How to define roles and responsibilities in your relationship

There is never a complete fifty-fifty split on responsibilities.

There is never a complete fifty-fifty split on responsibilities.

What you need to know:

  • Certain dictates from the patriarchal nature of the society will pop up from time to time.
  • There will be times when one of you will have to give 100 percent because the other can’t give anything.
  • Regardless of who has the higher paycheck, a couple must learn to handle their financial obligations jointly.

The days when roles and responsibilities in relationships and marriages were defined based on gender are long gone. Today, couples have the freedom to allocate each other roles and responsibilities based on their strengths and abilities.

The hot potato

Certain dictates from the patriarchal nature of the society will pop up from time to time. These may range from who cooks and does household chores to who will pay the rent. “There are parties who feel that certain roles should and must be constrained to specific genders. They strictly follow the traditional, often unspoken, recognition of division of labour between men and women,” says family therapist Lawrence Kibiru. For example, there are men who will never do laundry or enter the kitchen because that is traditionally seen as a woman’s area. There are also women who will never buy salt at home because they believe it is the man’s job to provide.

The 50-50 split

Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist, and author of Single & Searching says there is never a complete fifty-fifty split on responsibilities. “There will be times when one of you will have to give 100 percent because the other can’t give anything. In healthy relationships, couples care so much for one another that it’s difficult to say who’s doing more for the other or the relationship,” he says. You must, nevertheless, learn not to complain or get evasive when it is your turn to do more.

How you communicate

Communication will be at the centre of how you share responsibilities in your relationship. “Healthy communication will help identify how your partner is wired, his background, and perception of roles. It will also help you get a handle on what each of you is better at, what each of you can handle, and what you can team up on,” says psychologist and family therapist Lucia Oloo. This is echoed by Jennie Karina, a psychologist and the author of Marriages Built to Last. “You must realise that gifts and abilities are not gender-sensitive. Once you comprehend this, endeavor to allow each other to exercise their gifting through roles and responsibilities,” she says.

The money factor

This is probably the most contentious factor because roles and responsibilities mostly involve finances. Regardless of who has the higher paycheck, a couple must learn to handle their financial obligations jointly. “Financial roles must be handled jointly, as though the marriage is a company and the partners the executive directors,” he says. “You can only split where one partner is better at accounting, getting good bargains, and filing utility payments and receipts,” Dr Hart says.

The characters

It is likely that one partner in the relationship might be passive and non-confrontational about responsibilities. For example, he could have a superior interest in handling finances than other roles. Dr. Fredric Neuman, the author of Rising Above Fear, says that this does not always mean that he has abdicated his roles and responsibilities. “Arbitrary division of labour in a relationship or marriage is not likely to undermine its success. It will only happen where on top of disproportional roles, there is no mutual respect and affection between the partners,” he says.

The parent-child trap

One of the major deal breakers you must avoid is either of you taking the role of a parent or child. For example, one partner must not feel obligated to cover all responsibilities on behalf of their spouse as if they were a parent. Neither should the other party abdicate their duties and wait to be fed like a child. “Do not be too instructive, superior, or disciplinary in your style of relating and handling your respective roles. Neither should you act victimised or use passive and aggressive strategies to abdicate your roles or responsibilities,” says Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist and the author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.