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Why Friendships End

Why Friendships End

Friends Break Up, Too…

WHY FRIENDSHIPS END • Many people get involved with therapy or life coaching here at Growing Self in order to improve all their relationships — not just their romantic partnerships or marriages. Let’s face it: Friendships can present their own unique challenges.

Many people find themselves struggling in their friendships. Perhaps they’re dealing with the end of a valued friendship, aka a “friend breakup.” Maybe they’ve gotten entangled with a friend who is becoming increasingly toxic. Others are struggling with how to set boundaries with a friend. Still others are wanting to have more and healthier friendships in their lives. Friendships are complex, and just as important to most people as their romantic relationships, yet there’s very little good advice for how to deal with issues with your friends. 

All relationships have ups and downs. All long term relationships — romantic or friendships — require energy and work to thrive and evolve as we change and grow. However, because many people genuinely do not know how to resolve issues with a friend, they simply withdraw from the friendship. While breaking up with a friend can seem like the only way to resolve a conflict, often, it’s not.

Why Friendships End

People who have been “ghosted” or broken up with by a friend — oftentimes by someone they considered a very good friend — often feel heartbroken over it. They don’t know why their friendship ended. They have sleepless nights, and feel the loss intensely. There can be a gaping hole in your life where your good friend used to be that feels hard to fill. If you’ve lost a friend, the process of healing and recovery can be very much like that of healing after a bad breakup. This is often a situation that we address in our therapy and life coaching work.

Friendships end for many reasons. Friends break up. Just like the wonderful growth work that can arise after dealing with any other bad breakup, understanding why your particular friendship ended can also be a powerful growth opportunity. It gives you the opportunity to understand yourself better, learn more about how people work, and the chance to develop healthier friendships going forward. 

How to End a Friendship

On the other side of this, there are situations where people feel compelled to end their friendships for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they feel that they need to end a toxic relationship with a friend. Other times people feel that it’s just too hard to address the issues and work on things with their friend the same way they would with a romantic partner. Other times, it just feels like they and their friend have grown apart. They want to have more distance between them and their former close friend, but don’t know how to achieve it compassionately. 

Navigating The Ups and Downs of Friendships

On this episode of the Love, Happiness  and Success Podcast, we’re talking all about friendships. Specifically, we’ll be discussing:

  • Why friendships end
  • How the dynamics of friendships are similar to and different from romantic relationships
  • How to mend a friendship that has been feeling strained
  • What to do about toxic friendships
  • How to cope if you’ve been ghosted by a friend
  • The path of healing after an unexpected friendship loss
  • How to end a friendship compassionately
  • How to change a friendship if you need different boundaries with a friend

All that and more, on this episode.

xoxo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT, LP, BCC

 

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Why Friendships End

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Wimps, “Vampire”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How to Relax (When You’re a Type-A Stress-Case)

How to Relax (When You’re a Type-A Stress-Case)

It’s Hard to Relax When You’re a Superstar

Here at Growing Self our therapy and life coaching clients are generally successful, high-achieving people on a path of personal growth. Because of this, I have a soft spot for the superstars, and I know that being a go-getting, productive, conscientious, high-achieving, intelligent, successful person has many, many benefits. You get things done, you’re on top of it, and you are probably extremely successful in many areas of life.

And… it’s probably hard for you to relax.

How to Relax When You’re an Over-Achiever

Because you are so conscientious and successful you probably do everything you’re supposed to. You take vacations, you exercise, you have a healthy diet, and you practice self-care. But it still might feel hard to let yourself truly relax. Even when you’re having fun you are thinking about the next thing, and doing “nothing” (as in the Dutch practice of Niksen) feels like a waste of time compared to all the important or goal-directed things you could (probably feel like you should) be doing.

Believe it or not, learning how to relax is a very important life-skill. Just like learning how to manage your emotions, making it a priority to exercise and sleep, managing your finances, having satisfying relationships, practicing good self care, and eating healthy foods, learning how to relax — how to truly relax — is a skill set that is acquired through education and practice.

