“No, we won’t be coming on Christmas Eve this year. We’re going to do things a little differently.”
As those words came out of my mouth, the looks I received from my in-laws spoke a thousand words.
We’d been married less than a year, and my wife’s parents looked more than a little shocked at my boldness. I was expecting that.
But I also knew that this was a defining moment for our marriage and our new life as a couple, so I took a deep breath and carried on.
It wasn’t easy to share about our boundaries in this area – what would everyone think? However, I knew that I needed to stand up for what our marriage really needed.
Looking back fifteen years later, I see how that simple conversation taught us so much about the importance of working together as a team. We were no longer our parents’ children. My wife and I were our own family that needed to set boundaries to protect ourselves. We needed to be bold enough to make important decisions and stand firm together in those choices.
And now four kids later, I can’t tell you how teamwork dramatically affects every part of our marriage. From parenting decisions to growing closer in our relationship, the choice to stand strong as a team impacts all that we do, and I’m convinced it’s kept our marriage strong (and less stressful).
3 Big Areas Where Teamwork Affects Your Marriage
Kids are wonderful, but they can also be incredibly manipulative. If we’re not careful, that manipulation can easily turn into marital division.
“Did you already ask your mother, and if so, what did she say?”
That’s a simple question I ask my children when they come to me for almost anything. (I’ve discovered my wife says something similar when the kids when come to her, too).
We learned early on that our kids turn into greasy-haired used-car salesmen when it comes to trying to get their way. They will do anything – including playing my wife and me against each other – in order to do something like watch thirty more minutes of television or get out of a chore. (Come on, you remember trying this as a kid, too, don’t you? I do.)
In these circumstances, how we answer our kids speaks loud and clear about how we either are (or aren’t) a team.
What message do we send our children if we tell them something different than what our spouse just told them? I’ll guarantee you one thing: The above scenario will continue to play out time and time again. Not to mention the potential fight with our spouse that can occur later when they find out that we’ve caved.
As couples, we’ve got to be a team that works together – and not against each other – to raise kids. Couples need to be able to trust each other in making decisions when both parents aren’t present to talk things through.
We also need to be flexible in the moment with each other as we’re having conversations with our children. One of us might say something that will change what we had already discussed, but we need to remain united and stand strong together.
What parts of your parenting are your kids currently challenging you in? Those are the places where you need to have firm decisions made with your spouse about what is and what is not OK. Learn the rules between the two of you about which decisions within the boundaries can be made independently, and then back each other up at all costs.
Stand strong as a united front. It will make a huge difference in both your marriage and parenting!
2. Extended Family Issues
There’s a reason why the Bible tells us in Genesis 2:24 that we need to detach ourselves from our extended family in order to create a new healthy union in marriage.
As couples we need to be on the same page about all areas of our life, especially how we’ll handle relationships with extended family and things like family traditions.
Get each other’s perspective, understand where your spouse is coming from, and put a plan in place that works for both of you. Obviously we still need to consider extended family and their needs, but it’s so important that couples establish boundaries to protect those essential areas where we will not compromise.
Maybe that means that you need to establish firm guidelines around how you spend your holiday time with extended family. Or perhaps it’s a new commitment that your wife needs to make to discuss marital issues with you first before she gets on the phone with her mom. It also might mean something like saying no to hunting every Saturday with your dad because it’s the one day you can hang out as a family (and your wife can take a much-needed two-hour nap).
As life changes, keep communications open and ongoing. There will be plenty of times you’ll need to revisit something you discussed years prior, or you’ll need to discuss something entirely new. This is why habits like regular date nights are so important.
Together, you need to make sure nothing gets in the way – not even your extended family – of your marriage union and your family unit.
3. Overall Marital Health
I once heard someone say that just because your work day is over, it doesn’t mean your job is. That is so true.
We need to be able to switch between our work and home hats with ease, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Switching between my work and home hats is something I’m still working on, even after fifteen years of marriage.
And yet, I know that it communicates so much to my wife about teamwork when I come home from work and engage with both her and the kids.
There’s a ton of stuff that goes on in my family’s world during the day that I’m just not aware of or involved in. My wife is awesome at what she does as a stay-at-home mom, and I don’t have to worry about anything. (No, she didn’t tell me to write that.)
As a husband, one way I communicate my love and support to her is by spending time talking to her and to our kids about all that’s going on in their world. She’s told me that this helps her feel like we’re a team together raising our kids (even though she’s home alone with them a lot more than me).
At the same time, being home alone with four children all day (and sometimes all week when I have to travel on business) takes its toll, and she really needs to “unload.” So another way I show her that we’re a team is by listening – really listening – to what’s going on in her heart.
That could be our daily ritual of spending 15 minutes together in our porch swing, talking about her day (uh, I mean our day). Or it could be when I watch the children while she goes out and does something fun for a few hours, or locks herself in a hotel room for a few days to work on her next writing project.
Is this easy for me? Hardly. I am a true introvert at heart, and honestly, the last thing I want to do (especially after working around others all day in social situations) is to talk more. I want to go into my mental man cave and lose myself in a screen somewhere.
And yet communication and quality time together are my wife’s main love language. My effort to invest in her emotional needs is one way I try to demonstrate that we’re a team getting through our wonderfully crazy family life together.
In return, she gives me time where I can be left alone, too, because she knows that’s what I need to unwind. It’s a balance – a delicate dance we’re always doing – to make sure that we’re working as a team to meet each other’s needs.
Today, I challenge you to ask yourself where you and your spouse can grow in the area of teamwork.
What parts of your parenting, relationships with extended family, and emotional health can improve by making a few simple shifts toward “we” and away from “me”? I promise that your marriage will be better for it!
About the author:
Tim is happily married to Alicia Michelle of Your Vibrant Family, and together they parent their four fiery and passionate children. During his day job he is not a blogger; he’s that IT guy that helps keep everything that is good and lovely about the internet running. He’s also a redeemed man of God who seeks to become more humble and wise as He grows with God each day.