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How to Stop Fighting over the Dishes!


It’s a common misperception in relationships that the division of ‘labor’ should be equal. Sorry, but it’s not so.

Did that get your attention? Keep reading. It gets better!

Do we agree that most fights in relationships have to do with unmet expectations about who is responsible for what? For example, you might have thought or said things like this to your partner:

  • He is supposed to bring the romance, why don’t I ever get flowers?
  • She should initiate sex more, I always make the first move.
  • She is the one who should make the plans, I’m bad at it.
  • I planned the last date. Why isn’t he planning this one?
  • He should clean the kitchen. Doesn’t he realize I do the bathrooms?
  • 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, possibly a little less palpable, but certainly more honest, than pure equality when it comes to the business of relationships. We teach that the division of ‘labor’ in a relationship should depend upon who is clearly best at something and cares about it the most. Now, if it’s a toss up and neither of you particularly care or are great at the task, then the person one who complains about the task in question the most, wins the task or, what we, at Handel Group®, have come to call the “department.”

Just as a department store has a variety of departments in them, from hosiery to cookware to menswear to electronics, so too does a marriage have different departments. In a marriage, the departments include kids, sports, finances, food, vacation, romance and yes, the dreaded science fair projects, etc.

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Figuring out who manages what department does NOT happen naturally. It has to be consciously designed and rallied around! A marriage is an intimate relationship, but also a business partnership, and it’s important to run it like that or the business will fail. If you divide up the responsibilities honestly, it will make you both happier and contribute to the long term success of your relationship. And, come on, tell the truth, do you really want your partner who, let’s just say, doesn’t have the best taste in attire, really in charge of childrenswear?!

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 it. You own it and are accountable for it; you say what will get done, how, and by when.

Here is how to divide the departments in your relationship:

  1. Sit down together and make a list of all the departments in your relationship (finances, kids, sex, romance, fun and adventure, home /food, vacations, etc.) and decide who is in charge of which department and what does that entail? Write it out so you both know your exact departments and responsibilities.
  2. Remember, if there is a stalemate about a particular department, the task goes to either the person who is best at it or to the person who complains about the department the most.  
  3. Make promises and rules for managing your departments. For example, “I am responsible for helping the children with their homework and making sure it is done before bedtime every night, without any whining on my part about it.”  
  4. Lastly, implement self-imposed consequences to ensure that you keep your promises. For example, “If I don’t make sure that the children finish their homework before they go to bed or if I complain about it, I lose my glass of wine that evening.”

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this is a tricky business. It requires real commitment to personal responsibility as well as listening to and understanding your partner. But it’s well worth it. The more you make deals on the minutia, all the way up to the harrier things like the sex, the more room you have to just get back to loving each other and enjoying being together.

For more coaching tips on how to communicate and connect deeply with your partner, especially in the bedroom, join me for a 2-hour live event, Design Your Sex Life in NYC. Or sign up for our candid 1-hour teletalk, Happy Ever After: A Sex Talk led by HG Co-Founder Lauren Handel Zander.

Love,
Laurie

PS. If you are a yoga teacher or yoga lover, come join Elena Brower, author of Art of Attention, for HG’s Life Coaching for Yoga Practitioner Tele-course so you can get into the right vision and actions to forward your dreams once and for all!