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Marital Teamwork

We gave away a bunch of furniture last week. One couple returned three times. I loved watching them. I loved getting rid of some of the extra stuff we just don't need, but I especially loved their teamwork in maneuvering the larger items out of the house.

Not every couple works well as a team. My husband and I, for example, do not. After all these years together, we still cannot guess what must be communicated and what goes without saying. Neither of us is especially good at teamwork in other environments. This probably accounts for some of the problems.

We are also a later-in-life couple, unlike the couple I watched. Neither of us was mature enough in our twenties to have married someone as different as we are. Marrying someone with very different perspectives and experiences provides plenty of growth experiences. It's a good thing. But it's a pain in the butt when you need to execute a complex or difficult task together.

If we expected to work together as well as that couple did, we would both be mighty disappointed in each other, maybe even furious at all the wasted effort of working together without great teamwork skills.

Lots of marriage advice-givers opine that couples need to learn to work together. Unfortunately, if you believe them, you must also hold an expectation of being able to work together well. And the expectation adds resentment to your frustrations.

What makes teamwork any more important than the other character strengths? Or should we expect our mate to excel at all of them, to be creative as well as modest, spiritual as well as open-minded, optimistic as well as prudent?

I think it's OK to cooperate poorly. If you are going to expect anything from your spouse, expect love. You can hire movers or event planners. You cannot hire love and respect. If you want those, learn to laugh at yourselves as if you are part of a Three Stooges movie. Love matters more than the outcome of your joint projects.


I think you are so right about this. When people work well together, it creates the impression that they have a great relationship. But it's possible to work well with a stranger if you both happen to have that skill. Good teamwork is certainly helpful in many areas of life, but it isn't a substitute for shared values, honesty, and love.

Wow! I'd never heard this perspective before, but it really does make good sense. "You can hire movers or event planners. You cannot hire love and respect." Thanks for a thought-provoking read!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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