Three Common Role Challenges: Solving it together.
When you think about the various roles you fill in life, what comes to mind? There are the familial roles (husband, wife, mother, father, etc.), roles related to your job or livelihood, maybe even important roles in your community. But what about roles within your relationship? When it comes to who’s responsible for which household chores, handles the finances, or wrangles the kids’ schedules, things are not always so clear cut. Because of this, it’s common to have conflicts or tension pop up. Here are three common role challenges and how you can solve them together.
Challenge #1: Lack of clarity around roles When there is ambiguity about who is responsible for what, it might feel like your household is disorganized or that nothing gets done. Bills might go past due, you’re always running out of milk, and there’s lots of “I thought you were going to do it.” This can leave you both simmering in frustration and irritation, and you may end up taking it out on each other.
How to solve it together: Have a good old sit down conversation where you make a list of all the things that need to get done, or focus specifically on the areas where there is fuzziness. Then decide who is better suited to take on each role – it might be based on your individual strengths or interests, or simply what makes the most sense logistically. Write it down if you need to! Make notes about exceptions or unique circumstances if you find that to be helpful. It might seem like overkill to have to lay things out so explicitly, but in this case that’s exactly what you need, as it will cut down on any confusion or misunderstanding about who’s responsible for what and give you a way to hold yourselves and each other accountable.
Challenge #2: Feeling shame or resentment Your roles are clear cut, but one or both of your are harboring negative feelings about them. Maybe you’re struggling because you feel you should be spending more time with your kids or contributing more financially. Perhaps you’re experiencing discontent because you feel like you’re doing more than your fair share. If left to fester, these feelings can drive a wedge between you.
How to solve it together: When feelings are involved, it can be a more complicated problem to solve. Have a candid heart-to-heart where you focus on sharing your own feelings with your partner, not placing blame on them. When listening, focus on really hearing what your partner is saying and the emotions behind that, versus taking it personally or getting defensive. Be empathetic with each other as you discuss what you can do to mitigate or help each other through these feelings. It might be concrete things like adjusting responsibilities or reassessing the chore load; it could be subtle changes such as showing more appreciation or support. Sometimes, there might not be an easy or obvious solution, and that’s okay. The habit of sharing these feelings, staying connected, and supporting each other as you work through them becomes a solution in and of itself.
Challenge #3: Forcing roles to fit You and your spouse have both taken on the roles you think you should be taking, but it doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe you feel pressured to do things a certain way because that’s how your own parents did it, or your friends say this way works for them. Society and our own expectations have a way of putting undue pressure on ourselves to fulfill these “accepted” roles. Forcing yourselves into them has you both feeling out of your element.
How to solve it together: The truth is, every individual – and couple – is unique, and that means the breakdown of your roles and responsibilities will reflect that as well. Embrace it, don’t fight it! Be honest with yourselves and each other if it’s clear something’s not working. Give yourselves permission to tackle responsibilities unconventionally. Put your heads together to come up with some creative solutions if necessary, and check in periodically to see how things are going.
Sometimes relationship roles sort themselves out naturally. Things just seem to click into place, and you don’t really have to think about it too much. Other times, it requires a bit more intention to ensure you’re both feeling content and in positions to be your best selves in the relationship. These challenges are common, but nothing you can’t solve with empathy and good communication. ~Prepare Enrich Facilitators~