Real relaxation, the kind that restores you and allows you to be more productive, more creative, more resilient, and happier, is much more than about taking a bath once in a while. Real relaxation requires a high degree of self awareness and commitment, as well as the development of specific internal skills. (Ha! You can always recognize a fellow Type-A over-achiever when they describe relaxation skills as a project — hello my friend.)

Yes, I know from both professional experience in working with extremely successful, high-achieving people as well as from my own personal experience, that being a Type-A superstar has a very real dark side including exhaustion, agitation, anxiety and overwork. Burnout is an experience that many hard working and conscientious people can succumb to if not careful. Without vital relaxation skills, you can start to experience a lack of motivation, tiredness, emotional numbness, and loss of joy and creativity in your day to day life. FYI, “Burnout” is real: It’s finally gotten recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the ICD!

The Keys to Authentic Relaxation

Today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is just for you, my high-achieving compadre. We’ll be discussing:

  • The mind-body connection that makes you feel stressed out even when you’re relaxing
  • New ideas to help you prioritize your self-care and relaxation
  • The real source of stress (it’s not what you think… except when it is)
  • Why “relaxing” behaviors (massages, hot baths, vacations) won’t help you truly de-stress
  • How to combat the stressful thinking styles that will interfere with true relaxation
  • The skills and strategies that will actually help you reduce stress, relax, and restore your mind, body and soul.

I hope this discussion helps you achieve the rest and relaxation that you deserve, and that it helps you (paradoxically) become even more productive, creative, forward-thinking and successful as a result!

From me to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How to Relax (When You're a Type-A Stress-Case)

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Damian Jurado and Richard Swift, “Hello Sunshine”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Office Romance Pros and Cons

Office Romance Pros and Cons

Is Dating a Coworker a Bad Idea?

Click here for the full article by journalist Annie Taylor on the pros and cons of office romance.

This interview with Annie was a fun overview of the pros and cons of an office romance. I’m so glad she’s raising awareness around this important issue: if you’re considering getting romantically involved with a coworker there is a lot to consider! Here at Growing Self, we do quite a bit of career coaching, as well as dating coaching. Sometimes career coaching and dating coaching converge, as our clients grapple with the pros and cons of an office romance.

Are you developing feelings for a coworker? We spend so much time at work that it’s only natural to have our workplaces be one of the primary points of contact for meeting new people. If you’re single, chances are that sooner or later you might find yourself with a crush on a coworker. While office romances are not uncommon, relationships that start at work can present unique challenges and, frankly, hazards. “Fishing in the company pond” can be risky, both personally and professionally. If you are considering getting involved romantically with a coworker, here are some things to consider…

Dating in the Workplace: Pros and Cons

Although office romance can be fraught with challenges, these relationships do have advantages as well.

Pros of dating in the workplace:

Opportunity: Modern dating can feel like an endless parade of possible partners, all a swipe or scroll away. [Check out “The New Rules for Dating”]. For many singles, constantly vetting new people, engaging in text-based banter, and going out on dates to nowhere gets really old, really fast. Many people start to feel discouraged and overwhelmed by the prospect of finding “The One” through online dating or chatting up random strangers.

At work, however, you’re afforded with natural opportunities to meet new people organically and spend time with them on neutral ground before potentially moving further into friendship or romance. You’re also more likely to come into contact with people you already have similarities with in terms of education, interests, and shared life experiences. All these things make it easier to have natural conversations that generally feel much less pressured and fraught than awkward first dates.

Starting As Friends: Another upside to meeting new people on the job is the opportunity to develop a friendly relationship that starts slowly and develops over time. We know from research into couples and family therapy that the strongest, most enduring romantic relationships are ones built on a solid foundation of friendship and respect. Unlike starting a relationship with immediate romantic intentions, an office romance often blooms after months or even years of getting to know each other first as coworkers, and then as friends. This foundation can be an asset to your relationship if you become long-term partners.

