It’s a common misperception in relationships that the “division of labor” should be equal. Sorry, but it’s not so.
Did that get your attention? Keep reading. It gets better!
Don’t we all agree that most fights in relationships have to do with unmet expectations about who is responsible for what? For example, you might have thought, or said, things like this to your partner:
- He is supposed to bring the romance, why don’t I ever get flowers?
- She should initiate sex more, I always make the first move.
- She is the one who should make the plans, I’m bad at it.
- I planned the last date. Why isn’t he planning this one?
- He should clean the kitchen. Doesn’t he realize I do the bathrooms?
- Sure he makes the money, but I take care of the kids; isn’t that a fair trade?
- I cook, she should do the dishes.
The Handel Method® teaches a different theory, possibly a little less palpable, but certainly a more honest one than pure equality when it comes to the business of relationships.
We teach that the division of labor in a relationship should depend upon who is clearly best at something and cares about it the most.
Now, if it’s a toss up, and neither of you particularly care or are great at the task, then the person who complains about the task in question the most, wins the task, or what we at Handel Group® have come to call the “bodega”
Sure, if you’re from the east coast, you more than likely know that bodegas are small stores that sell everything. But, even so, what do we mean here? The word “bodega” became a stand-in for each person’s accountability in the relationship. A relationship isn’t so different from running a mom and pop shop. Not to mention, bodega is a pretty darn fun word to say, which certainly doesn’t hurt when what you and I are really about to dive into divvying up the workload in a relationship.
Just as a department store has a variety of departments in them, from hosiery to cookware to menswear to electronics, so too does a marriage. In a marriage, the departments or, yes, bodegas include kids, sports, finances, food, vacation, romance and yes, the dreaded science fair projects, etc.
Figuring out who manages what bodega does NOT happen naturally. It has to be consciously designed and rallied around! A marriage is an intimate relationship but it’s also a business partnership. It’s important to run it as such or the business will fail. If you divide up the responsibilities honestly, rather than equally, it will make you both happier to contribute to the long term success of your relationship. And, come on, tell the truth, do you really want your partner who, let’s just say, doesn’t have the best taste in attire, to be in charge of children’s wear?!
We often fear that taking responsibility for something will make us feel worse or a sense of defeat, when in reality, taking responsibility almost always makes us feel better, more creative, and more powerful. Try it! Choose one thing today in your relationship that you are now going to be responsible for. It doesn’t mean you have to do it alone or can’t get help or input from the other person; it just means “it’s yours” and there’s no chip on your shoulder about it. You own it and are accountable for it; you say what will get done, how, and by when.
Here is how to divide the bodegas in your relationship honestly:
- Sit down together and make a list of all the departments in your relationship (finances, kids, sex, romance, fun and adventure, home/food, vacations, etc.) and decide who is in charge of which bodega and what that job entails? Write it out so you both know your exact departments and responsibilities.
- Remember, if there is a stalemate about a particular department, the task goes to either the person who is best at it or to the person who complains about the department the most.
- Make promises and rules for managing your bodegas. For example, “I am responsible for helping the children with their homework and making sure it is done before bedtime every night, without any whining, on my part, about it.”
- Lastly, implement self-imposed consequences to ensure that you keep your promises. For example, “If I don’t make sure that the children finish their homework before they go to bed, or if I complain about it, I lose my glass of wine that evening.”
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this is a tricky business. It requires real commitment to personal responsibilities as well as listening to, and understanding, your partner. But it’s well worth it. The more you make deals on the minutia, all the way up to the harrier things, like sex, the more room you have to just get back to loving each other and enjoying being together.
P.S. What’s your life like? Sucky? Sexy? Somewhere in between? Take the Current Reality Quiz! It’s a quick, easy, and fun (we swear) way to self-assess and get a better idea (or at least an honest one) on what areas of your life you need to work on.
Laurie Gerber is a Senior Coach and Co-President of Handel Group® Life Coaching. For over 15 years, Laurie has led international events and private coaching courses. She has appeared on MTV’s True Life, A&E’s The Marriage Test, Dr. Phil and TODAY.
Image courtesy of Becca Tappert.