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Marriage is a team sport

I get a lot of questions about relationships, especially marriage. I think people see the perfect picture we, as bloggers, paint regarding our married life. While I feel incredibly lucky to say that I am in a happy marriage, it’s not all based on luck. Yes, I happened to find and fall in love with an amazing man, but it’s been work to keep the beast of marriage calm and happy on a daily basis.

One metaphor that resonates with both of us, and has for the seven years we’ve been together (woah!), is the idea that marriage is a sport and we’re on the same team. Like all team sports, it doesn’t work unless we work together to win the game, aka whatever we’re going through at the time.

While this concept sounds nice in theory, I thought it would be helpful to share three of the ways that we apply it in real day-to-day life.

1. Team Roles
In any team sport, every player has a role. In baseball, the pitcher has a very different job from the shortstop. In football, the quarterback and a line back not only have different roles, but they have to have a totally different build to play their positions. Our playing field isn’t a basketball court or soccer field, it’s our home, so I’ll start there. While Anel and I have a “traditional” heterosexual marriage, our roles don’t always play into the antiquated rules of being a husband and wife. When we moved in together six years ago, we set some rules around the house that have evolved into a system that is fair, equal, and makes us both happy.

Julia’s role: I like to think of myself as a quarterback in our home life, thinking up plays and planning ahead. As an abnormally organized person who works from home, I have more time and energy to keep all of the pieces moving. My everyday list of chores includes shopping for groceries, cooking (except for weekend breakfasts!), prepping lunches for Anel to bring to work, taking care of the dog when Anel isn’t home, paying the bills, managing our money/taxes (It’s complicated with two entrepreneurs!), keeping things neat and organized, and staying on top of things like running out of toilet paper and dog food.

Anel’s role: While I might be creating the lists and meal planning our weeks, Anel executes like a boss. I’m lucky that he is both handy and smart, so he can pretty much tackle any project around the house, in the kitchen. His everyday list of chores include washing the dishes after meals, being the main point person in charge of the dog when we’re both home, owning all things car-related, dealing with the exterior of our house (including lawn, landscaping, and snow shoveling in the winter), folding the laundry, making breakfast on weekends (the only days that he’s actually home for breakfast!), and any handyman work that doesn’t require a professional.

Designated hitters: We run two businesses, so we simply can’t do it all. We’re definitely a couple on a budget, so we try to keep as much work in-house as possible, but sometimes you just need help. We bring in these “designated hitters” to keep us moving: An accountant (Like I said, tax stuff is tricky when you have two separate businesses!), a cleaning lady who comes once a week, a handyman for bigger projects like painting rooms, a dog walker to deal with Boots once a week so I get a break on weekdays when Anel is with clients. Our dog is amazing but requires a ton of exercise so when Eric comes to take him on a hike with his doggie buds on Wednesdays, it’s a sweet relief!

Lemon Stripes Husband

2. Strategies for Game Days
While we have our day-to-day roles down pat, life is about more than taking out the garbage and feeding the pup. Life is sticky, it’s gritty, and it get get downright tough, especially when you have to navigate it with another, sometimes difficult, human. Anel and I are both firey, stubborn people that like to get our way. I’m Italian and he’s Bosnian, so it’s in our blood! As you can imagine, fire tends to fuel fire, so the first year or two of our relationship brought some serious arguments that weren’t quiet, per se.

At some point after we got married, we realized that we couldn’t live our entire lives that way, so we both committed to creating a strategy that we can use during an argument or a hard day. We used the help of a couples counselor, but that’s not for everyone, so I’ll share a few of the strategies we learned to keep our team on a winning streak. We’ve put these in place and our life is infinitely better, I can’t even put it into words!

Take frequent time outs: Sometimes in a marriage, you just need to hit the pause button. I don’t mean a week break or anything dramatic, just an hour to yourself to get away and gain some perspective. We use this time to work out, read a book, get a manicure (me), watch The Knicks (him), or meet up with a friend. When you live with someone and share your entire life with that person, it can get overwhelming really quickly. Spending time apart is hugely important. I personally believe that while time with friends and other family members is a big piece of the puzzle, time on your own, doing something that you love, can make a world of difference.

Create a language: One of the things that our therapist helped us learn is that we often have a problem more with how the other person is speaking, not necessarily what they’re saying. For example, Anel hates being told to do something, so I try to always respect that and ask nicely, appreciating him afterwards. I often find myself taking issue with his tone of voice which he never even realized was a problem. Now he knows not to speak in certain ways, especially if we’re already in an argument.

Don’t hold a grudge: This one was harder for me, as it’s easy for Anel to come and apologize after a fight. I tend to stew in it for a little longer, waiting for him to say sorry first. He made me realize that this is insane, and I’m hurting both of us by acting that way. It’s taken a few years, but my grudge-holding time has gone way down. Small arguments used to be able to ruin an entire weekend for us. Now they’re just that: small arguments. Gone in a flash!

2. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Like in any sport, it’s only fun to win if you have fun playing the game.

Date nights: We take our weekly date night very seriously. When we skip it for a week or two, we see an actual difference in our relationship. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Taking the time to enjoy a beautiful meal without any phones or distractions gets us talking about things we might have missed earlier in the week, and connects us in a fresh way. On top of that, we try to take trips with just the two of us a few times a year. Romantic getaways can rejuvenate your relationship really quickly. Plus it’s fun to travel, so win/win.