Getting to Know Character: Perhaps most importantly, when you get to know people on the job, you usually have many opportunities to observe them in different — often stressful — situations. When you work with people you have a front row seat for how they manage stress, how they communicate, their level of emotional intelligence, how they handle challenging circumstances, whether they are courageous or avoidant, whether or not they follow through with things, how they are regarded by others, how they manage their time and priorities, whether they generally have their crap together, and much more.

This is in contrast to typical dating relationships where people tend to be on best behavior for the first weeks or months of an early romance, sometimes concealing or downplaying more difficult aspects of their character in order to be as attractive as possible. In these situations, couples often find themselves having to work through differences and disappointments as they become more genuine and authentic with each other.

Character Is Revealed Over Time, and in the way people handle themselves under stressful or challenging conditions. If you get romantically involved with a co-worker it’s generally after a significant period of time when you’ve been able to get to know them from the sidelines, and have gotten a sense of who they are and how they handle themselves before moving into a romantic relationship. This too can be a significant advantage to a positive future relationship, as well as a great opportunity to know ahead of time whether you may have fundamental compatibility issues or mismatched values (and avoid getting involved altogether).

Cons of dating in the workplace:

While dating a coworker can have some advantages, there are also many challenges and risks that you don’t have if you resist mixing the personal with the professional.

The Office Romance Dumpster Fire — Misunderstandings, Affairs and… Sexual Harassment: When office romances go wrong, they can go spectacularly wrong and with severe consequences to all involved.

Having an Affair With a Coworker

First of all, the most common place for people to become entangled in an affair or infidelity situation that can destroy a marriage and break apart a family is through an office romance. Why? It’s very common to develop a crush on a coworker, even if you’re married, or your coworker is married, or otherwise involved. Normal people in good relationships can develop transient attractions for other people — it happens all the time. [More on this, check out “What to Do if You’re Married With a Crush On Someone Else.]

However, if people don’t practice a lot of self-awareness, self-restraint, and put their commitments first, they can easily become intoxicated by romantic feelings with someone (Someone they see every day! And go on business trips with!). Romantic infatuations can lead people to do regrettable things that can create huge messes and sometimes irreparable damage to the most important relationships in their lives.

Romantic Rejection By a Coworker

Less tragically, but more embarrassingly, if you develop or have a crush on a coworker, you will almost invariably take the other person’s professional interest, friendliness, and responsiveness as a sign that your coworker has a crush on you, too. This can embolden you to ask them out, or proclaim your feelings, and have it land with an awkward thud. Not only will you feel rejected romantically, but you may have damaged a once easy professional relationship. The other person may feel uncomfortable around you, and it may impact your professional performance, as well as your emotions.

Sexual Harassment: The Risk is Real

Of course, if your advances land with a thud and you don’t have the humility to apologize and let it go, but rather continue expressing your romantic interest, complimenting them on their appearance, or God forbid, making sexual or suggestive comments, this can very quickly degenerate into a situation where you are committing sexual harassment. This can land you in hot water with HR, damage your professional reputation, or even put you at risk for a lawsuit.

This is especially true if there is any type of power imbalance in your professional relationship, which there almost always is. Even if you’re not in a direct supervising role or the boss of someone you have a crush on, you may have more power in the workplace than they do by virtue of your tenure, professional relationships, or role in relation to them. In these cases, your romantic overtures may create extreme stress and anxiety for someone who fears that upsetting you or rejecting may put their career at risk.

Really: They may smile, laugh at your jokes, and sidestep your advances in an indirect way that feels encouraging, but understand that they are trying to protect themselves while appeasing you. Trust me on this: I’ve worked with many people who have spent many, many coaching sessions trying to figure out how to survive this type of toxic workplace environment that unwanted advances create. You don’t want to be that person!

Takeaway: If you want to test the waters to see if your romantic feelings are reciprocated by a coworker, do so with extreme caution and understand that anything less than a clear and enthusiastic response means “No.” Say it once then stop. If they’re interested, they know where to find you.

