Maritha Pottenger

Bridge partnerships are as difficult as any relationship. Ideally, every partnership would be relatively balanced in terms of skill, but that never happens in real life.

In my opinion, emotional compatibility is the most important factor—NOT skill level. If you have fun playing with your partner, that is a good partnership. If you can talk over hands without either person getting upset, that is a good partnership.

I am a highly competitive person and I used to be much harder on my partners. I've improved over the years, but I still have room to get better in that area, so I constantly strive to work on that. (I was harder on a couple partners than others—probably for deep subconscious reasons in terms of the buttons they pushed that reminded me of something from my early life. Those two people probably should have given me a bridge divorce.) Reminding yourself (every hand if necessary): "My partner is on my side." may help. [Or, if your partner is verbally abusive to you, definitely cut the cord—after one warning if the degree was not too bad.]

One should also factor in availability. If you enjoy going to tournaments, there will be a limited number of people with the time, resources to do the same. If you only do club games, there is a wider array of partners in the pool.

We can learn in ANY partnership. If one person is considerably more skilled than the other, it is that person's job to try to figure out as many ways as possible to make things EASIER for their partner—crystal clear bidding—try not to ever bid something that partner might not understand; lead-directing doubles and overcalls to help partner out; definitive signals at all times on defense. One thing I do NOT do (and detest seeing the pros do) is try to always grab the contract so that I can play it. People LEARN by making mistakes. If you distort the bidding to try to play more hands, that will not help your partner, nor the partnership.

We all want to win; partner is on our side. However, the bottom line is bridge is a game—bridge is PLAY. If we cannot enjoy it, then it might be time for a "bridge divorce." That is always a sad conclusion.