How to Be a TEAM in a Relationship

Couples have to evolve over time. Evolving as a Team means that the two of you together solve the puzzle of your strengths & weaknesses & how they can work together. Of all the Couples you know, how many are actually a team? 

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Think about all the couples you know, HOW many actually are a team. Lots of couples settle for being a business, the focus of their arrangement is to raise the kids, then get divorced or fall into apathy. Not many evolve into being a team which requires work, sacrifice & respect for the differences.

Couples have to evolve over time. Evolving as a team means that the two of you together solve the puzzle of your strengths & weaknesses & how they can work together. For example, when one of my kids would create a reason for not going to school I would tell them, “I’m the stoic one who says if there is no vomit, no blood, or bones sticking out then go to school OR go see your Dad because he’s better at careful & he’s better at assessing physical complaints.” This also laid the groundwork for them to make distinctions about strengths & weaknesses in relationships because it’s never too early to learn to think about differences in a relationship without being critical.

A soccer team puts players in positions that play to their strengths so the team can win. When there is respect about both people you can learn how to play to help both of you be successful. You are willing to take risks because you have each others backs. I turned down grad school because I got a great opportunity to work with women in prison & jail. It was wonderful to know that my husband supported whatever decision I made.

Too many people want a clone so they can erase the differences which I discussed at length in episode #17.

Stop & ask yourself if you’ve ever undermined your partner in front of the kids or to friends or to your parents? I think this is an all too common occurrence. A pattern of complaining easily to others is evidence that you are not a team.

Instead of being so easily annoyed by the differences, first you have to learn: to be aware of strengths of the differences not just the weaknesses & second & most importantly accept the downside as part of the package as a whole. . Acceptance is the opposite polarity of anger. It’s so easy to stay angry & resentful. Of course acceptance is easier said than done, but it helps if you take time to inventory your own strengths & consider the downsides of each. Everything carries both sides, the good & the bad. When my husbands obliviousness drove me crazy I stopped to consider that obliviousness can be like wearing a raincoat in a storm which would be lovely.

So imagine this relationship:
You may be a tornado of energy, the other person is a tranquil lake. You are the active doer & they are better at being. How do you let those differences work together instead of erasing them is key to relationship survival. Down to your toes you need to accept the work of putting together 2 opposite things without trying to erase one of them.

When you are a team you have each other’s back. My husband really does not know what the work of podcasting entails. I also do not “test” him by waiting to see if he asks me about my podcast statistics. I tell him about my stats because his listening to the stats is enough & he does not have to ask me. He also sends me links to articles about podcasting that he thinks might be of interest. I don’t focus on what he doesn’t do.

Silent tests are easily failed because there is no communication to help the other person understand. It is your job to make yourself understood not wait to see if the other person can guess right because that would prove their love.

Expectations of what partners should be doing, can so easily destroy any efforts at team building.

We all start out with a lot of LOVE Fantasies & illusions about each other. Being a team means dealing with the reality of who we each are, not who we wish they were.

All pairs, even the most compatible are made up of two individuals who are wired differently. It took me years to understand my mother in law was very much driven by shoulds, while they were not very important to me. If I had recognized that was our big values collision I think I would not have stayed so distant.
With my daughter I recognized much more quickly that my being so practical could drive her up the wall and I worked at being more accepting of what was Important to her that was simply not practical.

Being a team requires acceptance & respect of values differences in your relationship.

You take turns supporting what both decide is important. Learning may be crucial to one person & they are supported to go to graduate school & sacrifices are made. The other person may want a second kid while the other partner loves the easier management of one child; one will have to sacrifice what they want. One person always wants to vacation with their blood family & with only two weeks off a year that person has to play fair and figure out travel with both families etc, etc, etc, etc….

Being a team means you make sacrifices for each other. One person is not in charge.

Love does not mean swimming in a sea of constant agreement. Being a team means being able to disagree respectfully with each other. If one person is silent because they are afraid of the other person’s sensitivity, stop & consider that the sensitivity can be a way to manipulate in order to achieve constant agreement. When you agree with me then I feel loved is B.S.

Being a team ultimately means BOTH people’s needs are addressed. Constant demands & catering to one person is a problem.

Being a team means BOTH people matter.

Accurately seeing your partner without blame is part of being a team. Money worries may be a real stress trigger for one person who may over react, the other partner has great confidence things will work out. So its important to understand that the stress may have contributed to a bad interaction instead of getting defensive & making things worse.

Another example of accurately seeing your partner might mean recognizing that communication & intimacy is foreplay in the hours prior to sex & understanding that makes sex work better for your partner, even though you feel closer after having sex first. So you decide I will make more of an effort to meet your needs because I get that you are not wired like me.

Being a team means accurately & actively pay attention to how you are wired differently.

& last but not least;
Being a team means being more interested in REPAIR than in being right or winning.

You are willing to figure out how to negotiate in a relationship, in how to meet each other half way. Power is not as important as turning towards each other. Are you willing to make amends, to take responsibility when you want too much and to extend an olive branch to the other person.

My challenge to you today is to ask yourself: Are you clear about how your strengths & weaknesses work together. Consider writing a few things down, asking your partner to do the same & have a discussion.
Think about how you wish your partner would get you or see you more accurately, ask them to do the same & discuss.
When was the last time you made a sacrifice for your partner & vice/versa?
What silent expectations do you carry that may have ripened into resentments?
Do you have each other’s back? Have you evolved over time into a team or are you stagnant?
Do you consider repair a top priority?

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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