How many times have you said “I’ll do this if you do that” in your marriage, job, friendships, or life?
Reciprocal activities are what makes the business world run, but they are not the best method of interacting with your spouse in a marriage (or even while dating or engaged)! Let me illustrate an example where reciprocal exchanges can create a problem in a relationship:
Husband: Honey, what’s for dinner?
Wife: Sorry, but I don’t have any dishes. You were supposed to wash them last night.
Husband: But I took out the garbage. I can’t do EVERYTHING around here!
Wife: But taking out the garbage takes 5 minutes, while cooking dinner takes 30 minutes or more! Why can’t you do YOUR share of the work around here!
Husband: But I do my share! We never decided the dishes were MY job! It should be YOUR job since YOU cook with these dishes!
I’ll end the argument there and you can fill in the rest. But this illustrates a single example of 50/50 thinking in a relationship. Can you think of your own example? Even better, can you think of real-life examples of “negotiation” in your marriage?
Obviously there are numerous financial situations and responsibilities that can be divided up evenly between spouses. For example, I do all of the bills and the budget, and my wife does most of the grocery shopping. We naturally gravitate towards things we like to do or feel we do better than our spouse.
Changing Your Relationship to 100/100
In our situation, we do not negotiate a split in financial duties. I like to deal with money and she LOVES to browse the aisles of the grocery store. I mean c’mon, she’s a dietitian! However, that does not mean that I am solely accountable for paying the bills, nor is she solely responsible for buying and cooking dinner. We both have to answer to creditors and the IRS, and we both must answer to each other.
In our relationship, we avoid assigning duties. Although I gladly take out the garbage, partly because I like getting junk out of our house, and agree it’s a stinky job, Stacie will not let the garbage sit in the can simply because I’m not doing my duty. She’ll take out the garbage herself, but won’t slack on other responsibilities in order to “teach me a lesson”. We are not vindictive people. We don’t hold grudges.
Also, we avoid placing blame on each other when things aren’t done so that we can avoid arguments.
What better way to avoid arguments than to simply “do your job”? And what is your job? Is the husband solely responsible for mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and making all the money? No. And is the wife solely responsible for cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids? No. So where does that leave us?
A 100/100 relationship, where both husband and wife accept the responsibilities of marriage AND friendship as best as they are able. I highlighted that last part for a reason. I mentioned earlier that I am “better” at finances and Stacie is “better” at grocery shopping. However, if I was solely responsible for all financial matters in our household, we would have a giant plasma TV on the wall, a new car every 6 months, and a whole bunch of debt (even more than we have now).
Alternatively, if Stacie was solely responsible for grocery shopping, we would have all healthy foods. Oh, wait, that’s a good thing. Maybe I should stop “helping” with the groceries.
Anyway, we literally compliment and complete each other. She reigns in my spending, while I, well, help her buy stuff with some flavor (sorry Stacie). We don’t assign roles, because we are a single unit moving towards a single goal: a happy marriage.
So, take this word of advice, which we received at the Weekend to Remember conference:
If you are not working together towards unity, then by default, you are driting slowly towards isolation.
Don’t let your marriage slowly slip away because you think your spouse should be doing something that is really a mutual responsibility. Help you and your spouse gain a better, more meaningful, and less destructive relationship by each putting 100% of yourselves into the marriage.