weekend than most couples get their entire lives. And still, I know they struggle.

BUCS’ TOM BRADY, GISELE BUNDCHEN FILE FOR DIVORCE

Through insanely hard work and laser focus, Tom Brady became the greatest quarterback in NFL history. However, if he and Gisele Bündchen are like most of us, they had very little training in how to do marriage well. 

This is one of the realities that this year’s highest profile divorce teaches us: You can be the GOAT on the job but being the GOAT at home is a whole different ballgame. I’ve learned first-hand that winning at home is more important.  

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen have been married for 13 years.

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen have been married for 13 years.
(Icon Sportswire/Jacopo Raule)

No one would argue that what Tom has accomplished on the playing field isn’t inspiring or meaningful. We should work our tail off to be as excellent at our workplace. But when we hang up our cleats, the even harder work that we put into our marriages pays far bigger dividends than what we did on the field. 

The question is which pursuit are we most passionate about? Are we bringing the energy and passion to marriage that we bring to our jobs? And the same question needs to be asked about parenting.

Maybe Tom has experienced what I experienced. Often, our jobs can be more fun than our marriages. Coworkers often seem to like us and tell us that we are good at what we do. 

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen
(Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

We come home and don’t feel as appreciated. Resolving conflict, communicating our feelings, getting kids to sleep through the night – none of this is fun or easy to perfect. The cheers we hear on the job are swallowed by boos at home. Going back to work is an understandable response. 

But it’s just a Band-Aid. 

In our 10th year of marriage and my fifth season as the Detroit Lions chaplain, Ann said to me, “I’ve lost my feelings for you.” She was done with our marriage. Looking back at my life at that point, it’s easy to understand her view. 

I was in the Lions locker room each week and traveled with the team while counseling player couples almost every day. I was one of three co-founders of a new church that would grow to thousands very quickly. And, Ann and I were speaking around the country on — you guessed it — how to have a great marriage. In my spare time I was an assistant football coach at the local high school as well.

I was never home. And I was loving it.

Still, I was losing at the most important relationship in my life. I realized right then and there that winning outside the home means nothing if you lose your home. 

TOM BRADY, GISELE BUNDCHEN SPEAK OUT AMID BOMBSHELL DIVORCE FILING

God met me in that moment and reminded me that the most important relationships in my life are first my relationship with Him and second my marriage. I determined to do whatever it takes to walk closely with Jesus and to love my wife and my three sons like they are the most important people in my life, because they are.

I am not saying that I have done that anywhere near perfectly, but 32 years later we are thriving in our marriage. I just asked Ann if she still has feelings for me and she said, “I love you more today than the day we got married Davey.” And when she calls me Davey… Look out!

Tom Brady and Gisele  Bündchen

Tom Brady and Gisele  Bündchen
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In the wake of the Tom and Gisele news, let me challenge all of us with one thought: Bring the same energy to your home as you do your work. 

Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is really, really hard work. No couple on their wedding day thinks that the love they feel in that moment will dissipate. But every married couple watching that wedding smiles at their euphoric feelings of love because they know just how hard it is to keep that passion alive. 

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For our marriages to not just survive, but actually thrive, we need a game plan. Tom Brady would never enter an NFL game without a great game plan. Hours and hours of preparation and attention to detail are put into every NFL game plan. All of that to win a football game.

Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady in 2008

Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady in 2008
(Jamie McCarthy)

What’s your game plan to make your marriage and family great? You need to start reading marriage books. Get to a marriage weekend. Grab marriage input daily and start putting some real energy and time into the most important relationship in your life. Your kids are longing for you to make this work.

Yes, I know it is hard work and will take everything you’ve got. 

Yes, I know that you think the problem in your marriage is your spouse. 

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I thought the same thing, but you can only work on you. Trying to change your spouse hasn’t worked anyway. So work on you and go make your marriage the best that it can possibly be.

Oh, and one last and very important thing… you can’t do any of this without an outside source of power. Real power to change comes from above. God wants to help you live out your vows. Ask Him for help today and watch how He shows up. Ann and I are pulling for you.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY DAVE AND ANN WILSON

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