You’re on the Same Team

By Robert S. Paul
By Greg Smalley
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Focus on the Family

In a marriage there is no such thing as a win/lose scenario when you are on the same team.

A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!

– Author Unknown

When you said “I do” at the altar and were pronounced husband and wife, you instantly became teammates. In a marriage, then, there is no such thing as a win/lose scenario when you are on the same team. We either win together or lose together. Everybody wins, or everybody loses, period. There is no other option.

That’s because when we settle for the win/lose approach, we don’t really get one winner and one loser. As a result, we wind up with two losers. Jesus put it this way: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). Power struggles destroy relationships, because any time you and your spouse square off, the outcome is rarely positive.

If you’re not already doing so, we encourage you to make a commitment to a new way of doing things: Establish a “teammates” mentality – an attitude that says it’s unacceptable for either one of you to walk away from an interaction feeling as if you just lost.

As teammates, redefine winning in your marriage as finding solutions that both people feel great about. Therefore, a winning solution goes beyond a plan that seems merely acceptable or tolerable; it makes both people feel valued and instantly restores unity and connection. This is the same thing that the apostle Paul encouraged us to do: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Date Night

As always, act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage, we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our mate. Get dressed up. Be polite and open doors. Compliment each other. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Act like teammates!

Your date night activity is to practice being teammates with your spouse. Plan an activity where you and your spouse play on the same team or attend an event where others are functioning as a team or group. Remember to act like a good teammate throughout the date (i.e., be caring, positive, respectful, enthusiastic, appreciative, a good listener, an encourager, and the like). May the best team – yours – win!

  • Find a way to turn one of your favorite activities into a team experience with your spouse. For example, go golfing or putt-putt golfing and play “best ball.” This is when each player plays his or her ball as normal, but the lowest score on each hole – or “best ball” –counts as the team’s score.
  • Attend an event that features a team or group of people, such as a sporting event, musical or theater performance.
  • Participate in a local fun or charity run and form your own “marriage” or “family” team. You can create your own team name and T-shirts (or simply wear matching outfits).
  • Build something together.
  • Play board games against another couple. (You and your spouse must play on the same team.)
  • Play Wii or another video game where you can play together as a team.
  • Hike, mountain climb, canoe or kayak together.

Step 3: Be curious.

Any time you are driving or sitting together, ask each other questions. Be fascinated by your spouse as you learn new information! Here are some questions to help you function as teammates:

  • If you could own a sports team or specialized group (i.e. football, basketball, theater company, symphony, etc.), which one would you buy? Why?
  • Can you tell me about some of the teams or group activities that you were a part of growing up?
  • What are some of your favorite memories or stories (funny or embarrassing) of being a part of these teams/groups?
  • When you’ve attended a sporting event or other type of group activity, what is the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve seen?
  • What is your favorite sport or group activity to participate in now? Why?
  • We’ve all been on some good teams, and we’ve been on some bad teams. What are some differences between a good team and a bad team? What are some key characteristics of a good teammate? How does being a good teammate relate to being a great spouse? How are they similar roles and how are they different?
  • Think about a time you remembered feeling like a team in our marriage. What happened that made you feel like we were teammates?
  • What are things I do that make you feel like we are part of the same team? How can I do better?
  • Can there ever be a situation in our marriage where one of us “wins” and one of us “loses”? What does it mean for both of us to win in our marriage?

Step 4: Relax and unwind.

Afterward, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to slow down and emotionally connect over good conversation. Ask these questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, encouraging and uplifting.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is one thing that you learned about me tonight that you didn’t know before?
  • How can we make sure that our marriage team always wins?

You may want to write your own “win/win” pledge. Here is an example:

Instead of facing off as adversaries when dealing with common problems or when trying to make decisions, we want our marriage “team” to always win. Since we are on the same team, if one person in the marriage “loses,” then both people in the marriage lose. We agree that all conflict and important decisions will be handled using this “win/win” approach. It is unacceptable for either of us to walk away from an interaction feeling as if we had lost. As teammates, the win for our marriage is to discover solutions that we both feel great about.

Step 5: Home sweet home.

Finally, as you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think of at least one way over the next few days that the two of you will make a decision as a team. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Discover the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Marriage

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take a free marriage assessment to identify the key areas where your marriage could use improvement and the tools that will help you strengthen your bond with your spouse. Take the free assessment!

Adapted from The DNA of Relationships, published by Tyndale House (Copyright 2007 by Gary Smalley, Greg Smalley, Michael Smalley and Robert S. Paul); and Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage, published by Howard Books (Copyright 2012 by Greg Smalley). Used by permission.

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Learn How to Cherish your Spouse and Have a Deeper Connection

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? What does it mean to cherish your spouse? Couples who cherish each other understand that God created everyone different, and as a result they treasure the unique characteristics in their spouse. We want to help you do just that. Focus on the Family has created a free five-part video course called "Cherish Your Spouse". In this video series, Gary Thomas will help you have a deeper level of intimacy and connection with your spouse.
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About the Author

Robert S. Paul

Robert S. Paul, licensed professional counselor, is vice president of the Focus on the Family Marriage Institute. He is the director and creator of the Hope Restored marriage intensive counseling program.

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

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