Team Work In Marriage: For Better, For Worse

Luke was a troubled young soul. He had been expelled from two different high schools and he was already in trouble in the 3rd school. 

He was on suspension, together with two of his friends. Their crime: being caught with cigarettes in the school compound. And he was not yet 18 years of age.

Dysfunctional Home

Luke lived with his grandparents in a village in rural Kenya. The grandparent’s home was rather crowded and there was no order. 

His two aunts lived in the compound with their children – 5 children in total, all below age 18. Two of his nephews were out of school and were village idlers.

Grandfather was alcoholic and grandmother was a chronic complainer who was avoided by all the children. 

The two aunts were single mothers. One had a broken marriage behind her while the other one had been married twice. 
The home was chaotic with most communication being in form of quarrels, criticisms or complaints. Finances were another big problem since no one in the compound had any stable source of income.

Luke was born in Nairobi. That was where he spent his childhood. He also attended primary school in the city. 

Luke allowed his mind to wander to the days he was growing up in the city. The memories he had from his childhood were bittersweet. 
A dark cloud hovered over him as he remembered how he and his two sisters hated the way their father used to insult and beat up their mother for every flimsy reason.

Their family was looked down upon in the neighborhood because of their father’s reputation. He was well educated up to university level and had a good job but his drinking and violent nature were out of control. 

Luke’s mother was a teacher in the city. She also made detergent in her free time which she sold in the neighborhood and in the school where she was teaching. Luke’s family was not doing badly financially, thanks to his hard-working mother.

Torn Apart

Luke’s world was turned upside down when he was in the first year in high school. His mother left with his two sisters after a nasty episode of violence from the father. He had attempted to strangle her. 

Luke could still remember that it was during the school holidays. It was like his mother and sisters simply disappeared into thin air because he never heard of them again.

It did not take long before his father took him to live with his grandparents and his life became one unending nightmare. 

Grandfather would come home drunk almost every night and make terrible noise. Grandma was forever upset about anything and everything; she complained and quarreled throughout.

His two aunts beat him up whenever they pleased, whether he had done wrong or not. They often abused him in reference to his mother, never forgetting to remind him that they were not his mother and he could go look for his mother. 

Grandma didn’t make it any better. She often insulted him telling him that he was as useless as his mother, who could not keep her family together.

“Your mother is such a proud and foolish woman. Had she been an obedient wife to your father, you would not be abandoned here in the village. I have been married to your grandfather for very many years and I have never left my home and only death will take me out of here.

A wise woman knows how to respect her husband. I tried to tell my son that there was something I did not like about that woman from the city right from the very first day he brought her home to introduce her to us. My son should have got himself a wife from the village and he would not be suffering.” Grandma often told him.

Grandma often quarreled Luke’s two aunts the same way, telling them how she had never left her marriage yet they were unable to humble themselves and respect their husbands.

Damaged Emotions

Luke’s father grew up in a dysfunctional home. His father was alcoholic and abusive. He, therefore, lacked a male role model to emulate. He grew up untrained. He lacked life skills to enable him build a home with a solid foundation.

He married a hard working wife but did not benefit from whatever she brought into the marriage because he could not even see her inputs as benefiting the family as a whole but as a threat to him and his position as the head of the home. 

He lacked life skills and she had them, most likely because she grew up in an orderly home. The marriage eventually broke, destroying many lives including those of their 3 children.

I usually talk about investing in ourselves in order to become valuable members of society. Before you can give value to another person, you need to have the value to give. 

You cannot serve someone else from an empty cup. Fill your cup first then proceed to serve others. Luke’s father’s cup was empty and he proceeded to get into marriage with someone before working to fill his cup.

Marriage brings together two individuals who are different one from another. No two people can be the same in everything, even siblings who share two parents. So much shapes who we become; nature (genetics) + nurture – upbringing and other experiences in life.

Luke’s father could have had some genetic weakness. We don’t know that for sure but the traits in his family indicate that some kind of mental or emotional instability could be running in the family. 

