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When you play singles tennis, everyone you meet on the court is your opponent. But in doubles this is not true: Every effort you make to compete with the person on this side of the net will be an effort to defeat yourself.

A doubles trophy never specifies which partner made the most points. And the same is true of a successful marriage. Each point your partner scores is a point for you; and each point you score is to the credit of your partner... EXCEPT when you try to score points against one another.

Most marriages start off as a partnership. But, as can easily happen in tennis, the partners bump into one another, fail to anticipate what the other partner is planning to do, make concessions that are not recognised or not appreciated by the other person. All of this is natural and unavoidable.

But if we start blaming each other for such miscalculations, the enemy soon becomes the person we are sleeping with. And when that happens, our chances of taking out the doubles title are doomed.

Couple fightiing during doubles tennis matchA good partner is one who tries to understand the other party, and tries to flow with him or her. Where the other person is weak, you must learn to cover. Where the other person is strong, you try to set up opportunities for him or her to score off those strong points. And all of this is part and parcel of achieving success for yourself.

Never forget that any time someone says something nice about your spouse, they're saying something nice about you.

By the same token, any time someone attacks your husband or wife, they're attacking you. And the same principle applies when the person doing the attacking is yourself.

Sure, it's tempting to share your frustrations with someone else when you experience difficulties in your marriage. But such a luxury is much like sitting down in the middle of a tennis match just because you are tired. It can be fatal to your chances of success.

Every whinge, every bit of public ridicule, every catty remark you make against your husband or wife must be recognised as an effort to sabotage your own marriage. And the people who appear to be sympathising with your gripes now will be poor replacements if your partner decides one day that he or she has had enough of your criticisms.

Jokes between husbands about their wives' foibles, and sad stories about mistreatment by their husbands shared between wives at ladies prayer meetings or other social gatherings may seem innocent enough at first. But they are the kind of stuff that divorces are made of.

If you have complaints, try talking them out with the only one who can fix them... your partner. If you have been harbouring grudges against your partner, start by confessing this, and expressing your desire to work together in future. But if your partner doesn't seem as keen as you about fixing the problem, don't push the point, or you'll be right back in the same situation again. Try to work around that weakness, and concentrate on your partner's good points. That's what teamwork is all about.

And one final tip: Nobody likes a person who brags about himself or herself. Yet, a person who brags about his or her spouse can never be accused of boasting. In fact, the more nice things you say about your husband or wife, the more others will like you as well. Because, to them, the two of you are a team. And if your partner is the best tennis player in the world, then you must be pretty close to the second best to have scored such a partnership.

Help your partner and you help yourself.

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