I have this trigger point in my psyche that revolves around the principle of fairness and equality in relationships. I know this trigger point exists because I have allowed it to prompt me to blow up some serious long-term relationships in a fury over unfairness and inequity. I'm not sorry.
I do think, in a day and age where both partners work outside the home, household chores and responsibilities should be divided evenly. Quite frankly, I don't understand why anyone would stay in a partnership that was completely lopsided in any regard. But, that's my own intolerance speaking.
I've also found that in most of my relationships, describing this need for equal division of such responsibilities is met with resistance or patronization. Nothing spirals me into madness more quickly than a partner saying, “Hey honey, I helped you out and did the dishes.” Sweet heavens. Helped ME out? Last time I checked you lived here and dirty up dishes too. How is this helping me?
So, you know, there is a person who thinks they are “helping” against me who thinks “man, this is YOUR job too! What do you want? A freaking cookie?” And, after the blow up...because in this instance there usually is one...comes the resentment. Mine from feeling like I inherited all the jobs associated with running a household just because I was born a woman. Theirs from feeling as if they were helping only to get their head bitten off.
It is a trigger that I am well aware of and one which my partners become aware of rather quickly in most instances.
However, I also hold to a type of double standard that says, “I'm the smallest person in this house. I live with 3 practically full grown men. Therefore, any heavy lifting is not going to be done by me.” It's not that I physically CAN'T do the heavy work. But, why should I when it is so much easier for these big brawny guys to do it? I mean, that only makes sense right?
Well, it makes sense to me just like it makes sense to them that I would take care of the cooking, etc because I know how and they don't.
The thing that has a tendency to smooth things over in all of this seems to be the ability to distribute home based jobs amongst the people who have the talent and where-with-all to handle them. They don't lift the heavy stuff because they like it. They get the job because they have the most ability. I definitely don't cook because I like it. I do it because I can.
The thing that eases the possible resentment of tackling chores based on ability and need (you know, because I could eat cereal for dinner every night and be good with it) is soothed by the power of appreciation---Acknowledgment of the fact that the people in your life are doing things for you because they can, not because they have to. When we start taking things for granted and expect people to do these things instead of appreciate the fact that they DO them, we create a brewery for resentment, hurt feelings and trouble.
Eventually, the steam has to come off that brewing pot or risk explosion. In other words, you have to bring these feelings out and talk about them. Or, something is eventually going to blow creating a huge mess. And, the explosion is likely going to happen in one of those “last straw” instances that, when taken alone, never should have caused the fall out it did.
For example, if I've been diligently making dinner for my family for months and months without so much as a “Thank you” then when they come to me and ask what's for dinner on a day when my resentment level over that is high, I'm likely to tell them they can eat mud pies for all I care (yeah, it's probably going to be worse than that). Needless to say, no one in my house walks past me with a plate of food in their hand without saying “Thank you.” And, I dance around and sing, “Hercules! Hercules!” whenever they are doing something physically strenuous on my behalf.
The give and take of appreciation makes things fair even when, at times, things are lopsided. In a perfect world and between perfect people, everything is fair and even all the time. However, neither of these perfections exist. So, we compensate and accentuate one another in our own little ways.
No two people can walk side by side through eternity. There are times when both partners are on a level playing field. There are other times when one partner must step up and take the lead. There are times when one partner has to be the nurturer. And, there are times when a person just needs to be and honor themselves outside of the confines of relating.
Problems come when one partner expects the other to fulfill one end of this dynamic all the time instead of appreciating the fact that they can and are willing to do so. Or, when one partner feels under appreciated and allows those feelings of resentment to overtake them.
The key to all of it is conscious discussion of what needs to be done with mutual agreement over who will take care of what and how while appreciation is continually expressed by both sides for the efforts given by the other. Then, airing grievances as they present themselves instead of allowing them to explode taking half your relationship with it.
If you think that sounds hard, it's because it is. But, the conscious addressing of it could strengthen your relationship and bring more contentment than resentment. Or, it could show you that you picked the wrong person to partner with in the very beginning. It's just not something that most new couples want to talk about when they are swept up in the fires of love. As the relationship meets ground (reality), though, it is certainly something you may want to discuss before considering a long-term commitment be that commitment in a roommate agreement or a marriage.