It’s no secret that in a relationship there are roles that each person holds. One of the best assets of a highly functional relationship is when roles are fluid, with clear expectations and communication.
Over the course of a relationship, there can be several factors that impact the roles that partners hold, and when or how those roles may need to change. Relationships often get stuck when a partner feels unappreciated, burnt out, or left out with no way to get their partner to understand.
When a relationship has room to re-negotiate roles, it allows for the unexpected in life to be managed with more support. It can also help decrease anxiety and burnout when partners are able to clearly communicate about changing needs.
With that in mind, these are some ways partners hold roles in relationships and how they can be re-negotiated:
- Household: This is a big one, as most people will have some sort of household management in their relationship.Identifying tasks that are either manageable or practical for each partner and setting shared expectations about what it means for that task to be completed can help support the relationship. This is also a great opportunity to talk about why a task may matter to you and how it feels when your partner takes your preferences into consideration. When re-negotiating household tasks, talk to your partner about the purpose, how each of you can feel supported, and if there is any sort of timeline for how long the re-negotiation needs to last. It can also be good to explore how other roles can be considered to help the relationship feel balanced.
- Finances: Similar to household, most relationships will need to address everyone’s role with finances. This is subject to change based on external factors too, so don’t forget to check in often about how you want to handle unexpected job changes, what financial priorities you set together, and how to incorporate fun into budgeting. Regardless of how money is earned, it is supportive to the relationship when each partner feels invested in the relationship’s financial decisions.
- Childcare: Not every relationship will involve childcare. For those that do, deciding if there is a primary caregiver, an equitable split, or an outsourcing of childcare is important for the balance of the relationship. These roles will likely change more than once over the course of a relationship due to changing developmental needs of the children, how the relationship earns money, where you live, and what kind of support resources are available. Relationships that strive for equity (everyone does what is within their capacity) versus equality (everyone does the same amount) tend to show more flexibility and support in the parenting role.
- Planning: Every area of a relationship can require some sort of planning, however there is often one partner who takes a primary role with planning and this can work well for the relationship. Don’t forget to talk about ways each partner can help bring balance to this role with managing daily tasks versus big picture plans. Figuring out what to eat for dinner each night can feel more taxing than planning a ten day vacation once a year.
One of the best tools to remember with managing and re-negotiating roles in relationships is maintaining open communication throughout the process. Partners can feel blind sighted or overwhelmed when all of the sudden they hear their partner has been unhappy about something for years, and that can be more of a challenge for the relationship to manage. If you’re communicating consistently about your needs in your roles, there is more opportunity to change strategies before burnout and stress take over.
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