Recently, I’ve started watching old seasons of The Amazing Race on Hulu. I’m not allowed to watch the new season of The Challenge until Aaron is home from deployment, so I needed to find a new show to binge watch while he’s gone. I swear I do productive things with my time, but I literally didn’t talk to a single person yesterday, and needed some form of entertainment once I finished blogging.
So: The Amazing Race. I watched seasons 1 and 2 about 3 years ago with my ex-boyfriend, and it was one of the primary reasons we broke up. We looked at each other and were like, “I would murder you if we ever did this show together.” Not a great sign.
Aaron and I have had the same kind of conversation about The Challenge. Would we work well together as a team while trying to race across a moving platform suspended 40 feet above the water? The answer is YES, we’d dominate. I could probably use a little less Latina fire in my blood,* but overall, our communication skills are on point, plus we trust and respect each other.
*I don’t actually have any Latin ancestors, but you’d think I did. I can get really sassy for about five minutes, but then it quickly fizzles out and I regain my sanity. It’s actually amazing to watch, and even more amazing to internally experience. I practically watch myself in an out of body experience, then reclaim myself to calm things down. As MTV’s Cohutta would say in a thick southern drawl, dating me is like dating a bottle of tabasco sauce.
These competition-style reality shows really got me thinking: Who in my life would I work well with under intense pressure? I can name a few: Aaron (my husband, in case you’re new to this blog– welcome!), Jess (friend since childhood), Emily (friend since college), Allyn (friend from Miss America)…and maybe a few others. But the list isn’t all that long.
Choosing from that short list of possible reality TV partners has nothing to do with our level of love or closeness (but those things are definitely a component), because then I’d be able to win The Amazing Race with a very long list of people. Instead, it has to do with which personalities mesh with mine in way that we’d keep each other laughing the whole time, and who has similar communication and thought processes that would lessen any frustration in trying to understand and trust what the other person is doing. I’m not sure any of the people on my list would choose me as their partner, but I’d definitely choose them.
Partnerships don’t always include doing crazy stunts. Partnerships are found in marriages (uh duh), company ownerships, roommates, dance partners, synchronized divers, and more. Two people can be extremely successful, talented, and wonderful on their own, but all of that can either be illuminated or extinguished when paired with another person. So, if you’re going to do anything with a partner, you better find the right one.
I don’t have a business partner, nor am I a couples ice skater, but I am married, and that’s kind of the same as both of those other things. Our life is our business, and Aaron must be strong enough to catch me on the somewhat regular occasion that I fling myself onto his back when I get excited. We also have our own Amazing Race through the grocery store in order to get home in time for Dancing with the Stars. It’d be fun for outsiders to watch.
I do have a few friends with business partners, and I’ve definitely been paired with coworkers for a project, or assigned a costar in a musical. Yes, sometimes (most times) partnerships are not voluntary, and you can’t pick your teammate. But no matter how you end up with your partner, one key to success remains true: Trust.
In a professional cabaret last month, I was tasked with singing a duet with a very talented woman. The combination was not on our side: We didn’t know each other well, and our song was ridiculously hard. When I first listened to it, I thought it was just random lyrics assigned to completely arbitrary notes. During our two days of rehearsal, she and I made a point to get to know each other a bit– I even lent her a dress to wear for the show.
As we practiced the song, it was clear that the last four bars would be a major struggle. I kept messing up my harmony line, so I avoided looking at her while singing that part to keep from being distracted from my own notes. It didn’t work. Finally, we looked each other in the eye and I nailed it (well, most times). I think this is the perfect example of how trust comes into play with a partnership. Even when you have different strengths and weaknesses, or are focusing on two different things, you have to trust each other to carry you through your part. If your role is the melody line, you have to support the harmonizer just as she did for me. If you’re the harmonizer, you have to trust that she’ll get the melody right every time, and lead the way.
Maybe that example was way too musical for most people to follow, but what I’m trying to say is that partnerships require complete trust. Trust means leaning on each other. Trust means eye contact. Trust means believing that the other person can pull their weight, and knowing that they feel the same about you. Trust is letting go of thinking you know what is best, and being confident in another person’s point-of-view. If you can’t trust your partner, you’ll turn into competitors instead of collaborators, and that will never get you to your goal.
So, if you’re struggling through a partnership that perhaps you didn’t choose, or isn’t churning out results as easily as you expected, take a step back and evaluate your trust level. Odds are, it’s low. If you don’t think you can get to a point where you trust that person, maybe [hopefully] you can bow out of the partnership gracefully. If you have no choice but to stick it out, really focus on the other person’s strengths instead of your own. Find reasons to respect them and be confident in the things they actually do well.
Speak kindly and work hard to make sure they know they can trust you, too. Not just that you can get your side of the job done, but get them to trust that you believe in them, too. If you don’t find that mutual assurance, then essentially, you’re both still separate entities who will miss out on the very real benefits of putting two minds together.
I think partnerships are a beautiful thing. They teach us humility, motivate us to be strong for the sake of another person, and yield results that would be impossible for an individual to achieve alone. I know I can do so much more in this world because Aaron is by my side. Anyone want to see us compete on The Amazing Race? I’m not telling you to submit us, but I’m not telling you not to.