While indulging in any romantic feelings for a coworker can lead to unwanted consequences, you might also consider the potential risks and pitfalls of an office romance if this does turn into a real relationship.

Impact on Job Performance: Couples fight. They get upset with each other, and need to work through things that are often very emotionally triggering. When you’re feeling emotionally activated, it can be very challenging to work with your partner around necessary professional things. Frosty silences, snarky comments, passive-aggressive jabs — you know. We’ve all been there, but imagine it happening in a team meeting, or in front of other colleagues. It will damage your ability to perform your job, but it can also impact morale, communication, and feelings of emotional safety for everyone on the team. This is especially true if you’re in a leadership position and carrying on with an employee.

Boredom: Part of having a healthy, long-term relationship is having diversity and growth in both people. When two people have different interests, work experiences, friend groups and more, it creates new experiences, new things to talk about, and the opportunity to learn and grow with each other.

Couples who ride in the same car to work together, interact with all the same people, know exactly what happens during the day, and ride home together at night often find themselves feeling like their relationships get stagnant quickly. If you and your partner work together, make it a point to at least pursue other hobbies or friendships during your off-work hours, or find novel experiences to do together so your relationship continues to feel fresh.

Breaking Up When You Work Together: As a breakup recovery expert I am often approached by people who feel genuinely trapped in the most heart wrenching of circumstances: breaking up with someone they work with. Breakups can be tremendously painful, anxiety provoking, and downright gutting under the best of circumstances.

But when you have to see your Ex every day at work, and can’t avoid contact with them, it makes the suffering and pain so much more intense. When you work with your Ex, it also makes it very difficult to get the distance you need to recover and move on after heartbreak. A significant percentage of people find the experience of working with their Ex so painful that they feel they must leave their job. In this way, a failed office romance can have devastating consequences not just personally, but on their professional trajectory as well.

Best Practices For Dating a Coworker

I hope this discussion of the pros and cons of an office romance have helped you get clarity about how (or if) to proceed. If you do, please think through all the possible pitfalls — there are many! As always, being committed to living with intention, practicing a high degree of self-awareness, staying true to your values, and mindfully approaching situations with a genuine desire for the health and wellbeing of all involved will help you make good choices.

All the best to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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10 Tips For a Restorative Vacation

10 Tips For a Restorative Vacation

The Art of Vacationing Well

 

It is vacation season, and you probably have some getaways planned. (I hope.) But if you are of the “rest is for mortals” mindset, you are not alone. Unfortunately, over half of all salaried Americans don’t even come close to using all their vacation time every year. They feel like they are too busy to take time off, or that a vacation is an unnecessary luxury. Of course, those are the lucky ones. Many more Americans toil on day in / day out without any vacation at all out of necessity rather than self-imposed workaholism.

This is an issue. We deserve to be happier. Research consistently shows that working long hours with no breaks or meaningful downtime leads to lower productivity, increased depression and anxiety, and a reduced ability to solve problems well.  It is a recipe for chronic stress and burnout that takes a toll on your mental health, your work, as well as your personal life. Finding ways to slow down periodically is crucial to your ability to function at your highest and best long term.

But, as we all know, just because you take some time off or get out of town doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to come back feeling good, rested and restored either. In fact, many people I speak with come back from their “vacations” feeling frazzled, stressed, overspent financially, and exhausted — and then get to enjoy a week or more of playing catch up upon their return.

Not fun.

So today I’m bringing you ten tips that will help you make the most of your hard earned vacation time — whether you travel to exotic lands or just stick around town.

We’ll be discussing how to:

1) Take time off without feeling guilty about it
2) Use your vacation time intentionally and mindfully (focus on health and happiness)
3) Prepare to step out in such a way as to minimize “re-entry stress” upon your return
4) Set boundaries with others (and yourself) so you can relax and be present
5) Learn how to make them positive benefits of your vacation experience last, even after you’re back

And much, much more — all on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

Xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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10 Tips For a Restorative Vacation

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Please Rate, Review, Subscribe and SHARE! 

