“I feel like I’m doing pretty much all the work.”
“What happened to meeting me halfway?”
“I feel bad that we can’t split things up evenly.”
Couples often talk to me about feeling things aren’t even at home. Somebody’s doing more than somebody else. Usually it’s the work around the house or taking care of the kids. But it might also apply to contributing financially. Or emotional support.
The result? Frustration, resentment, tension. Just where did we come up with idea that everything should be 50/50?
We are brought up to assume equality. If you came from a big family, you probably remember your parents dividing everything evenly. Teachers were expected to treat all students equally, even if they didn’t always do that. And you may have been told more than once: “Split it with your sister.” Even Steven!
But insisting on an even split doesn’t work in a relationship. Especially when you’re living with a chronic condition. Somebody is going to need extra support. So there are going to be days when things don’t seem to be even at all. Or weeks. Or beyond.
What are you going to do about that? Well, I just happen to have a few ideas for you to consider:
Even? Based on what? What’s even and what’s not is a matter of perspective. In other words, it depends on the yardstick you’re using. If you are focused on who’s getting the work done around the house, for example, than things may be way off balance. But is that all that goes on at your house? The point here is that, depending on where you choose to focus, you will invariably find an area of your relationship that is out of balance.
Look at the bigger picture. Take a step back and look at what your relationship is about. Sure, the daily chores. But what else? Think about those times when your partner helps you to relax and have a good laugh. Keeps things organized when you’re not so well organized yourself. Or always seems to know how to be the peacemaker and the comforter when the kids need a calming presence. My point here is that you and your partner both bring a lot to your relationship, so don’t get stuck in a tree and forget the beautiful forest.
Redefine what even means in your relationship. You can focus on are an area of your relationship where things may never be equal, because of the limitations imposed by your chronic condition, or your partner’s. Or you can focus on what your partner brings to your life, what you bring to your partner’s life, and what you share together. You have a choice.
Remember that being even can lead to getting even. Here’s something to watch out for. If your view is clouded by resentment, then you are at risk for taking out your frustration on your partner, through unkind words and actions. Or you may intentionally look for ways to even things out, by pushing them to do things they may not feel up to, or letting your own responsibilities slide. When you are all about making things even – and getting even – your harmony at home may suffer as a result.
Be grateful that you can give. How about looking at the upside? Like being able to give of yourself to the people you care about. To anticipate what they need. To be available when they ask. That’s love in action. And think of what a blessing it is to you to be able to give!
And give joyfully. Look at it this way: All that time you spend taking measure of what your partner is contributing versus what you are contributing takes a lot of energy. A lot of negative energy. It takes a whole lot less time and energy to step up and do what needs to be done because, well, that’s just what you do. And then move forward. Giving joyfully is energizing!
You and your partner. It’s all about giving what you can give. And not about being even. Give freely and with joy. We’re all in this together.