“Team” As A Marital Metaphor

Some time ago, during a marital therapy session, a man told his wife that he felt that they weren’t on the same team and wanted that to change. His wife initially rolled her eyes at the metaphor but, as the three of us talked, I realized that he was simply translating all of his emotions into a language that made sense to him. For me (I wasn’t sure about them) lightening struck.

I have never been a convert to the Mars and Venus, men-and-women-are-sooo-different theory of life. Research tells us that there are more similarities than differences between men and women.

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There are far greater differences among men and among women that between men and women. In spite of that fact, men often feel at a disadvantage in couples counseling; they are not usually experienced in that kind of emotional talk.  They sometimes have the feeling of being pulled into a game that they never learned to play.

Since the session where the husband used the ‘team’ metaphor, I have also successfully used it in my attempts to get people to understand each other. I mentioned this to my daughter Jenny over coffee one day. She liked it.

Fast forward a week one week. Jenny and her friend Annie are having coffee. Annie, compatibly married for two years complained about the conflict over garbage removal. “Why doesn’t Sam remember to take it out?” she moaned.  They discussed men. At some point, Jenny shared our conversation about using team language. That evening, Annie said to Sam, “Look, we are on the same team but the garbage is giving our team a problem. Any ideas?”  Sam thought about it and made a suggestion. Their particular suggestion doesn’t matter all that much (Annie ties it and leaves it near the door. Sam removes it), but it is absolutely lovely that one small problem is now gone from their relationship.

So, this idea of thinking about marriage as a team has possibilities because:

1. there are elements of marriage that need management, not love

2. teamwork is non-threatening

3. teamwork is nonpsychological

4. teamwork is cooperative and friendly

5. teamwork levels the playing field (pardon the team pun)

6. the concept promises results

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