Laugh: Some of my favorite memories of my husband don’t involve fancy trips or a night on the town. It’s the times when we laugh so hard our bellies hurt at home, just the two of us.

Appreciate each other: On a more everyday level, we continue to “date” by appreciating each other. If he makes me a cup of tea or does me an unexpected favor, I thank him in a way that he knows that I appreciate him. Not just a quick thanks. One thing that I love is that every single night at dinner he looks me in the eye and says thank you for cooking this beautiful meal. It makes me feel good about what I did, and it helps me know that he’s noticing every little thing that I do.

Anel and I have learned so much in our seven years together, and I hope that some of our learnings help you!

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25 Comments

  1. Christine

    I always love your “real life” posts and this one was no different. I really relate to so many of the struggles you mentioned (especially the stubourness and holding a grudge). Thanks for sharing your imperfections and some strategies for improvement!

  2. Taylor I The Sarcastic Blonde

    Love this post Julia! In terms of communication, It seems like I’m just like you and my husband like Anel. He hates being told what to do and I hate the tone that he says he isn’t using 馃檪 Thinking of it as a team is a perfect analogy. I read the 5 Love Languages and that helped us with communication a bunch too!

    The Sarcastic Blonde

  3. Kristen Woolsey

    Love this post! Marriage is an amazing thing, and I’m glad there are other people enjoying theirs despite the norms of the world we live in. I especially like the part about having fun together. Making my husband laugh is my favorite part about being married! Keep posts like these coming!
    -Kristen
    http://www.pugsandpearls.com

  4. Julia Dzafic

    Thank you so much!

  5. EmilyRose Frasca

    This is a fantastic post. Above all, laughter is incredibly important. Also, the photos of you and Anel are fantastic.

  6. Julia Dzafic

    Wow, 20 years. That’s amazing!! Congrats 馃檪

    The bag is here: http://bit.ly/1UBwU4G

  7. Julia Dzafic

    Congratulations! And yes, definitely read this again when things get tough, because it’s inevitable!

  8. Julia Dzafic

    I can’t even imagine how much more organized you have to be with a baby. I guess we’ll learn that when the time comes, too! It sounds like you guys have it down to an art!

  9. Julia Dzafic

    He sounds like a dream! Keep him around 馃檪

  10. Julia Dzafic

    It’s so funny but that’s the easiest one to forget! We tend to take each other for granted. But that’s no good!

  11. Julia Dzafic

    Congratulations!!! Such an exciting time 馃檪

  12. Julia Dzafic

    I truly believe that when you’re constantly trying to learn and grow, that creates the best relationships!

  13. Julia Dzafic

    I totally agree! You learn more and more about each other every year, and somehow it never gets easier 馃檪

    Date nights at home count too!! Love game night with cocktails.

  14. Julia Dzafic

    Thank you so much! LOVE the fist bump… I might just have to implement that one too 馃檪

  15. Julia Dzafic

    Congrats on your marriage! The first year (for us anyway) was the hardest, and we’ve grown every year since.

  16. Julia Dzafic

    Thank you so much for following along! It means even more that I’m the only one 馃檪

  17. Julia Dzafic

    I’m so glad you liked it! I think everyone can always learn more about relationships. It never stops!

  18. This is such a wonderful post! Thank you so much for writing this – it’s one of those things I didn’t think I needed to read until I started reading it.

  19. Britt Ross

    Thank you for this post. So much of it is so close to home. The appreciation aspect when your separate lives are so busy has been something we try to focus on in our house. All of your posts are fantastic and I am so happy you’re the first (and only) blog I follow. Best wishes

    – Britt

  20. Jean | Skyline Blossoms

    I really love this post! Your advice is both sweet and practical, and I’m all ears as my husband and I aim to build a strong foundation during our first year of marriage.

    xx Jean
    http://www.skylineblossoms.com

  21. Love this post! My boyfriend and I have only been together for a couple of years, but these are such great tips regardless! xo Devon Seventeen Dresses

  22. Rachel Morgan Cautero

    I never comment on blogger posts (and I read a ton of blogs!) but I just have to say that I think this is a great take on marriage! My husband and I have employed the same strategy for a while now, and even remind each other with a little “home team” fist bump. Love this post.

  23. Breanna Marie

    What a great post, with some great advice! My fiance and I are going on our fourth year together and we’ve definitely used some of these tricks while co-habitating!

    https://bybreannamarie.com/

  24. Kellie | The B Hive

    Love this post. I think the longer you are married the more you recognize the work and constant effort that needs to be put into a marriage. I recognized a lot of what we do in your post, even if we’re not quite as clear with things like dividing roles (I think it tends to naturally happen though).

    We have two kids under 3 so while we spend a lot of time together it’s not focused on our marriage. Date nights are expensive with babysitter costs so they don’t happen as often as we’d like so this year we’re making an effort to have at home date nights on Saturday nights, whether it’s watching a movie or playing a game with some cocktails. Simple but it’s the effort that counts, right?

  25. I absolutely love this post! I also look at relationships as being like a team and have always told my husband that we’re both partners and teammates. I love how you broke out the three different ways you guys work at your marriage and shared real scenarios from your life. My husband and I have been together just over 5 years and married for 3 months, and while it still feels the same as before, I love finding ways that we can really grow our relationship.

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