Ever noticed a team that just isn't working together and having very little success, if any? You can see it, everyone can see it, except that team. You just want to yell at them "For crying out loud, work as a team already!" I'm sure with all the Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football games recently, you've seen plenty of this. It can be so frustrating! Sometimes though this is what our marriages look like and can feel like. Attraction and respect and a deep love for one another bring you together, but very quickly daily life activities begin to divide that sweet love and respect - jobs, new home decisions, children, parenting, every day decisions, well-meaning friends and family. We have experienced divisions in each one of those areas in our marriage. Sometimes several at the same time. That's when that going gets really rough!
Parenting can be a big one for so many married couples. After all, the likelihood that you and your spouse were parented in the exact same way and desire to parent in the same way is pretty slim. You probably both have very different ideas of what parenting should look like. This can divide marriages very easily if we allow it. In the end though, what is the most important thing? That you have your way or that you come into agreement and give your kids the gift of parents that love each other and will be FOR each other no matter how hard it gets? If the babies have to cry a few extra minutes (unless of course they are sick) or if our children have to wait to have their "wants" (not needs) met, while you work things out with your spouse, or if they have to stay with a sitter while you take time out for your marriage, or if they have to be told to not interrupt while you and your spouse are talking, they will be okay. As a matter of fact, they may be better off for it. It's good for them to know that you put each other first. We are well aware that this is not at all a popular view! It sure is easier to just give your kids what they want right away. It's tough parenting to make them wait. Tough on our hearts and tough for them. Especially for us, moms. But doing this doesn't mean that you love your children any less. In fact, it means you love them enough to make your marriage a priority. Where else will your kids learn how to have a great marriage one day? They will learn by watching you and your spouse. As a bonus, when you make each other a priority and intetionally decide to be on the same page, you can present a united front when conflicts arise. You can then be on the same team with your spouse and instead of parenting decisions tearing you apart, they can bring you together and make you stronger! This will benefit your children much more in the long run, but it is very hard to do when they are young. Just like any team that works together, this will take a lot of practice. It won't just come easy. It certainly still takes practice for us even after 21 years.
So, what do we do when those "divisions" come along? How do we stay focused as a team? We have not always done this well. Sometimes we blow it tremendously and have to re-focus. Sometimes it feels like we are divided and against each other, but deep down we know the truth. We know that we are on the same team and we want the same things. We have the same goals. We want a great marriage to leave as a legacy for our children. Here are a few ways we fight division and work as a team:
- In the midst of conflict, we have to remind each other that THE GOAL IS AGREEMENT. Whatever it is we are deciding, the end goal is for us to get on the same page - whatever it takes. Easier said than done but so worth it. This definitely means one or both of us will be sacrificing and compromising, but a dynamite marriage is worth surrendering our pride for, right?
- Sometimes getting on the same page means we need to GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE. At times this may mean going for a walk, or doing a fun activity together, then coming back later to discuss it again. On rare occasions, getting a new perspective may mean asking for help (be sure the person you are asking for help is not just going to side with you. Be sure they know your end goal is agreement in your marriage and that they will help you unite not divide. We have very few people we will go to for help. Only those we know will push us toward each other and not pull us apart). There have been times that we have "tabled" the issue and come back later to realize it wasn't an issue it all...maybe it was just a misunderstanding and not as big as it looked. Then we can laugh about it. Then kiss and make up. Yay!!
- When all else fails, PLAYING TOGETHER ENCOURAGES TEAMWORK. This may sound very silly because probably the last thing you want to do when you're in conflict is hang out together and have fun. But trust us. This works. Go on a bike ride together, or go kayaking together, oh...take a trip across the country like we did last year (haha - ok. maybe not that, but you get the idea.) Do something that makes you work together, not separate. And be sure to laugh together in the process. Laugh at your mistakes. Laugh at what makes you unique as a couple. Laugh with each other. It's quite the bonding experience.
Above all else, REMEMBER THAT ABOVE ALL ELSE YOU'RE ON THE SAME TEAM! You are working toward the same goals. Be sure to remember also that most of the time conflict brings about the good stuff..the stuff that a great marriage is made of! Hang in there and let the conflicts push you together, rather than pull you apart! You can do it! And don't forget that Teamwork is what makes the (marriage) dream work!
Cheering you on!
Allen & Carol