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Managing Your Life - Together

If you’re engaged, I’d like to let you in on a little secret about marriage, and if you’re already married, you’ll know this to be true: One of the most challenging aspects of marriage is partnership, and even more specifically, it’s managing the household. It's definitely the least "sexy" part of a marriage, but it's foundational in having a strong, healthy marriage, so that there is time and space for the passion and play you also desire in your marriage. We'll talk about why this is and what you can do to ensure that this isn't a challenge that you and your partner will need to endure and how to overcome it if it's one that you are currently struggling with.



It doesn’t seem like folding the towels or making dinner or giving the kids baths or mowing the lawn are all that difficult, and you’re correct – each one of those things in and of itself is not difficult.


However, divvying up the responsibilities and creating a space (not just physical, but emotional as well) that feels safe, comfy, and fair to both of you can be difficult.


Even divvying them up doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but there are some things that make it complicated. The first thing that makes it hard is just believing that it shouldn’t be that hard. To each of you, it seems like it should be easy because you are each thinking of it in your own way, and if each of you actually did get your way completely, it would be really simple!


However, each of you was brought up with your own sets of expectations. I call this passive family influence, and most likely, they were very different. For example, in your childhood home, perhaps there were more “traditional” roles, where your father managed the money, maintained the yard, and was responsible for the home and vehicle repairs and maintenance. Your mom was responsible for the laundry, the cooking, cleaning and everything to do with the kids. Notice how much your expectations of who does what in your own marriage aligns with how you were raised and your own experience.


Now consider your partner’s upbringing. Perhaps they were raised by a single mom that had to work outside the home. They saw their mom handle everything – including the yard work and taking care of the car. Perhaps your partner even had to handle more responsibility as a child to make sure that the household kept running, like mowing the lawn or making dinner when mom had to work late.

 

When it comes time to create your own partnership, the circumstances of your marriage most likely do not look the same as your parents’, so don’t just expect that your home will function the same way “automatically”. This is where most couples struggle. They struggle understanding how there is any other way to fold towels than the way their mom folded towels. To create a happy, healthy, functional household, it will require you both to be intentional with what you want it to look like and how this will function that works for YOUR new (maybe not so new) family. Getting clarity on what this looks like for each of you and then as a couple is a conversation most couples DON’T have. They each just step into the marriage doing things their own way, and then get upset with each other because the other isn’t doing it (or not doing it) the way that they wanted it done or when they wanted it done or as often as they wanted it done.


The other, similar but different, challenge is that because your life circumstances are different than your families, the division of labor most likely will be different to feel fair and balanced. Women, in particular, often find that they are handling the lion’s share of household management and responsibilities, and this no longer feels fair to them. I totally get it as I’ve been there myself. But rather than being angry and frustrated about it, we can choose to look at it with a different lens. For generations, men and women had relatively specific gender-related roles. Whether they were balanced then is a whole other topic, but if we consider that it’s only been the last 2-3 generations where the majority of women have taken on a provider role outside of the home AND continued to keep up with all their previous responsibilities, it’s actually not so shocking to see that men really have no idea what it is that women truly handle on a day to day basis.


You can choose to be angry and victim-y about it, or you can help them understand from a place of love and teaching, all that it takes to keep your family happy and healthy. That being said, there are also things that men bring to the table that are often under-appreciated or not acknowledged. Creating this awareness of what each of you is contributing to the relationship is the first step to not only creating a more balanced and aligned responsibility list, but also creates new appreciation for each other.


The beautiful opportunity that is here for you is to intentionally create a division of responsibilities that feels aligned for your family, based on the current circumstances. Sharing responsibilities is not a one-and-done conversation. As kids come (and go), as one of you chooses to go back to school, to stay home to raise the kids, to start a business, or takes a job with a lot of travel, the “balance” will shift and evolve.


I use the word ‘balance’ carefully, because it’s not simply a 50/50 split of the to-do list. Not all responsibilities are created equally. They require different energy, time and frequency. You and your partner need to decide what balance means to you. I’d like to suggest that perhaps one way balance might look is based how much down-time you each have at the end of the week. Or if you both have similar “9-5” schedules, balance might be that neither of you sits down to rest at the end of the night until all the agreed-upon chores have been handled. You get to create it how it feels best for both of you.


Ultimately, if you give this aspect of your relationship intention and attention, you can create a beautiful partnership, and strengthen your teamwork. When you do that, there is more time and energy to spend on the passion and play aspects of your marriage, and who doesn’t want that?


If you’d like some support in how to evaluate the balance of responsibilities in your marriage as well as re-align them, check out my self-guided workshop: Manage Your Lives – Together. This simple, yet powerful workshop will walk you through, step by step, how to evaluate what each of you is bringing to the relationship and how to re-align and re-assign responsibilities based on your strengths and preferences.


Allison Orlovsky is a relationship coach, architect and expert. After her second divorce by the age of 35, Allison committed herself to personal development and ongoing learning so that she didn’t continue to make the same mistakes in future relationships. She also dedicated her efforts to not just creating a good-enough relationship, but a great one, full of all the passion, partnership and play she could imagine. She and Austin have been playing and experimenting in this space for almost a decade and are constantly learning, growing and evolving as individuals and as a couple. If you’d like to learn more about Allison and Austin and how to work with them, you can find them at www.relationship-revolution.com


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