Wifeys & Gents,
If there is one thing I hear all the time from couples who have hit a rough patch or are struggling to get along, it’s “(S)he’s never on my side” or “(S)he just doesn’t understand me!” While each couple is different and the sources of our relationships problems vary from based on a multitude of factors, I believe that one of the biggest problems serious couples face is their inability to shift from an “I” mentality into a “we” mentality. While this is especially true for newlyweds or couples who have decided to cohabitate/make long-term commitments, I firmly believe that every relationship could benefit from a lesson in adopting what’s called a “team mentality”
.Now, before we get into it, I do want to point out that this does NOT mean that you must become a “relationship robot” or one of those really annoying people who seems to lose their entire identity to their relationship. However, I think we can all agree that in order for a relationship to function for years and years, we have to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking like a team.
Being a team will mean different things to different people. I, for example, need to be on a team that feels supportive, balanced, and appropriately challenging in order to thrive. My husband might see it a little differently, but regardless of the specifics, adopting a true team mentality means regardless of the situation at hand, you are committed to viewing your partner as an asset instead of an opponent.
Of course, some of you might be thinking: Mrs. Renai, I never see my partner as an opponent. I love him/her and I’m very supportive!
That’s all well and good, but remember, it is possible to be in a loving, committed, and thriving relationship and still struggle with adopting a team mentality. I promise that it will come up at certain points in your relationship, whether you feel like a team or not!
Moreover, this isn’t something that happens overnight. Choosing to act like a team is a constant and consistent choice that we must make every day. We do the work until it becomes second nature.
Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step guide to becoming a successful team, but here are some ways that you might start to change your thought process to become a better, less individualistic partner.
For me, it all comes down to communication, balance, and empathy.
Communication or “how are my ideas getting across to my partner”?
I know it might seem like I beat a dead horse when I talk about communication, but this is more than just a reminder to be open and honest with your mate. When trying to adopt a team mentality, having solid communication is a great start! Still, the next challenge (once you’ve mastered open dialogue) is being aware of HOW you are communicating and how that communication is being received by your partner.
Have you ever said something to your S/O that you thought was perfectly innocent but it leads to a fight? Has your S/O ever reprimanded you for something you said or did that bothered them or hurt their feelings, and it feels like its coming out of nowhere? Are you sometimes confused when your man/lady gets upset with you, but you know asking about it will make it worse?
Obviously, your partner is being too sensitive, right?
WRONG! (well, maybe not always wrong, but for the sake of this post, let’s say WRONG)
…Or maybe he/she misunderstood what you were trying to say? While the latter is probably true, an individual or opponent mindset might tell you to fight back or over explain how they misinterpreted your words/actions.
When communicating like a team, it is moments like this where we must step back and acknowledge that the way we’ve expressed ourselves has been negatively received. This doesn’t mean that you must walk on eggshells around your partner (remember this concept works both ways), but it does mean that we should be thinking before we speak.
Don’t get me wrong, accidents happen everyday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something as a joke to my husband and ended up really hurting his feelings. While I could choose to be annoyed when this happens, it is my job to be more aware of the types of comments/jokes that trigger a really negative response. On the flip side, it is his job to try to remember my humor and know that 9 times out of 10, I don’t aim to hurt his feelings when I make certain jokes.
It’s give and take, you see?
If your partner is doing something you don’t like, if they are currently going through a problem and you want to offer some advice, or even if you’re just in a bad mood and want to blow off some steam, it is imperative to think about how your presenting the information you wish to share and how you want that information to be heard and understood.
I know it might sound like a pain in the ass, but being on a team means that we sometimes make sacrifices to win, right? Even in those moments when you KNOW you’re right, even in the moments where your partner is being a jerk and you want to put them in their place, there is a way to go about it that acknowledges the team mentality and fosters a more supportive, loving partnership.
If you said something to your partner that hurt them, regardless of intent, your communication was poorly received and it’s up to you to “make it right” in whatever way makes sense in your relationship.
Again, this does not mean that you just roll over and die every time your partner accuses you of saying things they don’t like, but it does mean you spend time working on understanding each other better. You take the steps necessary to learn from every disagreement.
Prioritizing the love of your S/O over your need to be heard or your need to be right is what makes communication go from great to outstanding. Although it isn’t easy and requires daily work, it’s totally worth it when you start to get it right (you’d be surprised how little you argue when you’re delivering your messages with more careful consideration).
Balance or “how much time to I spend wanting to be understood vs needing to understand”?
If we think of our relationship from a team perspective, then we need to know when to play offense and when to play defense. This is the delicate balance between knowing when you need to be understood and when you need to stop for a moment and try to understand the other person. In a lot of ways, this can be harder to do than careful communication, but it’s equally as important.
Anyone in a relationship will tell you that there are going to be moments where you and your partner do not see eye to eye.
This isn’t always the result of a major fight; it can be something really small and seemingly unimportant that you disagree on.
Whether you’re on the brink of a screaming match or trying to plan your next vacation, it is important to know when it’s time for you be heard and when it’s time for you to shut up and do some listening. This is especially true when you’re feeling like you need to put your foot down or are having one of those fights that you know is going absolutely nowhere!
Balance means being big enough to diffuse the tension (sometimes); being loving enough to let your partner know that their opinions and ideas are valid and important, even when they differ from your own.
Balance comes from flexibility. Most teams have to be quick on their feet and ready to roll with the punches. Sometimes, you have to step out of your comfort zone and into something new in order to be set up for success; if you want Chinese and he wants pizza, it’s okay to just suck it up and eat the pizza (sometimes).
My rule of thumb?
Listen more than you speak. Absorb your partners thoughts and feelings and really sit with and reflect on their experience. Ask questions when there is something you do not understand; instead of waiting for your turn to speak, make sure you really heard your partner and then formulate a CAREFUL and CONSIDERATE response.
See what I did there? Eh? Eh?
…making connections… 😉
Empathy or “am I in tune with my partners feelings? Am I able to put myself in their shoes”?
While this is by no means and exhaustive list of tips, empathy is by far the most important thing you can bring to ANY relationship. Empathy is the ability to connect with the feelings and experiences of another; the art of deep understanding that comes from careful communication and balance/flexibility.
Some of us are blessed with the ability to naturally empathize with others, even when we don’t want to. Others have to work at it daily, learning to turn their sympathy into empathy. Being in a relationship means taking responsibility for your partners burdens and making them your own. While this doesn’t mean you’re supposed to solve all of their problems or fix every bad experience they encounter, it does mean that you are supposed to be there to “take one for the team” on occasion or try your best to meet your partner where they are, connecting with their position and perspective.
More than anything, wifeys and gents, you have to bring your best to your relationship if it’s one you want to see thrive. The winning teams go onto the field with a game plan (communication), offensive and defensive plays (balance), and the ability to hear and address the concerns and needs of each player (empathy).
While this might seem daunting, there are lots of ways that you are your partner can begin to think and win like a team. Start with something small like a commitment to argue like allies instead of opponents and then graduate to bigger things. Maybe there is some negative history from your past that you’re having a hard time moving on from? Maybe you’ve been bothered by something your partner has been doing and you finally want the chance to talk it out? Whatever the case, remember that being your best self is the fastest way to being the best partner: communication, balance, empathy, and PATIENCE go a very long way.
So, what do you think guys? What advice would you give to couples who might be struggling to work as a team?
Until Next Time,
Carry on Wifeys!
*FUN ANNOUNCEMENT COMING IN 2018! STAY TUNED!