When people tell us they have relationship trouble and ask us what's one thing they can do to get closer, we give them a suggestion that goes something like this...
If you want to get closer, one way is to focus on getting on the same team.
This seems so obvious but "getting on the same team" and getting the two of you lined up in the same way and focused in the same direction is one of the real challenges of relationships.
We can tell you from personal experience that when both of you work as a team as you move through life together, you can literally conquer anything and everything that gets in your way of keeping the passion, love and connection alive.
When it comes to getting on the same team, you don't have to look any further than professional and college sports.
Since we're from Columbus, Ohio of course we follow our Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Reds--their ups and downs.
As we've watched professional and college football, basketball and other sports, we've come to some conclusions about winning teams (and losing ones)...
- It's not only talent that creates a winning team but it's also the way they work together as a team.
- In winning teams, individual roles are clearly defined.
- Individuals on a winning team appreciate their teammates and build them up. You don't hear them talking badly about each other.
- Winning teams have a sense of community and working toward a common objective. They are lined up in the same direction with the same purpose.
What does this have to do with your relationship?
When you take the time to get lined up and get on the same team, everything's easier.
Even if it's just the idea of being open to discovering what might work for both of us instead of insisting on being right.
Disagreements are less intense and don't last as long--and passion and closeness are greater.
The problem is that most couples don't feel they're always (or even sometimes) on the same team.
What do couples do when they aren't on the same team?
These things are sure signs of relationship trouble (without you even knowing it)...
- You cut each other down in front of others or in print like on Facebook (Sarcasm tears down love and connection and does nothing to build it even if you think it's okay.)
- You interrupt each other without truly listening.
- You aren't honest with yourself or with each other and sometimes try to say what you think the other would want to hear rather then what's in your heart.
- You look elsewhere for love and attention and have affairs--physical or emotional.
- You don't trust one another (sometimes with good reason) but you stay in limbo without committing to changing your relationship or letting go.
- You spend more time at the office or away from home than necessary.
- You do too much or too little to keep the relationship going.
- You hold onto old resentments and hurts for years.
Why does this happen?
It's normal for each person in a relationship to have different desires--and those different desires are inevitably going to cause the two of you to clash so you don't feel like you're on the same team.
The magic's in how you deal with and navigate those differences so you can get on the same team and be allies.
When we got together, we made a decision and intention that we would be allies and supporters of one another on the path to love. We wanted to "do it differently" than our previous relationships that ended in divorce.
We didn't discover how important our decision and intention was until we started clashing with one another and lose our connection.
We fell into holding onto being right and against one another from time to time just like any other couple but the difference is that we've found some ways to bring our connection back quickly so we can feel close again.
Here are a couple of ways you can stop relationship trouble and being "enemies" and start feeling like allies that are on the same team...
1. Become aware of the words you use and what you do as a habit that pushes your partner away.
For Susie, it's stopping herself from coming off as pushy and interrupting Otto and just listen when she gets irritated or tense. She has to slow herself down from jumping into finishing his sentences.
For Otto, he has to remember Susie's not the enemy and stop himself from getting into "fight" mode when he gets triggered. He has to remember he does have a choice and how delicious their closeness is to him. He has to not fall into the pattern of fighting or withdrawing from her.
2. Find ways to stop whatever habit of thinking you have that takes you from feeling like you are on the same team.
For us, when we become aware that our thinking is taking us away from the love we want, we make a conscious choice to remember our commitment to listening to understand where the other is coming from.
Not always easy, we know, but when we remember that our love is more important than "being right," we do get on the same team and resolve whatever has separated us.
Does that mean we become doormats?
Of course not. We find ways to express what we're feeling so the other can hear. We find ways to work out our differences.
For you, we suggest you become aware of what thinking you believe and actions you take that move you away from being aligned with your partner.
Take a moment now and write down one thing--maybe a small thing--that you know if you stopped doing it or believing it, the two of you would feel more in alignment with each other and on the same team.
We invite you to practice that "one thing" this week and see what happens in your relationship.