The marriage entities, you, me, and us require quite a bit of balancing to all survive and prosper. How can I be supportive of my spouse without abandoning myself? If I abandon “me”, it will lead me to resenting him, because it will seem like he, and us, are crowding “me” out. This resentment, and even bitterness, will be evident in our relationship. If I can balance taking care of myself, while still supporting the other two entities, we can live harmoniously. We can live with appreciation rather than resentment, and intimacy rather than co-dependence or independence.
Another thing that can challenge a relationship is when there is a difference in “pace” between two spouses. Some people are naturally high energy, get-it-done people, while others might be slower, with less drive. Are you doing his work (or vice versa) because he just hasn’t gotten to it yet? It’s important to define who does what, and also when. What will be the cues? Often reminders from a spouse take the form of nagging. Set other external reminders, or due dates when necessary—then leave the person whose task it is to get it done. As we mentioned in a previous post, Bradbury et al (2013) found that the division of chores, and even more, having an agreed-upon system of dividing the chores made a difference in how well couples got along on a day-to-day basis.
If spouses try to “follow each other’s lead”, they can be more in step. Learn to support each other so each can be the best person they can be. Honor differences and use each other’s strengths rather than complaining about each other’s weaknesses.
What if my spouse doesn’t especially seem inclined to do his part, or to find solutions? Is it a lost cause? Not at all! Remember, there will be a ripple effect from your own efforts. One person acting more effectively will have an influence on the other person. There will be the most effect from quietly initiated changes that demonstrate a sincere effort. Sincerity can be felt. If you are working to help him to be the best person he can be, that will encourage cooperation. We are each responsible for our own actions (and reactions), but we don’t live in isolation. One, or both (or sometimes one and then the other) can contribute to a more satisfying marriage.
Bradbury, Wendy Klein, Carolina Izquierdo, Thomas N. “The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and Miserable One: Chores.” The Atlantic, 1 Mar. 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/the-difference-between-a-happy-marriage-and-miserable-one-chores/273615/.