This was worsened by being brought up in a harmful home environment that damaged him further. He could have benefited from behavior therapy which could have helped to correct some of the damage.

Had Luke’s mother paid attention to his family and how family members behaved, she could have detected that something was not right. She could have insisted on having the issues addressed before marriage. She could also have asked questions and sought to understand what she was getting into.

Team: Together Everyone Achieves More

The two partners in a marriage are like the right hand and the left hand. Each brings unique gifts, talents, skills and expertise that benefits the family. They complement each other.

Teamwork is essential for combining various talents, skills and knowledge so that the family can attain a common goal. In any kind of institution, teamwork is the most effective way to ensure efficiency. 

Having common goals and working as a team to make them a reality is critical for the long-term success of the marriage. Teamwork also improves communication, bonding, and friendship.

Teamwork in marriage is not task oriented but is mate oriented. A task might traditionally belong to one but he or she is not competent or is not at ease doing it. With teamwork, the other partner does not quarrel, belittle or criticize but is supportive.

Why do people find it difficult to assist their spouses with tasks that are viewed not to be theirs? Maybe a husband is good at cooking a certain dish while the wife is not. He does not bring up a fight about it. None of us is born knowing anything; everything we know is learned.

There are many ways to be supportive of a partner who struggles with a task. If you are better at it, you can train and coach him or her yourself. I remember the days my husband and I were dating. I had been to secretarial college and was good in typing. But I had never used a computer in my life.

My husband had learned typing using a manual typewriter just like me but he was employed and had access to computers while I was still a student and only had access to a manual typewriter. 

He taught me the basics about computers and up to now I still consult with him if I get stuck while working on a presentation or an article. He is better at structuring articles than I am and I still depend on his mentorship so many years after our courtship days.

What if a husband lacks financial management skills, a role he is supposed to take leadership in? If the wife is good at it, there is no crisis. 

He can still get better as he works with her and learns. There are times when it becomes necessary to organize some short training to enable one perfect specific skills.

My husband tried to teach me how to drive and we made zero progress. I had to enroll in a driving school. As long as someone in the team is good at something, there is no crisis even if the one who is supposed to handle that task isn’t. Marriage is based on love and learning something together is no big deal. It can be fun.

Later when the children come and they grow, we discover that there are things they are good at that we need to learn from them. Our first born daughter has taught me some critical business skills for example, such as how to close a deal.

Every skill or talent that exists in a family is for the benefit of the entire team. So feel free to ask for help when you need it. 

Do not sulk and withdraw become your spouse is not helping you and you feel overwhelmed. You cannot build a home without communication. You cannot build a home with someone you cannot communicate freely with. So feel free to ask for and also extend help.

For Better, For Worse

We get married for better, for worse. That means that we go through the good and the bad together. 

Sometimes our better half is undergoing challenges of life; health challenges, stress, financial problems, job stress, sickness or bereavement of a family member or friend, etc. We give each other the support that is needed during the difficult times.

Teamwork requires maturity on the part of both partners. It is not possible to have any kind of team work with someone who is uncooperative, abusive or refuses to learn what he or she needs to learn. 

Marriage requires the cooperation and sacrifice of both – not one – partner. What happens if a member of a team – maybe a sports team or a team at work – completely refuses to play by the rules, is abusive to other team members, sabotages the team and all manner of unruly behavior? Can that team succeed?

I hear people who blame people who give up on their marriages and quit, quoting to them the for better, for worse clause. It makes me wonder if they have really looked at the dynamics of the relationship to understand what went wrong.

A totally uncooperative spouse makes it very difficult to build a marriage. It is like trying to walk on one leg. One will eventually get worn out. Two are better than one. Having someone else to walk with you on life’s journey makes your journey easier if there is mutual respect and cooperation.

A mature person desires to become a better person by constantly improving in those areas of life that he or she is not good at. A team player wants the team to succeed and will do what it takes to make that happen.

This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter; Life Coach, Mentor, Motivational Speaker, Freelancer and Blogger.
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