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Do You Have a Teamwork Mindset?

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One day I found myself wondering, Do couples take seriously the idea of finding win-win as a team, based on God's calling to be one?

Embracing and Nurturing Teamwork

With this question in mind, I wrote down a burden I was feeling: "As for the win-win message, no one is saying to me ‘tell me more.’ We did all those small groups and I don't know anybody from any of those focus groups who has corresponded with me for the purpose of following up to gain more insight. I have to conclude that people see it as complicated or uninviting for some reason. The way in which they are doing marriage is the way they intend to do marriage. They know there's a risk to the lose-lose approach, but if it doesn't work out they can bail out of the marriage, though none would say this out loud. They expect a spouse to conduct themselves in a way that they can live with, and if not they will entertain ideas of departing. And, if they don't depart, they will live as roommates. Apparently, the win-win message just reinforces to them that they have a win-lose or a lose-lose marriage and they don't want to open up a can of worms. Addressing this issue is not helpful to them. There is little energy in figuring out ways to work as a team as Christ intends. So, I have to make the case to counter this mindset. Am I capable of doing this?"

Shortly after I wrote this down, my son-in-law blessed me with his belief in teamwork. I heard him say to our daughter during a conflict, “Joy, remember, we are on the same team.“ Later, with excitement, she said to me, “Dad, that might even be the title of your book on win-win: You Are on the Same Team!"

So where does a couple begin?

Sometimes we must have a discussion about teamwork before we are able to function as a team.

What might be some things we could say to remind each other we are on the same team? I suggest when disagreeing that we reassure our spouse that we are on their team and we want a win-win. Begin there.

Add that you are not trying to be unloving or disrespectful while strongly expressing your concerns. You might even ask, "How can I disagree in ways that don't cause you to feel I am not on your team, that I am really for win-lose, and I don't want to be loving or respectful?"

I appreciate what one husband wrote: "We really do work as a team, and one big reason is that she brings up her ideas about what we might do, but she does so in ways that honor me."

So how do you know if you and your spouse are functioning as a team?

For those who have children, a good test to determine if you work as a team is to consider your example as parents. Do your children view you as a team that cannot be torn apart, or as two individuals they can divide and conquer? This idea came to me from an adult child who reflected on the teamwork of his mom and dad. “My parents were a total team. We knew from a very young age that you could never go to mom and ask if you could go to a friend's house tonight and if she said no then go ask dad with the hope that he would give us permission. Nope. We knew we could not divide and conquer them. They were always in agreement.” However, this person went on to comment, “I would go to a friend's house and they would ask their mom if they could watch a TV show and their mom would say no. But they would leave the room and go ask their dad who would say yes. And I would say, ‘What? Your parents don’t tell each other everything? That’s weird.’"

Is God revealing to you that being a team that works together to find a win-win should be important to you because it is important to Him? A person reported, “Too often we did not come together in a happy agreement as though we were a team on the same mission. However, we went through some really difficult things, which God used to send a simple message to us: ‘Either you get on the same team or your marriage will be over.’ God really spoke to us about being a team. That you have to be a team, which we had often heard but had not acted on.”

About my own parents’ marriage, I do recall any memory of a single calm discussion about options wherein both said, “I have your best interest at heart as well as mine. We are a team. We can figure this out.” I never heard that type of language.

The Power of Teamwork

Years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the Miami Heat basketball team, spending several hours alone both with Pat Riley and Coach "Spo." In the presence of these great leaders of team play, I found it fitting to quote Pat who during my time with him expressed what he observed in Magic Johnson back in L.A. Later, I found in his book the ideas he espoused privately to me. “Magic Johnson believed that if he helped everyone around him get what they wanted out of the game, then winning would always follow.” He commented, “[Magic] was an avid student of all the styles of basketball. Instead of crushing his teammates under his own greatness, he studied their styles and figured out how he, as the man controlling the movement of the ball, could help get the most out of the abilities they had. He dealt to their strengths.”

Pat contrasted Magic's mindset and heart with other solo flight-type players who were superstars but selfish and did not find the joy from winning as a team. Pat observed, "When the Disease of Me afflicts the strongest members of a team . . . they develop an overpowering belief in their own importance. Their actions virtually shout the claim, 'I'm the one.'" The consequence of seeking to be the one and only one was easy to detect over time. Riley continued, "The greater a single teammate's success, the stronger the resentment can be from the weakest 20 percent." Few such players experienced championships.

Teamwork Mindset

Has your spouse ever said something like this? “I feel like we are not a team. Whatever is important to you pretty much goes your way. What I think doesn’t count for much.” If this is the case, is this what God intended for a husband and wife, where one person always agrees to what the other wants?

To the Lord, the process of team decision-making outweighs the outcomes of any particular decision. Unless it is a life and death matter, and one person must act authoritatively, most decisions revolve around personal preferences, which pale in importance to the process of working as a team in finding mutual agreement. 

Consider the bedroom, for example. First Corinthians 7:4 reveals that both the husband and wife have equal authority in the bedroom: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Clearly the Lord calls a husband and wife to find win-win solutions here. Paul’s chosen wording here leaves no room for authoritarianism. Therefore, the key to achieving win-win in the bedroom is a teamwork mindset.

A husband with a teamwork mindset says, "It is okay for my wife to prefer emotional intimacy first, and she has the right before the Lord to disagree with me about the amount of emotional and sexual intimacy she prefers."

A wife with a teamwork mindset says, "It is okay for my husband to prefer sexual intimacy first, and he has the right before the Lord to disagree with me about the amount of emotional and sexual intimacy he prefers."

In having equal rights in the bedroom, both have equal responsibility to fulfill their duty according to 1 Corinthians 7:3. This requires both the husband and wife to act responsibly to find a win-win remedy between their rightful preferences! God calls them to find third options or creative alternatives that mutually please each other. They must decide how they will move forward when she wants emotional connection first to enjoy sexual intimacy contrasted to his desire for sexual intimacy first to talk heart to heart. God requires them to find mutual agreement as a team—as a couple called to be one. He would not require this if it were impossible.

Do you have a teamwork mindset like this? Does your spouse? Going back to the question I began with: Do you take seriously the idea of finding win-win as a team? Truly?

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you and your spouse regularly function as a team? What makes you answer that way?
  2. What would it mean for you to hear your spouse tell you during a disagreement, “Remember, we are on the same team”? Why?
  3. Emerson quoted Pat Riley, who said about Magic Johnson, “he studied their styles and figured out how he, as the man controlling the movement of the ball, could help get the most out of the abilities they had. He dealt to their strengths.” What is one strength of your spouse that you should try more often to get the most out of? Why would this help you as a team?
  4. How has the “Disease of Me” infiltrated your mindset in your marriage? Where do you need to seek a team mindset more than you currently do?