Sound Opinions

What Muhammad Ali Might Say in Couples Counseling

The emergence of Muhammad Ali as a boxing champion, Olympic gold medalist, and the greatest athlete of the 20th Century; greatly under-estimates his influence on American culture (correction… on Earth).

He is a walking quote, so fierce he claims, “I am so mean, I make medicine sick”. He is a master of rhyme and redemption. Although an aggressor with gloves on, Ali’s force was more powerful through the message of his words. His choice to act as a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam had him banned from professional boxing and sentenced to jail time. He was an outspoken leader in the Civil Rights movement, an international ambassador of peace, philanthropist, and lived under the watchful eye of the NSA and FBI. Ali is the undisputed champion of the world and the true GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

When we recently lost Muhammad Ali, we witnessed his last fight, and final fall. At his memorial, his wife Lonnie Ali spoke about his legacy. She strongly stated,


“Even in death he has something to say – to take the more difficult road, to sacrifice oneself in the name of peace, than to take up arms in the pursuit of violence.”


Lonnie was Ali’s fourth wife. He also has nine kids, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he would have benefitted from couple’s therapy. One might worry that Ali would confuse the four walls of a therapy room as the ropes that square a boxing ring. He wouldn’t be far from the truth.

Couples often pursue counseling at the height of conflict. They arrive raw and ready to rumble. They look to the therapist as the master of ceremonies, referee, and mediator.

These are the most difficult sessions. They are ruthless and often unproductive as each partner takes turns ripping into the other. Nothing good ever comes from this.

Couples therapy is not designed to eliminate conflict. That would be impossible. Disagreements and compromise are central to relationships. Rather, the goal of therapy is to teach couples helpful tools to fight fairly and work toward a more rapid recovery time.

Muhammad Ali had an incredible work ethic. He was a serious competitor. You didn’t ever see him fight with his gloves off, and didn’t see him hit below the belt. Like Lonnie stated, the higher road is one of peace.

Ali would be amazed at the sessions I have witnessed. Perhaps I could have used his quote:


“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, and thrown thunder in jail.”


Don’t be fooled. Under his rough exterior shell, lay a soft soul. He played the lover-fighter dichotomy to perfection. He would tell you that your time in session is an opportunity. That each fight will last 15 rounds resulting in a unanimous draw. To win means you found your breath, communicated respectfully, and stated your needs.

Ali is the quintessential peaceful warrior. He would easily trade in his gloves for hugs. He was an ambassador of love and would give any couple the advice that has guided a lifetime of success…

Be Ali.

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