Relationships are all about balance, compromise, and sacrifice. But all of these terms are fairly relative. How much compromise is too much? When does sacrifice morph into being taken advantage of? And does meeting halfway define balance?
I’ve been happily married for 8 years - together with my husband for 11. Has our relationship always been rainbows and unicorns?
Have we disagreed on many things, argued about petty problems, and not seen eye-to-eye?
But we’ve also kept the lines of communication open. We listen to one another and try to see things from the other person’s perspective. This isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always happen right away, but ultimately, we find a common ground.
Here’s what it looks like.
Share the Household Duties
No one likes doing chores. You probably didn’t like it as a kid and that doesn’t change much as you get older. Laundry, vacuuming, mowing the grass, and cooking are just a few of the jobs needed to create a healthy, happy, functioning home.
My husband and I share this agreement - he takes care of the outside of the house and I take care of the inside. What exactly does this mean? It means that he’s responsible, primarily for the following:
- Maintaining the yard
- Plowing and shoveling
- Cleaning the cars and camper
- Getting the mail
- Taking out the garbage
- Trimming the bushes and hedges
On the inside, my primary responsibilities are:
- Grocery shopping
- Cleaning the bathrooms/floors etc.
- Decorating for holidays
Now, these lists are subject to change and most likely don’t cover every single job that needs to be done, however, it works for us.
I don’t view it as sexist, I view it as reasonable. And the shared responsibility helps ward off feelings of resent or unfair treatment. Of course, if my husband needs help outside, my son and I are more than willing to lend a hand. And if I need assistance with the laundry or he has a great recipe he wants to try out, my husband will step in.
Respect Each Other’s Position
Respecting the thoughts and feelings of another person is the foundation of any healthy relationship, whether it’s a marriage or a friendship.
My husband burdens the financial responsibility of our family. His job carries the medical benefits and pays the mortgage. I contribute to the household expenses, but ultimately, as the “man of the house”, he feels the need to provide. At the end of the day, that’s his burden to bear.
On the flipside, I am the primary parent of our son. I get him ready for school in the morning, put him on the bus and get him off when the school day is done. It’s me sitting with him to do homework and driving him back and forth to extracurricular activities. I give him his shower, feed him dinner, and put him to bed. My husband is often home in time to say goodnight and spends the weekends with us as often as possible. But as far as the day-to-day parenting decisions go, those fall on me.
We both accept our roles and perform them to the best of our ability. But this doesn’t always mean that we agree with each other’s decisions.
My husband is a risk taker. His choices when it comes to business and investments don’t always sit well with me. He uses online tax software, whereas I would prefer to hire an accountant. He loves taking risks as an entrepreneur, where I am more conservative with our money. If I have a concern or worry about what he’s doing, I tell him and he listens. But that doesn’t always mean he’ll change his behavior. He respects my point of view, but at the end of the day, he’s the one making the money and I try to respect that.
The same goes for parenting our son. My son is definitely a bit of a mommy’s boy. We are best of friends and he knows how to push all the right and wrong buttons when it comes to mommy. My husband wishes I was more stern, strict, and less enabling. I don’t disagree with his point of view, but I’m also the one taking care of our son 90% of the time. This means that whatever rules I put in place are ones that I need to follow through with. Because of this, my husband defers to me when my son asks for something. I appreciate that and in turn, I respect his position as our son’s father and I try to meet him halfway.
Putting Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
I mentioned that respecting each other’s feelings isn’t exactly the same as putting yourself in each other’s shoes, and here’s why. You can respect your husband’s role as the provider and he can respect your position as mother, but that doesn’t mean you take the time to truly put yourself in your partner’s place.
For example, my husband is a workaholic. He is passionate and determined to create a bright future for our family. I appreciate this but it also means a lot of time spent alone. In the past, this has developed into feelings of resent and frustration. I resent my husband’s work schedule and his inability to participate in a lot of family events. And when he is home, my husband is so exhausted from working that he’s not always fun to be around! I used to get annoyed and feel hurt by his behavior. But then, I put myself in his shoes. I tried to imagine the financial burden he carries and how exhausted he must be at the end of each day - I’d be cranky too!
My husband used to get frustrated over my inability to understand why he was so tired and the reasons he worked so much. He would dread coming home and having me question him or cry. But, when he stopped and thought about how he might feel if I was never home and he was forced to attend outings alone with our son, making excuses for my absence, he began to understand my position.
This mutual understanding of your partner’s actions allows you to feel more compassion and empathy for their position. I see now that my husband works hard so that we can go on vacation, drive safe vehicles, have heat in the winter, and save money for our son’s college fund. So instead of hitting him with questions when he walks in the door, I greet him with a warm embrace.
My husband makes more of an effort to attend at least one or two family events a month and rearranges his schedule to be at our son’s sporting events. He does this because he knows that his presence is important and that our son needs his father. Instead of getting defensive, by putting himself in my shoes he can understand the origin of my distress.
No One is Perfect
My marriage is far from perfect. My husband and I bicker at times and have to agree to disagree, but the important thing is that we are honest and patient with one another. Taking the time to listen to your partner and acknowledge their efforts helps you to see them in a whole new light.