What Team Sports Can Teach Us About Relationships

Teamwork … it is not just for sports!

Need a little help being a better team with your partner? Let the trained counselors at OC Relationship Center help!
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. ~ Henry Ford

Of what can make or break a relationship, a lot is to be learned from great team sports like baseball or soccer. The analogies are all there. Consider the “ball hog”: the one who thinks they’re so good, they’d rather try and win as a team of one, shouldering all responsibility while alienating teammates. Other players have the opposite problem—they have trouble seeing when the perfect shot is theirs for the taking, or pass the ball instead of going for it even when they’re in the better position to score. Their insecurities get the better of them, limiting their potential contributions to the team.

Each type of player shares a similar problem, even if they come at it from opposite angles: they’re more concerned with themselves than the team. The “ball hog” wants to win at all costs, and, let’s be honest, probably doubts the abilities of others compared to his or her own. He or she is overly frustrated by others’ mistakes and undermines team morale. The “hesitator,” on the other hand is unduly deferent. That can represent its own form of selfishness by trying to avoid the embarrassment of missing a shot or losing face in the eyes of their teammates.

The best teams are made up of neither ball hogs nor hesitators but team players who want to be the best they can be as individuals while also playing to the strengths of their teammates. They build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Many of the same personalities and behaviors apply to relationships, because relationships require teamwork. What kind of player would you be? Do you tend to think of yourself as the more capable partner, the one who takes on all the responsibility because you don’t trust your partner to do it? Are you overly critical of your partner’s choices or opinions? Does your partner feel shut out of decisions? Or do you identify more with the hesitator—automatically deferring to your partner, playing down your own abilities in an attempt to avoid any responsibilities in the relationship?

Without a doubt, these types play off each other to the detriment of both. If your partner seems dominant, critical or overbearing, it’s that much easier to step back and act as a minor player rather than a true teammate. You may be thinking, why should I even try when it seems nothing I do is ever good enough? This, however, only reinforces your partner’s view of you as someone unable or unwilling to make decisions. He or she increasingly feels that everything is, in fact, up to them, and behaves accordingly.

So how do you exchange these roles in favor of effective teamwork? A few suggestions:

  1. Remember that you chose to be on this “team” or in this relationship for a reason. So even if things haven’t work out that way recently, it’s not too late to start recognizing and asserting the unique skills and assets you each bring to the relationship. If the more passive partner knows they have good financial sense but has been letting their partner make all the money decisions, considering changing roles. Over time, you might find the one who has always run the household budget but never really had much interest in doing so in the first place and is grateful to be relieved of it.  
  2. If you have developed a ball-hog mentality, step back and remember, again, that you chose to be on a team. Unless you united with your partner for the most superficial of reasons—which seems doubtful, because who really wants to spend their life with someone who brings nothing to the relationship but perhaps good looks?—you’re doing both of you a disservice by not valuing or listening to their opinion. Which brings me to the most important point of all:
  3. Building positive morale in relationships is about making decisions that work for both of you and solving difficult problems together. When challenges arise—illness, financial hardship, and other painful issues—you want to have honed your teamwork skills ahead of time, because you’re a lot stronger working together than apart.

As with sports, the key to relationships is practice, practice, practice. Learn from past mistakes. Put up a common front. Cheer each other on. Even if you don’t win every game—and you probably won’t—you might have a better chance at a winning season and a relationship that stands the test of time. 

If you feel that you need help improving your skills in working together instead of against each other in your relationship, you’re not alone. Please give OC Relationship Center a call at 949-393-8662, or book your appointment via our online calendar today. Our licensed counselors are here for you.  

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