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Teaming Up With Your Spouse

workingYou love your spouse, but do you work well together?  Unfortunately, many people find that the answer is no.  This can become painfully evident once we become parents, and suddenly we have to rely on one another in a different way than ever before.

Here are some strategies on how to reduce tension and conflict, and improve teamwork.


1)  Know your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to talk about them.

Couples rarely have an explicit conversation about this.  Usually, they just end up with a certain division of labor and stick by it.  You ask, “How did this get decided?”, and they’re not really sure.

Think about what you do well, and what your spouse does well.

2)  Create a system that maximizes those strengths.

If you’re easily frustrated, you probably shouldn’t take on tasks that try your patience.

Unless, of course…

3)  Think of what you have to learn from one another.

Are there ways that you could learn more patience by studying the other person’s methods?  Often we marry people who have opposite traits to ours.  That might be because we admired them, or because we thought they would balance us out in some meaningful way.  Unfortunately, over time, differences can become irritants rather than sources of admiration or learning.

But by focusing on what our spouse has to teach us, we can regain some of that earlier glow.  We can also improve ourselves in the process.

4)  Determine how your styles best fit together.

Is one of you more comfortable leading a

5)  If there’s tension and conflict, figure out what you’re really fighting for.

What I mean is, sometimes we fight our spouse to our own detriment.  Deep down, we often want the same things.  We want, for example, to raise happy, productive kids.  Yes, we might disagree about how to bring about that outcome.  But if we remind ourselves that we do have a shared goal and vision, that we’re merely disagreeing about methods, that can be the starting point for a better discussion.

Or maybe what we’re really fighting for is the respect of our partner.  Maybe we’re missing some essential validation in the marriage.  Or we’re fighting for closeness, in whatever form we can get it.  Once you realize what you’re actually missing, you can have a conversation about that, instead of sparring about something less consequential.

You can’t be an effective team if you don’t trust and believe in your partner.  So regaining that level of good will and respect is crucial.  The rest will follow.

Shameless plug: For an example of teamwork gone wrong, check out my novel, “Don’t Try to Find Me” (available July 8.)

Working together image available from Shutterstock.

Teaming Up With Your Spouse

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). Teaming Up With Your Spouse. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jun 2014
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