10 Strategies for Winning at Relationships

Conant football team

Fall is an exciting time for me with regards to sports…thus, I have found a way to incorporate my love of sports and teams into this blog post. I use to enjoy playing sports and now I enjoy watching them. So, consider yourself warned –  this post might be a little heavy with sports analogies.

Often, when relationships begin, we are willing to do anything for each other. We are in this thing together. We have each other’s back. We believe in each other. We are a team. At some point, life’s challenges hit, the differences become too numerous and cumbersome, and communication seems futile or non-existent. It can feel as though there has been a reshuffling of the teams. Now, instead of playing on the same team, it’s almost like we are rivals. Our actions say we are either playing to win or playing not to get hurt. When those are the objectives, everyone ends up feeling like a loser.

Here are 10 strategies for us to keep in mind as we navigate our relationships and ensure we are good team players.

  1. Be appreciative of differences – No team exists where everyone plays the same position or has the same role. The differences are what makes us a team. It isn’t helpful to ask our team members to be the same as us. Instead, look for how the differences between us can actually enhance our team. When we view our partner though this lens, then we appreciate and love them for who they are. On the flip side, instead of bemoaning the role we seem to play again and again in our relationships, we can choose to take pride in our contributions to the team. The role we take on and to which we give our best efforts only adds to the strength of the team.
  2. Have each other’s backs– There are times to discuss our differences and air out feelings, but at the end of the day, our team is strongest when we are consistent with standing up for each other. This isn’t just an outward gesture to do the “right” thing in front of friends or kids. This is searching ourselves internally and making sure we are constantly trying to see the positive (in our partner) more than the negative. When our spouse needs to vent about their day, this is our time to be their best cheerleader…not their critic. Be on their team. It’s an “us against the world” mentality.
  3. Choose to look at problems and disagreements through the lens of “we” instead of “me” – Our partners are not our enemies or rivals. We can either work together to solve a disagreement or we can choose to fight against each other. Most of the time, choosing the later ensures nothing gets resolved and/or one person “wins” but the relationship and trust suffer. Learning to think and navigate through our problems with a “we” approach and hoping the best for both members of our team, assists in making a stronger team bond.
  4. It feels good to be picked – We should find ways to pick our spouse over and over. Let them know we choose them today. Communicate how our team is stronger because of them and their unique qualities. Ask to spend time with them. Love them in the way that speaks to them most.
  5. Build up a culture of trust – Most good partnerships are built on an essence of trust. This trust can be present in all areas of life. Our partner should be able to trust that we are going to show up, we are committed to actions that back up our words and we will apologize when we have wronged our team mate. If there isn’t trust in your relationship now, try to find ways to develop it. Trust is vital to good teamwork.
  6. Communicate. – Even when we are afraid our spouse won’t like the message…we communicate. When we are ahead in the game of life, we communicate. When we are behind, we communicate. When it seems like our communication is failing, we don’t look to blame each other but rather we look for ways to better our communication and thus better our team play.
  7. Ensure everyone participates – This teamwork is about sharing. It is worth it to slow down on decisions, communication and/or arguments to ensure everyone is getting to voice their thoughts, preferences and concerns. If we have one person running the whole show with little input from their team member, it might be less of a team and more of a dictatorship.
  8. Be flexible – When we are working with other people, we might have to abandon our expectations and be flexible to the needs of the whole versus our needs as an individual. Abandoning our expectations is not abandoning our values. For good teamwork to exist, teammates need to be flexible.
  9. Work as a problem-solver instead of a complainer – It can be easy to sit on the sidelines and complain or judge someone else’s decisions. However, this doesn’t enhance the team. It is better to be appreciative of others’ efforts and learn to contribute to our team through active problem-solving.
  10. “It’s not whether you win or lose…it’s how you play the game” – Grantland Rice – When Mr. Rice wrote this phrase, I am not positive what he was referring to, but in the team play of relationships…there is no truer statement. Learn to play the game so that the honor of your spouse and your team are upheld. If you sacrifice those for the sake of winning, you have sacrificed everything.