Fair or Fulfilling – What kind of relationship do you want?
Relationships aren’t fair. In our practice, we see a lot of hurt come from the idea that people are supposed to have perfect equality in relationship on everything from work to child-rearing, from emotional support to time with friends. What the idea of fairness misses is the fact that any two people in a relationship have very different Needs and very different Capacities. For example, we saw a couple, let’s call them Bob and Susan – Bob had a very high need for interpersonal connection both inside and outside of the relationship. He loved spending intimate time with his wife and he also found spending time with his friends, his hiking group and his extended family extremely fulfilling, yet he spent almost all of his time alone with Susan. In talking through it, we found that Susan was much more of an introvert, and really didn’t want to spend time with other people much. He felt that this was bad for her and constantly tried to get her to go places with him. She would agree and cancel at the last minute, and he would feel bad and would stay home with her instead of going out himself, building frustration, resentment and some depression in the process. She, on the other hand, was delighted when he would go by himself and come home with fun stories to share. Once he realized that her introversion was not a sickness and that she was ok with him being with friends and family, he began to feel much more free to take the time he needed with friends, social hobbies and family instead of trying to make things fair.
Another example were a couple who we will call Chelsea and Paco – Paco was one of the most hard workers we had ever seen – he loved his business and seemed to thrive on his success. Chelsea was also an extremely hard worker, in the process of trying to make partner in a law firm. However, unlike Paco, the amount she was working seemed to be literally killing her. She was getting sick constantly, losing weight from her already too-skinny frame, and felt worn out all the time – they came to us because, not surprisingly, she had almost no libido. The problem was that she felt obligated to work as hard and earn as much as Paco, even though she clearly had a different capacity. Paco was beside himself because he was much more interested in a healthy wife and felt completely comfortable with the idea of her going part time if it meant she might be happy, healthy and horny again. It took a while to realize that what made her important wasn’t about earning the same as Paco, but about just being herself – that he loved her for her and didn’t need her to kill herself in order to do it. When she finally decided to go part time, she began feeling healthy and excited about life and about Paco again. The bottom line is that it is actually impossible to measure the things that each person offers in a relationship, however, taking some time to be honest with yourself and your partner about your actual needs and capacities will really help you work as a true team, where you make room for the differences and where each of your strengths can shine!
We suggest you look at the following topics: housework, child-rearing, earning, emotional work (keeping connections and sharing and supporting feelings in the immediate family, the extended family and with friends), and sexual relationship. If you find resentments or frustrations in the differences between you and your partner, send us an email at [email protected], we’d love to help! Also, stay tuned for our upcoming blog on Fairness in the Bedroom!