“One Team, One Fight” is a phrase that is likely familiar to all U.S. service members. It is a convenient title for many videos and articles both by and for the military, often about “joint”/inter-service cooperation in training and combat. In my experience as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, this concept can apply to high-level joint operations all the way down to aircrew in a single aircraft working together to accomplish a clear and intentional mission objective. As both a Marine and a husband and father, I naturally carried this concept into my marriage, where it is equally as crucial—if not more so.
In our culture, it is popular to view marriage as a contract that declares how much two people like each other, endows them with certain legal and civil rights and privileges, and is casually terminated when either party (or both) is no longer sufficiently pleased with the arrangement. But marriage is meant to be more, much more. Marriage is designed to be a lifetime commitment—a covenant—of two people offering themselves to each other in mutual service and sacrifice, to build the foundation of a family and strive towards holiness together. This view of marriage is not fulfilled or achieved accidentally; it requires effort and teamwork to fulfill this calling—this mission.
On most missions in my aviation community, two aircraft go out together—known as a section—with two pilots in each aircraft. To have a successful mission, the pilots must complete thorough mission planning, after which a mission brief is given to all aircrew involved in the mission. After this brief, aircrew from each aircraft break off to have individual “cockpit briefs.” Only after completing these briefs, including answering the questions of all involved, do the aircrew go to the aircraft to conduct the mission. Post-mission, we conduct a debrief to review all these phases: plan, brief, and execution—in that order.
Success is never just about the flight; it begins with the planning, depends on the brief, and then manifests in the execution. It should be no surprise that marriage requires a similar level of effort.
If my wife and I entered marriage without first discerning whether we had a shared vision for family life or agreeing to prioritize faith and service to God over worldly metrics of success, we would likely have found ourselves in a precarious situation early on. This is precisely why many faith communities recommend various forms of marriage prep for couples. This type of preparation serves a similar purpose as pre-mission planning. Before being in the thick of life’s many twists, turns, and surprises, it gives time to assess shared principles, goals, and priorities, providing an invaluable foundation to build upon as a couple navigates the twists and turns of living life together.
Before I take an aircraft out, after having a mission brief on the goals for the mission itself, I brief the crew that will be in my plane on internal expectations: clarifying who is expected to do what, how we will communicate what we are doing and seeing, and being explicit about what the crew can expect from me. Wedding prep is somewhat analogous to preparing the crew brief, and one of the critical elements of wedding prep is the crafting of marriage vows. These are the promises that will drive the expectations and choices of the couple going forward. My wife and I used traditional vows, promising:
to have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish
until death do us part.
Without the proper preparation and shared understanding, these words could be as vacuous and superficial as a rushed crew brief that fails to provide any shared expectations for aircrew before going to fly. But with intentional preparation and mutual understanding of what the words mean, these promises serve as a foundation and bulwark for a lasting relationship.
Nonetheless, all the planning and briefing in the world is all for naught if the execution is a disaster. This is true for a tactical mission and a marriage. For the mission, success generally comes down to mission intent and communication. If you deviate from the plan’s details but stay oriented toward the mission objectives and communicate as a team, your mission is a success whether or not it “goes to plan.” This is true for marriage as well. You can go on every marriage-prep retreat and say all the heartfelt “I do’s” you can come up with, but when life forces you in a new direction, you depend on the basics. My wife and I know that our priorities are faith and family first, and we both seek opportunities for clear and fruitful communication. When we’re successful in our communication and keep God and each other prioritized before competing concerns, we experience the joy and peace that follows. When we fail to communicate or we misalign our priorities, inevitably, stress and anxiety build. Fortunately, like a tactical mission, we can “debrief” what’s going wrong and get back on track.
It is often said that the most important part of the flight is the debrief. Likewise, reflective and supportive communication between my wife and me lets us build on our successes and correct our mistakes as a team. This is an invaluable aspect of marriage.
With fruitful and intentional communication, a common vision, and shared priorities, a marriage can be what it is designed to be: a lifetime commitment of two people offering themselves to each other, in mutual service and sacrifice, to build the foundation of a family, and strive towards holiness together through their relationship with God. In doing so, marriage forms not just a team, but a union—“They are no longer two, but one flesh” (Gen 2:24, Mk 10:8, Mt 19:6, Eph 5:31)—working together, united, one team, one life.
POVs are point of view articles from NC Family Staff and contributors.