Dividing the Labor In Relationships | Handel Group

Dividing the Labor In Relationships

It’s a common misperception in relationships that things should be equal. Not so.

Did that get your attention? Keep reading.

Do we agree that most fights in relationships have to do with unmet expectations about who is responsible for what? (This includes keeping love, romance, trust and sex alive and thriving!) For example, you might have thought or said things like this:

  • He is supposed to bring the romance.
  • She should initiate sex more.
  • She is the one who should make the plans.
  • I did the dishes last night, you should offer to do them tonight.
  • Why do I always pay for everything?
  • I planned the last date. Why isn’t he planning this one?
  • He should clean the kitchen. Doesn’t he realize I do the car and the bathroom?
  • 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 than equality. We teach that the division of labor should depend upon who is best at something and who cares the most about it. We call the process of figuring this out in your relationship: designing “bodegas.” Maybe it’s because we are New Yorkers that we think this is an appropriate name. For those of you outside our fair city, let me explain:

“Bodega” is an endearing term for a little store in NYC that, to us, is a very cute way to describe the inner workings of a healthy relationship. There are many bodegas in each neighborhood, and each bodega is independently run and operated by the person who owns that shop. We see all the aspects of a relationship the same way. Each area of life (romance, sex, date night, vacations, children’s homework, cleaning, money management, health, etc.) that is in incorporated into your relationship deserves a CEO. If only we managed our love relationships as well as we managed our jobs/businesses, rather than wondering if we were with the “right one,” it would all happen naturally!

Figuring out who is accountable for what and everyone rising to the occasion does NOT happen naturally. It has to be consciously designed and rallied around! And, it’s not necessarily “fair” or equal. But if you divide things up honestly, it will make you happy and contribute to the long term success of your relationship. The conversations you must have in order to negotiate all of this are the ones you have to have anyway. They are also the ones that will break you up eventually, so, you might as well have them now! One last plug for figuring out your bodegas: the process will help you avoid the sadness and hurt you have felt in the past when expectations went unmet or changed. This will require going against our nature of avoiding a possibly loaded conversation, but it’s worth it!

I’m sorry to be so sobering after all my talk about romance last week. The continuity here is we are still working on debunking your “dumb-ass” theories. Last week we discussed debunking bad theories about who you can be in relationships. This week I want you to consider your theories about what’s “your job” in the relationship. The other day I caught myself saying to myself, upon entering a very messy bathroom “this is NOT my job.” Upon reflection, I found that (though I can ask for help from the family) it IS my job, and what’s even more exciting is that that is a good thing.

We often fear that taking responsibility for something will make us feel worse, or make us feel a sense of defeat. 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 no chip on your shoulder about that. You own it and are accountable for it; you say what will get done, how and by when. Make a comment on the blog so we know what you chose.

The next step is setting up a time to sit down with your partner and hit the whole long list: Money, sex, romance, dates, chores, religion and spirituality, kids, family, friends, dreams, health/body, home, retirement, travel, bills, admin, work, socializing/hobbies, presents/holiday to do’s, etc.

I’m not gonna sugar coat it, this is tricky business. It requires real commitment to personal responsibility as well as listening to and understanding your partner. What a great opportunity to practice all the skills you learn from this daily blast.