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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When Your Wife or Husband Refuses Marriage Counseling…

When Your Wife or Husband Refuses Marriage Counseling…

Saving Your Relationship, Single-Handedly

WHEN YOUR PARTNER WON’T GO TO MARRIAGE COUNSELING | It can feel really discouraging when you are eager to work on your relationship, but your partner is less than enthused about going to marriage counseling or relationship coaching with you. But know this: Every couple who gets to marriage counseling does so because one of the partners initiates it. In your relationship, that person might need to be you. And that is okay.

I’m glad you’re still thinking about how to get your partner to come to couples therapy or marriage counseling with you, even if they say they won’t go. Many times, the reason why people won’t go to couples counseling is because they are feeling anxious about it. When you know how to alleviate their fears about marriage counseling, it really helps.

Furthermore, even though it can feel disheartening to be the one who is pushing for couples therapy, it’s worth it because great things can happen once you get them in the door.

The truth is that even the most reluctant partner will often open up in the first marriage counseling session. Why? Because a competent, expert marriage counselor is going to help them feel safe, heard and understood. They might have the opportunity to say things they’ve been holding in for a looonnng time, and it feels good. Having a productive conversation with a marriage counselor about issues that have been hard to talk about makes people feel hopeful and excited about the future of their relationship. It can be an incredibly positive, validating and reassuring experience for them — as well as for you.

It’s been my experience that often the initiating partner is blown away by how much their formerly “anti” partner winds up sharing in the first meeting. We’re both bemused to see the person who had their arms crossed and a frowny-face at the start of the session hanging onto the door-knob eager to tell me “one last thing” before we have to end.

But the tricky part can be getting them into the office in the first place.

Why People Are Reluctant To Go To Marriage Counseling

First of all, please set aside any stereotypes you may be holding on to about this being a “man thing.” At least 50% of the people who call us for a free consultation are men, eager to get their wives in to marriage counseling with them. Women can be reluctant to go to marriage counseling too.

Whether men or women, the root cause of marriage counseling reluctance is that people often have preconceived ideas about marriage counseling that hold them back from taking the plunge. (They may also have already decided what is and is not possible for your relationship in advance of the first meeting, regrettably. But that is the subject of a different podcast).

THIS episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about understanding the common anxieties and misperceptions at work in people who are reluctant to try marriage counseling.

Listen, and get insight and new understanding for a partner who says things like:

I’ll be helping you understand your partner in a new way, so that you can speak to their concerns. I hope this advice helps you help YOUR partner take the first step forward with you, and start growing back together again.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: One of the resources I encourage people to use is our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” You can take this quiz with your partner (or take it first and send them an invite) and use the experience as a safe feeling, low-key starting point to discuss your relationship and how to make positive changes. If you submit your email (below) we can send you a link to the quiz. LMB

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When Your Partner Refuses To Go To Couples Counseling

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Men, Women and Housework: How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Men, Women and Housework: How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Sharing The Load…

According to research, women are still bearing the majority of the burden when it comes to household chores like cooking, cleaning, getting kids ready for school, despite the fact that, in many cases, they work as much outside of the home as their partners do. This dynamic brings many couples into marriage counseling or couples therapy, because it creates relationship problems.

This imbalance understandably leads to many women feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, not to mention frustrated. When couples aren’t working together as a team, it creates conflict and resentment. Many couples struggle with figuring out how to create a more balanced, egalitarian partnership.

But why? In our modern era, shouldn’t we be past this? The roots of gender inequality in family roles goes deeper than having good intentions. Creating a more balanced partnership requires self-awareness, mindfulness, and open communication. By understanding the subconscious belief systems that both men and women may still be holding, you can begin to break old patterns and start creating a more egalitarian relationship.

Why Gender Division of Labor Problems Still Occur

The reason that traditional gender roles still play out in many modern families (families who intellectually know that a more egalitarian family structure would be healthier for all) has to do with two psychological principles:

1) Without a high degree of self-awareness and intentional living, we humans tend to subconsciously create dynamics that mirror what was happening in our families of origin.

