Early in our marriage it became clear that too many one-on-one game nights would ruin us, since I'm terribly competitive and an incredibly poor sport.  Being poor newlyweds, we didn’t own a TV and couldn’t afford to go to the movies, so we decided to keep playing our games with one crucial change – we would play on a team together against any number of other friends who were also played by, well, us. 

Though we still skewed the score from time to time to make sure we came out winners, we enjoyed ourselves and my poor sportsmanship was kept under wraps until the fatal day that we stumbled across Risk: The Game of Global Domination. 
Risk is a game of dice, slim on strategy and high on chance. With every roll of the dice fortunes turn from certain triumph to definite defeat and few are the relationships that survive it.  During one particularly intense game I shoved the playing board hard enough to make it slide across the dining room table.  Strategically arranged soldiers, tanks and cavalry men scattered wildly over various continents and oceans.  I was losing badly and my husband was gloating and it was more than I could bear. 
After the “incident” we banned Risk from our household, selling it to an unsuspecting customer at a yard sale.  We stuck to Trivial Pursuit, preferring the absurdity of teaming up together against ourselves over potential relational disaster.

*   *   *   * 
Fast forward a good ten years and here we are in the midst of selling our house and the process feels surprisingly similar to the game of Risk - on any given day we vacillate between dreamy elation and devastated despair as we circle frenetically around to-do lists and strategies, Internet searches and realtor listings.

“This is crazy,” we say, looking past each other with wild, dilated eyes before turning back to scroll with obsession through the same listings we’ve seen for the past month or more. 
“Are we crazy?” we ask, standing cornered in the kitchen planning, weighing our next move, rolling imaginary dice as we add up the possible weeks it will take to list, sell and buy a new home. 

When it comes right down to it, there’s risk involved in selling one house to buy another and I, the poor competitive sport that I am, find myself torn between ratcheting up my efforts to control the uncontrollable (and making my family crazy in the process) or resigning to devastation (and making my family crazy in the process).  Too often, I find myself picking fights with my husband in subtle ways, as though our house is the playing board and my fingers run lightly along the edge, poised to shove it all into disarray if only to relieve the tension of enduring the unknown.
*   *   *   *
Occasionally, in a rare moment of grace, we see each other in the middle of it all and our arms open as if by instinct.  “We're crazy,” we say, leaning in and shifting our weight just the slightest but changing our posture radically, from against to together.   

If you like this post, you may also like We Have No Maps.


  1. Kelly, I can't say what a kick it gives me to imagine you and your hubbie competing together against another team of the two of you. That is the most creative solution to the problem you describe that I have ever heard. And it's pretty cool too. Because it takes a lot of teamwork :). Times two.

    1. I know Laura, it's a little ridiculous, just wait til our kids get old enough to tease us about it!

  2. Kelly, I love how you've compared the board game to real life. If only we could make life as fun as playing board games. Thanks for such a fun post.

  3. My brother and I played Risk when we were growing up and the pieces were little cubits of wooden color - and I hated losing - I know that competitive spirit! It is a wise woman, though, who knows when to stop, step away - and breathe - into those open arms you talk about!

  4. Our family recently tried to play Risk since the kids were old enough to play...it was a disaster! Both kids ended up in tears several times. For some reason they both want to play again...maybe it wasn't a disaster after all?
    I can also identify with the emotional strain placed on a marriage/ family from facing unknowns caused by trying to sell your house. It is rough-and feels disatrous! But ironically, having sold 4 of our personal houses while our kids were under the age of 6, the kids are asking to sell our house again.
    Kids are so funny- just along for the ride. Always remembering the fun and not the bad. Looking back now the anguish of all the showings and the packing/moving/settling-in seems to fade for me as well. Guess I can see God always works things for good. Our marriage and family and faith are all stronger because of the risks we had to take. Yolanda