I saw a pretty silly—and extremely sad—incident at the grocery store the other day. I was rushing through to grab a handful of things, not really wanting to take too long, when I entered an aisle occupied by a young couple.
As I walked toward them, I watched the husband grab a jar of salsa that had caught his eye and drop it in the cart.
“That’s not on our list,” his wife said with some exasperation.
He simply gave her a look like a playground bully as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?” as he turned and walked away.
“We don’t have the money for it,” she called out to him, but he kept walking. She just shook her head, left the salsa in the cart and trudged on down the aisle.
Are You a Team or Not?
Marriage is meant to be a partnership—a pair working together through strength and weakness towards a shared purpose.
These two were obviously not working together. I don’t know their situation. Maybe she’s diligently working on the budget and trying to get him on board, or maybe she’s just dictating things and this was his petty way of rebelling. Alternately, perhaps he’s just an immature, controlling jerk who won’t come to the table when she asks for his help making decision about the family finances.
Either way, they’re not on the same team.
The saddest part about this whole thing was that their daughter—around 10 years old—was watching and fully aware of what was transpiring between her parents. Here were two people who are supposed to love one another more than anyone or anything in the world, but instead they were battling one another in the middle of a grocery store aisle.
But instead of casting stones, let’s step back and ask ourselves, “Are we acting as a team?” If your answer isn’t a whole-hearted “yes,” then take a look at some practical steps you and your spouse can take together to begin acting in concert with one another.
Getting Together as a Cohesive Team
- Define your goals together, which means learning how to communicate and compromise.
One of you is likely more of a planner than the other. One of you is probably the sort that sees the big picture better. One of you may be able to better delineate the details and steps necessary to get to your destination than the other. Perhaps these phrases describe each of you in part, or maybe only one of you—and that’s perfectly fine.The key is knowing these differences and taking advantage of them.
First decide together what your goal is, which gives you a destination even if you’re not sure yet how you’re going to get there. Then the person who is better at planning can take some time to formulate a strategy and bring it back to the table to share. This is where the ability to compromise becomes crucial. The planner should solicit input from the other person, even to the point of insisting their spouse make at least one change to the overall plan.
- Learn and understand one another’s personality styles.
Understanding your spouse’s personality may be the most important component of learning how to do life together over the long haul. I’d suggest both of you take a DISC Personality Styles Assessment from either Dave Ramsey or Chris LoCurto. Once you get your results, read them for yourself and share them with one another. Have a discussion based on the results and insights gleaned from the assessment about how you can better communicate with one another in the future.
For instance, a high-D personality probably wants to get right to the point without any extra fluff or detail, while a high-C personality not only wants detail but lots of it—along with graphs, charts, and full slideshow followed by a Q&A session. A high-I personality can be impulsive while a high-S—the most common personality style—will want time to think things over and often needs some follow-up. Knowing these personality quirks can help you communicate better and become more understanding and patient with one another.
- Don’t assume your spouse isn’t engaged or doesn’t care.
This goes back to personality styles. Some people are more easy-going than others, so they tend to display less urgency or fewer signs of worry than others. Know your spouse’s typical way of reacting to stress or difficult circumstances so that you’re not surprised when the circumstances of life hit your family.
Watch your spouse’s actions to determine how they really feel about an issue. You have every right to be upset or concerned if they say they’re on board but you never see any movement, but be careful about equating a slow reaction or doing something differently than you would as a lack of care.
- Make sure you’re doing your part to be and stay engaged.
Unlike the couple in the story above, there’s no room for willful immaturity on either person’s part. When viewed from the outside, that couple’s biggest problem was communication. Sure, it’s apparent there were some pretty serious underlying issues making good communication between them impossible, but in the end it was a lack of open, authentic communication keeping them from working as a team.
The other issue you can see is that there’s no agreement between them. Again, it really doesn’t matter who was right or wrong as much as the fact that they seemed to be as far from each other as possible in terms of moving together towards a mutually agreed upon destination.
- Coming together often helps you stay together longer.
Like holding monthly budget meetings, coming together regularly to review and discuss your progress helps not only keep you on pace to reach your goal, but it keeps the lines of communication open between you. Going back to personality styles once again, some people need repetition and reinforcement. Others just need regular check-ins to assure themselves everyone’s on-task and still working toward a shared goal.
Above all, learn to be honest with each other—even if your desires have done a 180° turnaround in the opposite direction since you began this road together. There’s probably nothing you can’t overcome together if you’re open, honest, and communicating regularly.
Remember the wisdom found in the Bible. Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (NIV). I like how the New Living Translation puts it when it says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”
Get together and come to an agreement so that you can walk together. Become teammates in reality—not just because a legal document you signed years ago says you should be.
Be so together that the world doesn’t need to see matching jerseys to recognize that you and your spouse are a unified team.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.