Becoming Teammates for Life

Becoming Teammates for Life

When you first decided to get married, what did you envision?  Did you think about wonderful moments of togetherness as you encountered various life situations? Raising children? Serving your church or community as a couple?  Growing old together?  Chances are that you imagined many things that the two of you would do in synchrony, but you never imagined what would happen when the two of you were not working together so smoothly.  Almost no one does.  And then the inevitable happens.   You realize that you and your spouse are not on the same page, and not even in the same book.  How you handle these moments makes a profound difference in what happens to the quality of your marriage.

Research on couples by John Gottman, Ph.D. tells us that all marriages experience the same number of conflicts, 10-12, and that these conflicts tend to be about the same sorts of things for all marriages, whether they are healthy marriage or a gruesome twosome.  As Christians, this should be no surprise, because we know that we are all fallen creatures who can never escape our proclivity to sin.  The dilemma for many, however, is that we tend to imagine ourselves in marriages in which sin plays no regular part, either in our own inability to be the ideal spouse or when we imagine who our spouse should be in our marriage.  We forget that any healthy Christian marriage will have to develop a strategy for managing the stress imposed by sin, difficulties and life circumstances.  There is only one good way to do this-learn to treat your spouse like they are a teammate rather than an obstacle to the lovely marriage that you once envisioned.

What would happen if you treated any difficulty that the two of you faced the same way that athletes do when something goes wrong during a game? When something goes wrong in a sports event, athletes are expected to keep playing and to play fair.  If a teammate drops the ball, the rest of the team quickly attempts to recover.  We would think it unsporting and odd if everyone on a team stopped to complain about a missed play, fumble or accidental foul.  We would be surprised if half the team quit because the other half did not make every play.  The idea in sports is that the game must continue and everyone on the field must readily adapt to the changing conditions of the game while following the rules.  The same is true for marriage.  What would happen if you treated your spouse’s mistakes, blunders and lack of skill like a simple mistake during game play?  When things go wrong, what would happen if you tried to encourage each other to get back in the game of marriage, to try again because you know that practice will improve your ability to be married?  What would happen if you forgave your partner’s fumbles and fouls and just worked to get the two of you working together again?

Your goal is to consider the greater goal of marriage–to be teammates in the process of manifesting God’s Grace to each other, your families, your church and your community. What you achieve personally is less important than what the two of you can do together regardless of the sinful states in which you reside.  This series of articles will help you and your spouse improve your ability to be teammates for life by identifying the critical skills that husbands and wives need in order to emulate the standard that St. Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., A.C.T. is a Light of Christ member with 25 years of experience in clinical psychology. To read her full biography, click here.