Just a few decades ago, the roles of a man and woman in a relationship were pre-selected and never discussed. The man went to work, brought home the money, and acted as the provider and protector. The woman cooked the food, took care of the children, and acted as the nurturer and caretaker. However, the times have changed since then and men and women have a large selection of roles to take on in a relationship. Women are choosing not to have children and focus on their careers. Men are confidently voicing their cooking skills. And men and women alike are proudly getting into caring and happy same-sex relationships.
All of this makes those pre-set roles a little bit messier.
So, what does this mean for your relationship? It means that roles within the relationship are just another topic of discussion. Both you and your partner need to have realistic expectations for the role of yourself and each other and be working from the same script. This is where your negotiation skills are paramount. You were each raised differently with different ideas of who does what. Now you must voice your role beliefs to each other and negotiate the opinions that clash. Your partner thinks you should do all the housework but you work as many hours as he or she does? Speak up! You think it is imperative that your partner be the one to stay home with the children when they are sick? Ask his or her opinion on this! Most problems arise within a relationship when each individual has different expectations.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when clarifying roles within your relationship:
- Are you and your partner in agreement about the overall model your relationship follows regarding roles (traditional? split down the middle?)
- Are any of the conflicts that come up within your relationship the result of your roles?
- Are you happy in the roles each of you currently takes on?
- If you had your first choice, which roles would you honestly prefer?
- What appeals to you about these roles?
- What issues come up because you prefer these roles?
- What are the disadvantages?
- Which roles does your partner prefer?
- Are there difficulties due to his or her preferences?
- Does your relationship feel fair?
- Do you feel supported in your relationship?
- Do you fulfill your partner’s expectations in the relationship?
- What changes need to be changed to both of your roles if any?
- Is there flexibility and room for discussion regarding roles?
- Are there any immediate issues you need to address regarding current roles in the relationship?
Transitioning to different roles within your relationship can be difficult for you and your partner. However, changing roles does not have to threaten your relationship. Here are some tips to make the experience a positive one.
- Keep in mind the importance of doing what works for the two of you as a couple.
- Understand that roles change and need frequent negotiation.
- Get your expectations in line with reality.
- Staying flexible is the key to staying content through changing roles.
- Prioritizing is imperative.
- Make sure you are in overall agreement regarding roles so to keep expectations realistic.
- Expect change.
- Expect transitions to take time and attention.
Although reworking roles may take time and effort, clarifying them can give you clear guidelines for making your relationship run smoothly.
(Source: The Truth About Love by Pat Love, Ed.D)