The Unspoken Rules of Relationships

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The Unspoken Rules of Relationships 

When it comes to the unspoken division of labour in your relationship, there are three unspoken rules to finding balance, writes resident Psychologist, Sinem Ibrahim.

In any marriage, there are certain unspoken divisions of labour. One partner usually takes on more household chores, while the other takes on a more significant share of the financial responsibility. But when you add kids, things can get even more complicated. Suddenly, one parent (most often the mother) is left with the lion’s share of childcare duties while the other tries to hold down a job and keep the household running. Of course, this isn’t always the case – there are successful marriages where both partners share the load equally.

A friend of my husband who had recently separated from his wife of almost ten years, was at our house recently with his two young kids. During our conversation about how things were going for him in his new life, it became apparent that he had assumed that his then-wife would take full responsibility for their children’s health and education and extracurricular activities during his marriage and she would just relay any important information to him. Keep in mind, she works, too, running a business.

We’re all familiar with stories like these, but what I found interesting is that now he is taking responsibility and showing up for these appointments and is heavily involved in his children’s life. The work that was too important to miss is now negotiable around the kid’s needs. So why was this not possible before?

Now, this isn’t a man-bashing moment, neither party is the bad guy here, and it must be said that this way of operating a household is just the way it has been for generations. But as parenting evolves and family dynamics evolve it is becoming a broader social issue. The difference between when our parents and their parents raised us and now, is that today most women are in the workforce. And let’s face it, rising living costs almost demand both parents work just to survive. Not to mention that we’re all more heavily involved than ever with our children’s wellbeing, educational outcomes, and all their activities outside of school. Let’s not even start with all the playground dramas that play out that we need to navigate with our children, without being triggered by our childhood school playground dramas.

The stuff that’s left unspoken

So, let’s address some of these unspoken rules that are leftovers from a different time. The first that it’s the woman’s job to keep the house clean. I know, you’re all thinking, “but what about those dads who stay home and help with the dishes?”

They are amazing but, sadly, they are still in the minority and to be honest, if you have one, he is something of a unicorn. In a lot cases women are still expected to carry the burden of the majority of cleaning – even if they too work outside the home. Not to mention the responsibly of a family’s life admin and the childcare that seems to automatically fall in their laps.

It’s like there is an unwritten rule that it’s okay for a man to slack off, but not a woman. If a guy doesn’t feel like doing his share around the house, no one bats an eyelash. But if a woman tries to take a break from her endless chores, there’s shame attached. Hardest of all is that many women are expected to multitask their way through all these duties, so the wheels don’t fall off,

with a bangin’ bod, effortless style, and a smile on her face. These are double standards that need to end once and for all.

The three rules to relationship success

But it isn’t these unwritten rules that are the ones that lead to a successful marriage.

The first and perhaps most important rule is communication. You need to be able to communicate with your spouse about everything, from your hopes and dreams to your fears and doubts. Marriage is a team effort, and you need to be able to work together as a team to make it successful. If you can’t communicate with each other, then your marriage is likely to suffer. You’ll resent him for all the additional labour you take and that he doesn’t. It’s likely he is not even aware how you feel about it or, if he is, simply doesn’t know how to help. The only way to resolve this is to set a time to discuss the division of labour fairly, and that comes down to a few other unspoken rules.

The second is trust. You need to be able to trust your spouse with your heart and soul. If you can’t trust each other, your marriage will fail. It is the key to any successful relationship. If you want your marriage to last it must have a strong foundation of trust. Even if that is just that you trust he remembers to take out the trash on Tuesday night without being asked to – every Tuesday.

The third rule is respect. You need to respect each other both as individuals and as a team. If you don’t respect each other, your marriage will crumble. Respect is the glue that holds a marriage together and you need to have a healthy level of respect for each other for its long-term success.  And when I talk about respect that means understanding that you won’t work in the same manner, your level of cleanliness may not be the same as your partner, and he may not even see the mess you see. Even if he does, he might not clean the way you would. But my advice is to pick your battles. I, for one, will forgo the perfectly clean house done by me for the semi tidy one by my partner for the sake of freeing up some of my mental load,

Communication, trust, and respect are the three rules of marriage and essential for any relationship to thrive. What other unspoken rules are important for a successful marriage or partnership? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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