Are you carrying the weight of your relationship?
Susan stood in the doorway looking at her husband sort the mail and pay bills. He finally looked up, noticing her, asking, “What’s up?” “We ARE supposed to be having a date tonight, right?” she replied, annoyed that once again, she had to remind him. “Of course! Where do you want to go for dinner?” Annoyed, she rolled her eyes and walked away. It would be nice if he would carry the weight of the relationship once in a while. Why was she always responsible for them going out and choosing what they did?
Have you ever felt similarly?
Maybe with different circumstances, but a situation where YOU are the one doing all the work? Maybe you are being met with resistance, even when your spouse has agreed that doing xyz is good for you both and your marriage. Maybe it’s your teenager, or a team member, one of your employees, or a friend who is expecting you to take care of everything.
What do you do?
First, consider what you want as an outcome.
Maybe you are in a season of life where your spouse has a high-stress job and forward motion looks like them spending any time with you at all. Maybe your employee is still learning the ropes, or your teenager or coworker hasn’t discovered their personal responsibility towards your family or company yet. Maybe showing up is the place to start before you can get the agency of initiative, so maybe you don’t care if you have to initiate more frequently. If that’s your situation, initiate without resentment.
If equality of responsibility or contribution is your outcome, then you can help others level-up by helping them discover their own reasons for being involved. A simple, “Hey baby, where do you want to go on our date tomorrow night?” might be the only motivation a foodie or sports-oriented spouse needs to get moving. “Can you grab the tickets/make the reservation?” is a step towards asking them to move toward taking responsibility. Asking your coworker or teenager when they think they will have a task completed and being grateful when it’s done can also often be something that facilitates ownership.
Be clear about your desires – in the positive
“I’d really feel like doing xyz if I didn’t have to get the sitter, choose the restaurant, make the reservation, get the kids dinner before we go, and then have you scowl at me when I remind you we are going,” is one approach (called COMPLAINT) that does NOT work… Another more positive way to consider is, “I’m going to be really excited about spending time with you Friday evening if you can take on some of the planning. What would you like to take care of so we can both enjoy it?”
“I’ll get you the numbers for the quarterly report after your data is in,” or, “I’d love to loan you the car for your date after you get the lawn mowed Saturday! I hope you have a great time!” may also be useful with teammates or kids.
Live your life & be a person someone wants to be with
It’s easy to get our source of identity from the person we are married to – or our job, or our parenting… even a friend. If we want to be healthy relationally, we need to have a sense of purpose, grow our strengths, and NOT “be about” our relationship. Having interests makes you an interesting person. It keeps you from being needy, which is super NOT attractive! How can you tell if you are needy? Do you enjoy your own company? Are you doing well if you are alone, or do you need approval of someone else to be settled? Are you both empathetic AND okay when someone is upset with you, or do you feel like you are a “bad” person if someone else is upset with you? Learn who you are and BE who you are – the confidence that grows out of your relationship with God as you follow Him will naturally draw others to you.
Let others pick up their piece of the relationship responsibility
Capable people often get taken advantage of if they don’t have solid boundaries. Know that if this is you, then you aren’t doing your relationships any justice and actually getting in the way of others’ growth by doing things well or for them – because you can. STOP. If your spouse doesn’t make the reservations, if your kid forgets to plan ahead, if your coworker is late with something, let people figure out their own responsibilties. Let the consequences of life teach. Stop getting in God’s way of helping others mature by rescuing them. Not easy, right?
Be grateful for the growth
If we can’t see what is good about a situation, that’s on us.
Consider 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
If you want to improve your relationships, if you want to level-up your maturity, take ownership over your contributions to them, look for what you can be thankful for, and live the life He’s called you to!
Want to step out of the over-responsibility? Want to stay “in your own yard?” Listen in to learn what to say to improve your relationships!
Love to you,
PS… you can still join our fall 2021 community of wives growing in Strength & Dignity! You aren’t late, you are right on time! 🙂