It seems like nowadays teamwork in a romantic relationship is important for most couples but it’s not quite clear what it is exactly. Does it mean doing everything together? Splitting the chores equally? Taking shifts doing the stuff nobody likes to do? Not quite. Here are some signs that a relationship works as a team.
- You check in with each other frequently.
When you or your partner make plans you make sure to consult each other first. Whether it’s about choosing whose family to visit on the weekend or making sure you both agree to an outing with friends, you have a habit of talking about it before making the actual commitment or reservations.
Why does it work: It conveys the message that you put each other first and you are willing to change your plans if it works out better for the couple.
- No activity is assumed to fall onto one person by default.
For instance, you don’t assume that if your partner likes cooking it means that they will always cook and be happy with that. In practice it means making your assumptions explicit and being open to changing them. Just ask! Make an effort to switch things up once in awhile and initiate things that usually are done by your partner. It applies in the kitchen, in the bedroom, and just about anywhere else.
Why does it work: You don’t take each other for granted. Everybody feels more appreciated this way.
- You have a unique system in place that works for you.
For example, having a young family often means being sleep deprived and parents often fight about whose turn it is to get up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Come up with a system that feels fair to both of you, for some it may be simply switching the parenting roles (in this case: getting up) every other day but that’s not the only way. You can also agree that one of you always gets up, while the other one does all the groceries and cooking. Without some explicit rules you might catch yourself always bickering about whose turn it is to do something or resenting your partner for not volunteering to do their part more often.
Why does it work: No matter what it is, if your arrangement feels fair to both of you, it is a good system.
- You have figured out what you value most as individuals and as a couple and you use it to guide your decisions.
You may not share all the same values and life goals, but ideally you agree on the big ones: marriage, kids, mortgage, vacations. Once it is clear to both of you what you most care about, you can agree on how will the decisions be handled, e.g., if one of you enjoys planning vacations, while the other one would hate putting in the time and effort into it, it’s ok to decide that the one person will take care of most vacation planning and preparation. Ideally, the other person does something else they are really good at (e.g., taking care of car maintenance, paying the bills, etc.). Use your couple’s common values and your individual strengths to build a life together. It doesn’t need to be quid pro quo, tit for tat. Don’t keep score. Just work on the right balance until you’re both satisfied and remember, every couple is unique and there is no one right way to do this.
Why does it work: you both get a sense of using each person’s skills in the best way to further your common goals.
- There is an open communication.
You and your partner are both willing to express your dreams, joys, wants, needs and disappointments, regardless of whether it gives you what you want. It’s important to be willing to listen to the other person even if sometimes you end up “agreeing to disagree” or despite your best efforts to solve a problem there is no clear solution.
Why does it work: when you are open about your inner worlds and wiling to hear the other person you are telling them that you accept them as they are and they don’t need to be perfect or in agreement with you to be respected or loved. This creates a sense of safety and strength in a relationship.
- You turn to each other when you have doubts or feel disappointed in your relationship.
Turning to each other is essential in moments of doubt, because the alternative is turning away and putting distance between you two. Keeping things bottled up for too long is also a bad strategy because it will only build up resentment – number 1 killer of intimacy and closeness. Be willing to be vulnerable and trust that your partner can handle it. And when it’s your turn to offer support, don’t ty to be the strong one. Don’t jump to problem solving. Just listen.
Why it works: turning to each other shows that you have faith in the strength of your relationship.
- Willingness to compromise and sacrifice once in awhile.
Constant compromises may get you both to the point of feeling tired and unfulfilled but being able to do that occasionally is an important part of being a team. You don’t always get what you want but you do what’s best for the team and draw some satisfaction from that. Treating your relationship like a team means making decisions that are best for the couple. When in doubt ask yourself “even though I may not want that for myself right now, what is the best decision for my relationship?” and use the answer as a guidepost. For example, you partner says that they miss you and want to go on a date with you, but you don’t feel like going out. If you follow your own desires, you’ll stay home and watch Netflix. If you do what’s right for the relationship, you might feel a bit grumpy at first but you will also build some intimacy with your partner, have some fun and end up the night energized and in a much better place – satisfied that you did the right thing and feeling closer to your partner.
Why it works: Putting a couple first sends a clear message to your partner that you both value your couple above and beyond your individual wants. Prioritizing the team over individuals is what makes it a team.
Every sports team has players that excel at different tasks and they may have different opinions about what’s best but it is working together that makes a team stronger and better than just the added strengths of each individual. Same goes for relationships.