There are many "everyday things" we can do in order to promote the health of our marriage. This week, Imagine Hope discusses 10 different things to improve marital health: 9. Recognize an imbalance of responsibility in the marriage and take action to change it.
Most marriages have spoken or unspoken roles that each person subscribes to. Maybe you take care of the meal preparation and your spouse takes care of the trash going out to the curb. Having roles is a pretty natural part of marriage, and is good, as long as those roles are well defined and agreed upon. The danger zone is when the overall responsibility for tasks in the family unit becomes out of balance-- and either person feels a sense of over-responsibility for the majority of these tasks. If responsibility is out of balance, you then see resentment become a part of your marriage. Your spouse does not want a child to care for, they want a partner who takes equal responsibility in the relationship, or they will not feel a sense of protection, care and love from their partnership. If you find yourself frequently "deferring" to your spouse for decisions or tasks, step up and make some of those day to day decisions or do those tasks without your spouse needing to "manage" you. Many couples become competitive about tasks, but the answer is in being cooperative and recognizing when things are out of balance. If your spouse is saying things feel out of balance, listen. Instead of getting defensive, provide empathy, and problem solve, in order to bring more balance to responsibility to your marriage. It will definitely pay off!
10. Don't have "off limit" feelings in your marriage.
Has your spouse ever told you they don't feel like they are "allowed" to get frustrated, sad, etc., in your marriage? Do they feel like they somehow get punished for speaking how they feel? Marriage can certainly uncover feelings that are stronger than any other relationship we have. This is generally because of expectations that we enter into marriage with about what things will be like. It's also a result of growing up in a family that does not talk about difficult or uncomfortable feelings, and then not knowing how to cope with them when we see those feelings in our spouse. When these feelings, such as hurt, sadness, anger & frustration, become "off limits" in our marriage, we unknowingly (or sometimes knowingly), shut our spouse down, prohibit them from sharing, withdraw our love, communication and attention, or do other things that somehow communicate to them how bad or wrong they are for feeling how they feel. Unfortunately, this sets the relationship up for even more poor communication. If our spouse can't come to us with those feelings and be accepted, we have failed them, and have also complicated the problem. When we do accept the "off limit" feeling(s), empathize, validate and problem solve, we strengthen trust, commitment, and provide an avenue for those feelings to work themselves out.
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield and Fishers.