Hubby and I like to play Spades, we have for years.  Whenever I mention this I know people begin to wonder whether I was raised in a Senior Center or a prison.  I’ll tell you later, but it will cost you your lunch.  You laugh, but you’ve never been shivved by someone’s grandma over the last tapioca pudding.  Or, maybe you do.

In any case, it is my opinion that anyone in any kind of relationship should learn to play spades.  I have rarely seen a couple last more than a year who couldn’t make it through a game without one of them throwing a tantrum or storming off into the other room.  It’s a game of communication and attentiveness, and something we could all learn from in dealing with daily life.

Spades is a game of nonverbal communication.   There is no table talk allowed playing Spades.  This means partners have to find other ways to communicate with each other.  Great attention is needed to body language and eye contact, but so is awareness of how your partner is going to perceive your body language or nonverbal clues.  Sometimes it is just important to know the messages we send to others, especially those with whom we share intimate contact, as it is to know how to read and not over-read or misinterpret those messages from others.  It took me a long time to get used to the fact that if Hubby doesn’t have a response he deems important he just won’t respond much at all.  There might be a shift in eyes to make contact for a second or a nearly imperceptible nod, but I had to learn to recognize that and not take it personally or feel ignored.  Nonverbal communication is key to any relationship, even in a world run by texts and emails.

Spades demands we stay calm with each other.   Don’t tell my partners, but sometimes I make mistakes.  In Spades this can happen for lots of reasons.  Sometimes you just guess wrong.  That’s why it’s  a game.  The lesson here is calm.  If I blow up at my partner because he made a mistake not only do I look stupid but it throws us off for the rest of the game.  We are no longer a solid unit.  I’ve caused a rift.  I can point out where I think things went wrong and what I think should happen next time, and he can either agree or disagree.  Then we move on.  We don’t let it bother us for the rest of the game.  I also can’t freak out because I made a mistake and let it continue to bother me.  Both of these situations have the potential to lead to doubt and resentment.  Don’t do it.  It doesn’t help anyone.

Spades involves being able to know how your partner thinks enough to foresee his next move.  I have to know how and why my partner thinks the way he does.  I need to know how he is going to react to my moves and how he expects me to react to his.  This takes an inordinate amount of attentiveness and a deep knowledge of my partner.  This can be hard to do.  We like to think we know the ins and outs of our spouses and partners.  How many of us can really say we know how our partners would react under certain circumstances.  Could we trust them to consider all the factors and everyone involved?  Do they know us well enough to know the same and anticipate our reactions?  This lesson can be useful not only in communication and daily interactions, but in emergency situations.  If I weren’t home during an emergency could I trust Hubby to act as I would need him to?  If not, what needs to always be in place to make sure t hings are taken care of in my stead?

Spades encourages you to work together, not for your own agenda.  This is a big one, especially when playing a game.  We have a mutual goal, and in some situations I may have a goal that helps us as a team but requires work on behalf of my partner.  I can’t tell him how I need that help, so it’s his job to put his goals aside to help me with mine.  So often we get wrapped up in our own agendas and forget to leave any focus for common goals or those that benefit everyone.  During arguments we’re often so concerned about “winning” that we forget what the outcome should be, a resolution that works as well as it can for everyone involved, not just Me.

In playing Spades if these things are not kept in mind you will lose the game.  That’s where the last lesson comes in.  What if you lose anyway?  Did you still enjoy yourselves?  Are you bitter and resentful with each other or the other pair?  Is anyone bleeding?  If you answered “yes” to the last two, you need more practice, and maybe some stitches.  Once you can answer “yes” to the first one you can apply these lessons to daily life.  Just keep that fridge stocked with pudding.

Go now, grab a deck of cards.