Hi! I’m Kristi Pollak and my husband Michael played for 7 years. We spent 4 years in Indy, 1 in Carolina, and 2 in Cincinnati. Michael and I grew up together. Our first memories of crushing on each other are in 4th grade. We started dating in college and have been married 8 years. We have 3 children: Hailey (6), Spencer (5), and Austin (2).
Football ended for my husband when he was scheduled to have a knee procedure during the offseason. Everything was organized through the team for him to have the surgery in LA (closer to home). At the last minute the team told him they wouldn’t pay for it and so they cut him. He was told to move forward with the procedure at his own expense and they would sign him to a contingency deal for the following season. During that time when he was a free agent, he received 3 amazing offers (2 were multi-year deals) for other teams. The internal struggle he was going through was visible. The kids were napping and we were sitting out back. I just said to him “what does your gut tell you?” And he said “I felt relieved when I no longer belonged to a team.” I said, “well, there’s your answer. Call Kenny (agent) and tell him you are officially retiring and to stop entertaining offers.” We were numb for the rest of that day. It was a huge jump but one that felt right to him. I’m not going to lie, I got in my car to go pick up Hailey from school and lost it. I cried for a solid 30 minutes. Our transition out of the NFL was hard. I was 6 months pregnant when he retired in March and we welcomed Austin in June. Michael also went ahead with the knee procedure because we knew he needed it and it was going to affect his quality of life. I would say at about the 18 month mark of retirement I really started stressing about finances and how we were going to establish our new normal. Michael went through bouts of depression, OCD behaviors, uncontrollable anger/rage, and as I like to say “the lights weren’t on at home.” He was merely going through the motions of life. He wasn’t LIVING! This was the low point of our transition. We both knew we were in a rough spot and we were both looking to him to fix it. I attended a Burdens to Blessings conference with Priscilla Redding. She was a current wife of Cardinals Cory Redding and had welcomed me into their wives Bible study. God opened the doors for me to attend this conference because I originally told her I couldn’t make it. It was during that conference that words came out of my mouth that I never thought I would utter. “I don’t want to get a divorce. He’s so hard to live with right now. This isn’t the man I married.” I knew during that conference that I was going to have to fight for our marriage and take initiative over our transition. I had no idea what that looked like. I began to pray for guidance for the next steps, and God held my hand every step of the way. The biggest blessing of retirement is getting to spend so much time with our kids and watching them grow. Michael has been such a great dad in caring for his children and they just adore him. He’s the fun dad and he loves that. Another plus is that we learned Michael is an incredible chef. We eat well around here thanks to him!
We majorly failed supporting each other after he retired. I don’t think we realized how much removing football was going to change our lives. While he was playing I managed everything but finances. When he retired, it just made sense to me that we share the roles of managing the household and raising the kids. Needless to say, we didn’t see eye to eye on that! Out of desperation, we attended a 4 month marriage conference through a local church called ReEngage. That was the beginning of healing our marriage. It FORCED us to communicate and talk about the elephant in the room. Michael and I have been together for 13 years and married for 8. We have known each other since we were 5! I LEARNED things about his heart during this conference. We both ended the conference on a good note and were so happy we committed to those 16 weeks. My role as a mother and wife changed drastically when God told me it was time to go to work. I became a hands-off mom (in my eyes). I had to trust Michael to manage the household and kids while I worked. It was literally role reversal for us. It took some getting used to and we had our fair share of arguments over our roles. We are much more balanced now and it has taken us just over a year of me working to adjust.
My biggest piece of advice is to seek God in your transition. Once I opened my heart and started seeking Him, the path was made so clear. I also believe strongly in counseling. In addition to attending the ReEngage conference, we also saw a family counselor on a few occasions. It was so helpful to talk through tense subjects with an unbiased set of ears! Show your spouse GRACE and forgive each other when you fail. Give yourself time but don’t be afraid to take the first step in finding your “new normal”. My name is Kristi Pollak and I am A Victor's Voice.