No "I" in Team

By Sunshine Burgess

When you join any team, you understand that it is not all about you and that the ultimate goal is for the team to be successful. Good team members do what needs to be done to make that happen.  Easy enough to understand when you think of playing soccer or baseball, right?  You want to make sure that the best players are playing in each position.  When benched for making mistakes, even when disappointed, you get that you had to “take one for the team”.  Well, when you get married, you become a team of two.  Down the road, you may decide to add additional players known as children, but it is still one team.  One team with one goal. Success for all the players and most importantly, the team as a whole.

I want to say, this is not about us, as spouses, putting the active duty member above all else.  On the contrary, the active duty member has to be a team player.  We truly use the term Team Burgess in our home.  There are four members and there is give and take by all of us.  A prime example as to how it works for us is when we are given a list of possible assignments.  We don’t approach this in a typical way.  I have a very analytical side, so we have a spreadsheet.  We take all the possible assignments and rate them.  My husband always gets his say when it comes to the job (position, job growth, types of planes, even people currently there that he would be working with).  My job is to research education, shopping, entertainment, housing, job market, proximity to “home” or airports, etc.  Once all things are rated and put into the spreadsheet, our choices get ranked based on the bottom line number.  I will say, this often yields choices that you would have NEVER thought you would make.  I suppose we will be making some adjustments to at least add a category for the kids to have some sort of input now that they are getting older.  The point is, there is no one person who makes the decision.  All factors are considered and everyone gets a voice.

Being team players requires an exorbitant amount of communication.  This isn’t occasional chats, but consistent, open discussions.  Deciding to go to school or get a job may be something you think only affects you, but they are major life changes and your partner should at least be able to have input.  Active duty members are more often than not hit for deployments and remotes, but sometimes, they volunteer.  Don’t you think that you should at least be able to discuss the pros and cons before they raise their hand to volunteer?  This one isn’t easy to say, but if a woman wants a baby, deciding to get pregnant without even discussing it with your partner first could be the thing that destroys your team.  Why is it that many people will ask their partner for an opinion on mundane things like cutting or dying their hair,  what food to put on the menu for the week, or what movie to see,  but they make a unilateral decision on major things?  I can guarantee your spouse wants more input into education/career/family matters than they want in whether you will have Italian or Mexican food for dinner.  On the flip side, you should care just as much about their career, being supportive of the things that will make them successful and instead of being miserable in your life, having a voice in the decisions you can make.  Most of the time, the military doesn’t give you a lot of choices, but when there is a choice, a decision to check the box for worldwide volunteer or raise their hand to do a voluntary deployment, you should be able to say that for you, it isn’t a good time to make that choice.  Sometimes you may say that it is a great time for them to do a one year remote because you have one year left to finish your degree and it would be awesome to get to not move and have the time to finish.   Bottom line is, you have to take the time to talk about it and weigh the pros and cons for the whole team, not just one person.

Being a team isn’t just about decisions.  It is about support.  What is the point of being on a team if you feel like you are always playing alone?  Being an active, involved spouse isn’t about “drinking the Kool-Aid”.  This is sometimes a heavily debated issue in the spouse community.  Is there a requirement that spouses are involved on the installation?  No.  Is there a requirement for spouses to attend unit events?  No.  Would your spouse like to not have to explain acronyms to you over and over again for twenty years?  Probably. It is my opinion that once I chose to become involved in our military community, when I decided that being a part of the community where my husband had chosen to give a large part of his life to, our team became stronger.  He knows he isn’t playing alone and I am not either.  I like to say I am a professional volunteer and my volunteer hours are long and unpaid, but he supports me by being a phenomenal co-parent so my kids don’t feel slighted and he understands that sometimes doing things you love is more important than getting paid (however, I am not opposed if those two things would overlap!).  His success; our kids’ success; my success…all equal success for Team Burgess.  Find the formula that works for your team, but never forget that you are playing on the same team.