One of my sporting passions is taking center-stage this month. The Tour de France is a massive bicycle race which extends across the country of France throughout the month of July. On first glance, you might assume the race is all about big name riders and everyone else simply fills in. But you’d be wrong.
We hear about people like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador, but many more people enabled their multiple wins. From the people who prepare and deliver their daily food to the lieutenants who ride with them, this cycling race is a team sport.
It inspired me to think about how marriage is also a team sport. As my young softball team coach repeatedly said, “There’s no I in team”. The same holds true for marriage.
Here are ways you can use this team spirit to strengthen your marriage:
1. Speak well of your team.
Any champion knows that if you verbally knock your teammates, they may not support you when it matters. No matter what happens on the road, the best teams never attack one another. They lift up each other and openly declare the positives. A supportive attitude helps lift spirits and brings out the best in everyone.
In marriage, the more positives we tell others about our spouse, the more we strengthen our marriage. Venting our frustrations onto others and making other people dislike our spouse only damages the relationship further. We know it’s true when we receive pluses it makes us feel better and give more, the same is true in reverse.
2. Everyone does grunt work.
Watching Tour de France teams, I find this element most endearing. Within the race, those who slow down to reach team cars in the back and pick up water bottles do the grunt work. It creates extra work for them because they must slow down, pick up added weight and return to the pack while everyone continues racing. These pack mules deliver water to all the riders on their team, often carrying 10 water bottles stuffed into their shirts while they ride.
I’ve watched Lance Armstrong deliver water for his team over the years, even while he’s wearing the yellow jersey,which shows he’s the race leader. Because of this selfless attitude, his team loved him more and really dug in to support him at later tough times in the race.
Within marriage this means no job is too small for either spouse to do. From diaper changing to vacuuming to mowing the lawn, if the attitude is team work, the load becomes lighter.
3. Embrace and appreciate each other’s roles.
Within teams, each person has a specific role. Cyclists in the Tour de France come into it knowing that their job will be to support someone else on the uphill climb or pull a sprinter across the line then back away. The person attempting to become grand champion does so for the team, when they win everyone wins.
Within marriage various circumstances bring out the best in each person. Occasionally he takes the lead and she supports him, but there also come times when she takes the lead and he supports her. When one of them wins, they both do as long as the attitude centers on team work.
4. Dust off the dirt and try again.
Ever year riders crash in the Tour de France. Sometimes they experience what’s called road rash, a nasty scrape on the skin which can cover half the body. Other times they wipe out in extraordinary fashion. Just yesterday, I saw crashes which resulted in broken collar bones and concussions. These riders keep going if it’s at all possible. They get bandaged while riding. They spray cortisone while riding. For the ones with tougher injuries, you can be sure, if it’s possible, they’ll be back next year. They are committed to the race at hand no matter what.
In marriage, we encounter multiple crashes along the way. Whether it’s financial or medical, relational or spiritual, over the years we get knocked around. The big question becomes, “Are you in it to win it?” If so, dust off the dirt, heal the wounds, and keep riding.
5. The race isn’t just about winning, it’s about the ride.
Men come from around the world to compete in bicycling’s greatest race. They know only one will win the coveted grand champion yellow jersey. Only one becomes the best sprinter with a green jersey. Only one will don the red-spotted jersey of king of the mountain. One will become the rookie of the year and win the white jersey. In the end, hundreds will have ridden and lost. Why race?
They know the race revolves around each peddled moment on the road. Together, they face wind and rain, scorching heat and snow over the course of 23 days. It’ll devastate some and prove the strength of others. The waiting list for those who want to join this prestigious group is long, but only those invited can take part. They know the value of the journey and enjoy the trek each year.
In marriage, the ride matters too. We can’t compare ourselves to others, we simply ride the course set before us. No one will experience the journey the way we do. It’ll be tough and isn’t for the light in heart, but for those who’ve gone the distance, it’s clearly worth our energy output.
My choice today:
View my marriage as a team sport and work hard to build up the team.