NFL Wives Nurture Marriages to Reduce Cheating

Off the Market started after Tiger Woods scandal as haven for committed couples.

October 26, 2010, 5:36 PM

Oct. 27, 2010 — -- Keeping a man honest is a noble goal -- and a tough one if your husband is an NFL player.

Traded from team to team, they work grueling schedules and have little time at home with their wives or significant others.

And there are women who would do anything to snag a good-looking athlete as a trophy.

Minnesota Vikings star Brett Favre has been accused of sending photos of his private parts to a New York Jets' game hostess when he was their quarterback in 2008. Just last spring, former New York Giants player Tiki Barber left his wife Ginny for 23-year-old NBC intern Traci Lynn Johnson. At the time, Barber's wife was eight months pregnant with twins.

So how to keep players on the straight and narrow? Tia Robbins, wife of St. Louis defensive tackle Fred Robbins, has launched a company, Off the Market, with Jerika Johnstone, wife of former NFL player Lance Johnstone and Jasmine Silva, girlfriend of St. Louis Rams safety James Butler.

Off the Market sponsors invitation-only gatherings for NFL couples, allowing them to socialize on the road, bonding others so they can sustain a "positive, healthy, sexy, fun relationship."

"When we got married, it was a huge commitment for both of us," said Robbins. "We were wondering how we could keep this marriage fresh and fun and rewarding."

The wives also want to create a haven for committed couples -- so their husbands don't stray.

"We can't keep anyone from being unfaithful," said Robbins, who is expecting her first child in June. "But we can create the environment."

The company was started in 2009, right before the Tiger Woods sex scandal. But cheating was "probably the last thing on our minds," according to Johnstone. "We wanted to focus on the positive."

"For sure, there are challenges with busy schedules and traveling," she said. "It can lead a wandering mind to assume there are things or incidents occurring if you are not in a secure and trustful relationship."

"We see other people facing that, [thinking] 'Oh gosh, I haven't seen him over the weekend,'" she said. "'It's possible he's outside partying.' But that's an issue whether you are married to an athlete or a stay-at-home dad."

Love and the NFL

It's also a support group that posts tips to other wives on Off the Market's Facebook page.

Some read like an advice column from Cosmopolitan: "Cater to your mate's pleasures and desires, be it fried chicken or a foot massage; initiate sex; give your mate an overdue compliment; give your partner a genuine loving and approving smile."

But they also promote "autonomy" in a relationship as "essential to long-term love."

"I am the author of many of the posts," said Johnstone. "I am a Ph.D. and a mother and this perhaps is a side of me that needs a little bit of a boost... It seems simplistic, but these are quick points that we can insert to build spark in our lives."

Its first event, in New York, was sponsored by a concierge service and an insurance company for athletes. On Oct. 31, about 40 athletes and their wives or girlfriends will meet up in St. Louis.

The company will soon launch a social networking site and perhaps plan a retreat.

Football is "extremely stressful on men, physically and mentally," said Silva. "While there is still a presence, it isn't as dynamic as in the off season. The husband comes home, but you are spending time taking care of the family and maintaining a normal family on your own."

Many football players' wives do have husbands who don't fool around, according to Robbins. But recent scandals have created a stereotype of the testosterone-charged jock.

"That's our biggest challenge," she said. "A lot of people assume that because we are married or dating athletes that they are going to cheat. It's not the case."

Psychologists say there is realistically no bulwark against cheating. And high-profile, big-ego athletes are vulnerable.

"Women who marry these guys have to have an understanding of what they are getting into," said Richard Lustberg, a psychologist who blogs on

"The husband isn't going to be home for six months and he's going to be fawned and fussed upon," he said. "You really have to have that kind of emotional make-up."

He is cynical about the company's approach to marital bliss.

"Give me a break, you think so?" he said. "It's about as deep as a tot's wading pool."

The group also offers opportunities for businesses to target athletes -- from upscale hotels to wealth management companies and exclusive travel agencies.

But giving sponsors access to their marketable husbands seems a bad idea, giving their hunky hubbies even more temptations.

"Their capacity to meet people is greater, so ultimately that creates more opportunities," said Lustberg. "If you drive a car 50,000 miles a year, you are going to have more accidents."

"What are they going to do, report on each other?" he asked.

But Off the Market says it is not a watchdog group.

"One of the things we always say is important is communication," said Robbins. "I encourage him to tell me and share with me. Openness and trust is most important."

"When your husband is 6-foot 5-inches tall and people see him, they assume he plays the sport," she said. "He's always getting looks. We joke about it and sometimes he gives them my number."

"We are definitely not naive and I know there are going to be women [who come on to him]," she said. "But we are comfortable and confident."

But can these wives make a difference?

"If a football player or any other player wants to cheat, they'll do it," said Dr. Sel Lederman, a New York psychologist who specializes in relationships. "It really is their choice. However, various things can be done to make it less likely."

Lederman recommends talking about infidelity and the couple's expectations before marriage.

"They will be tempted," he said. "The more successful the guy is, the more pressures and different manipulations will be aimed at him," said Lederman. "They will be admired by a lot of women…Having a trophy husband is the ultimate."

Athletes also tend to feel entitled to their affairs, according to Lederman.

"Many of them had to work to be where they are," he said. "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."

"One of the other things that pushes a guy to act out is they know any single day that their career can be over," he said. "So that's what's in the back of their minds. It could all end in two minutes."

Still, Lederman said the company seems "contrived."

"I am sure someone thought this up as a clever idea that would certainly work," he said. "I would believe there is someone behind this who's putting up the bucks. It's all a sales job to benefit whoever's behind it. It's very hard not to be cynical about it."

Marriages in the world of high-profile sports are often "doomed," according to Lederman.

"It takes a very strong, committed couple to resist the temptations that go on inside," he said. "That's where strength and belief is important. For those who are religious, it helps them to resist the temptation."

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