Are You Teammates or Individualists in Your Relationship?

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A happy and healthy relationship requires partners who are fully committed to functioning as teammates. A relationship is in trouble when partners put their personal goals above the couple’s shared goals or even worse, when they compete with one another.

Teammates work together on shared goals. They give priority to the team's needs and success.

In a relationship, shared projects could be one or more of the following: managing a household, raising children, engaging in a hobby or a sport as a couple, reaching financial independence, growing a business, collaborating in a community service, unfolding in the same spiritual tradition, etc.

Being committed and giving priority to working on one or multiple shared goals together as a couple does not require giving up on personal endeavors. For example, a couple could be working together in raising their children and saving for retirement, while one partner is into advancing in their career and the other is involved in a hobby they are passionate about. Later in life, the same couple could engage in a new hobby or volunteer together, while one partner spends a lot of time with friends and the other starts a business.

Serious relationship problems develop when one or both partners start putting their personal goals or needs above their shared commitments; or when shared goals have been realized without new ones being created. 

That’s the “growing apart” issue that so many otherwise compatible couples complain about.

In some cases, partners in a couple literally compete. They are unconsciously preoccupied by questions such as “Who is the most successful in their career?”, “Who is the best or most liked parent?”, “Who is the most insightful or developed?”, “Who is right?”, etc. When one or both partners compete for status in the relationship, the relationship shifts from a healthy team dynamic to an unhealthy power dynamic.

Power dynamics take place between rivals; they have no place between teammates.

In a happy and healthy relationship, partners are committed to prioritizing their shared goals while also supporting one another in working on personal projects. They make sure that their personal endeavors do not conflict with their shared commitments and they keep the lines of communication open about what they want to accomplish as a couple and as individuals, and how to create a good balance between shared and personal goals.

Creating and giving priority to shared goals is a key element of a couple's intellectual and emotional intimacy.

Journaling Questions:

  • What are the shared goals of our relationship?
  • How did these goals evolve throughout our relationship so far?
  • Who is my partner to me? A teammate or a rival? Who am I to my partner? A teammate or a rival?
  • What have come first in our relationship lately? Shared goals or personal goals?
  • What does our relationship most need based on my responses to these questions?
  • How would my partner answer these questions?
  • What/who could help us strengthen the team spirit of our relationship?