How to Work Together as a Team

Feeling supported is crucial for a sense of security and closeness in any relationship. You’ve likely heard this before: In a relationship, you need to work together as a team, as partners, as parents. But what does this really mean? Here are some ideas:

We Have Each Other's Backs

At the core of teamwork is the principle that, simply put, "I want to help you be happy and live the life you want to live. If you're struggling, I want you to know that I'm here to support and assist you, and I can be counted on. And you’ll do the same for me."

The Problem is Our Joint Focus

Teamwork means it’s you and me against the problem—whether it's job stress, money issues, kids, parents, time pressures, emotional tensions, or financial stress. Even though we each have our own strengths and weaknesses, ultimately, we work together equally to solve the challenges life throws at us.

We’re Willing to Negotiate and Compromise

We won’t always agree on what’s important, the best approach, or whose needs should come first. But because we have each other’s backs and want to tackle issues together, we can think creatively, negotiate, and compromise. Compromise isn't about giving in or permanently sidelining our goals and dreams but finding win-win solutions. We understand that to have absolute control or always be right, one must live alone.

Perhaps this all sounds easier said than done. Often, what hinders this teamwork are these opposites:

Everyone for Themselves

You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. I’m responsible for me; you’re responsible for you. The opposite of teamwork is living in silos, parallel lives, each taking care of themselves, with no leaning on each other. Is there some connection? Sure roommates with benefits, uniting behind children or common work interests. But each person can feel lonely.

The Problem Lies with the Other Person

Instead of working together against a common issue, the problem (and sometimes the enemy) becomes the other person. Here, there's blame and accusations. The goal shifts from solving the problem together to finding out whose fault it is, getting the other to admit it, and changing to fix it. This leads to epic battles and bitter arguments.

One Person is Always in Control

When there’s no discussion or compromise, there’s an unbalanced relationship. One person is in charge, and the other goes along. Or one person is doing all the hard work, while the other is passive and uninvolved. The accommodating person either occasionally feels resentful over not having a voice and explodes, or eventually gets up and leaves. The hard-working person becomes tired of being the hero and periodically explodes with resentment, collapses from burnout, or leaves.

Becoming a Team

To overcome these barriers to teamwork, change your mindset. The starting point is with you. You need to alter the old patterns and the emotional atmosphere. It’s time to step up and do what you haven’t been doing stay calm, focus on solving problems instead of finding fault, ease up on the heavy lifting, be assertive, and compromise. Above all, view your partner as an equal, not someone superior or inferior. Embrace the idea that you’re not alone and that there’s someone who can care and support you.

Be Clear About What You Need and Express Your Vision

You might need lifestyle changes more free time, fewer responsibilities. Or you might need more security and trust to feel closer, not have to walk on eggshells, and to have the connection you genuinely want. Then, talk about your vision. How would you ideally like your relationship to look day-to-day, in the long run, in terms of dreams and goals?

Accept You Might Lose Some Control

If you’ve been living a siloed life or have been in control, changing your partner into a teammate will mean losing some of the control you’re used to. When tackling problems together or compromising, you’ll have to make room for their ideas and needs. It's one of the expenses that come with having a teammate. But it’s worth it.

Accommodate Individual Styles

Focus on aligning strengths and weaknesses without mixing up methods and goals. Try to release control, trust, and build on your partner's strengths while standing up for yourself. Instead of falling into arguments about how to solve a problem, learn to focus first on the end goal you’re both trying to reach. Negotiate about the steps as long as you both are clear about the objective.

In sports, teams of superstars with strong egos often need to work hard to feel and act like a team. It’s challenging if you grew up with different models, learned to distrust others, or managed life by being in control. What might work in your broader life often doesn’t in close relationships; maintaining your ego is no longer the goal.

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