Whether we like it or not, old, deep, subconscious expectations about who does what are baked into us by the time we hit junior high. It is easy to forget that many of the woman’s rights issues we take for granted today have only come to pass in recent decades. (Side-note: I once met a highly successful female entrepreneur who was not able to get a bank loan without her husband’s consent in 1985.) While male and female feminists have been successful in working to change the roles of women both in the home and in the workforce, the emotional and psychological expectations of gender roles we all carry are much harder to change than public policy.

Today’s parents were parented by men and women (who themselves were raised by men and women) who were the products of a socio-political zeitgeist that emphasized home-making and childrearing for women, and breadwinning for men. As such, today’s adult parents as children absorbed powerful meta-messages about gender roles from observing their own moms cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, scheduling the social activities, and dad going to work and mowing the lawn. Both men and women often feel (not think, but feel) that the tasks they observed their same-sex parent doing are theirs, and that their partner should do what their opposite-sex parent did.

This is often played out even when people believe that each gender is both competent to do more, and bears a responsibility to do more. Women often feel vaguely guilty when “their” job needs to be done, and many men (bless their hearts) simply do not see “women’s work” as something that needs to be done at all.

Though no fault of their own, many men were raised in homes where magic elves (aka, mom) simply took care of things. These well-meaning women inadvertently created adult men who put a carton of milk with half-an-inch left in the bottom back in the refrigerator and do not think to make a mental note to pick more up at the store.

In order to create an egalitarian relationship, men must address their subconscious expectations plus get deeply acquainted with the reality of all the small, daily tasks involved in maintaining a functional home.

2) Families are systems, and systems are powerful.

Whenever even one partner in a relationship has an expectation about the way roles should be carried out, they do their half of the “dance” they expect their partner to engage with them in. It’s like leaving space for the other person to do their thing. This creates pressure in the system that pulls the partner into the role that their partner expects them to fulfill.

For example, my husband will run the laundry through the washer and dryer but he expects me to do the folding and putting away. His half of the “dance” cumulates in a laundry basket of clean clothes left on the bed. Then I dance in and (with great satisfaction, actually) fold things into obsessive little squares the way Mari-Kondo taught me and squirrel them away in to drawers. Our “dance” in this area feels balanced and it works for us.

What does not work is when one person’s “dance” ends substantially further away from the middle point, leaving the other person having to come all the way over and do everything. This is what happens in out-of-balance partnerships.

In families where partners are not living with a high degree of self-awareness and intention, even if one person (usually the female partner) would like a more balanced relationship in terms of housework, childcare, or home-management, the system may create pressure on her to do more than she wants to, or should. I have certainly experienced this in the past, in my own marriage.

For example, in the past (before we worked on this as a couple) if my husband did not recognize that tasks that need to be done (or did not perceive them as needing to be done by him, or did them but not the way that I thought they should be done, or didn’t do them quickly enough) I would often feel pressure to step in and do them because I felt they are important and they were not happening.

However, when I “just did it” I was inadvertently contributing to a dynamic where my husband was lulled into a familiar dynamic (as a son raised by another woman who handled things for the family) where there was an unspoken rule in the home that I would do things. So he never thought of them as his responsibility.

In short: The harder and faster and more I “danced”  the less he had to. I was overwhelmed, and he was confused about why I was low-grade angry all the time and always tired.

Sound familiar?

How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Changing both ingrained expectations and family systems require a high degree of self-awareness, communication, and intentional living. However, it can be done and it should be done. (Trust me, it feels SO much better).

Egalitarian families are generally happier, less stressed, have lower conflict, and are fairer to working women. Furthermore, modern parents who work together to model a more egalitarian family system for their children break the cycle of rigid gender roles of previous generations.

Here’s an example of how couples create more balanced gender roles:

Jane and John are a millennial couple with two kids, and they both work. Both Jane and John grew up in homes where mom (who worked too!) did all the inside housework except watering the flowers and dad did all the outside home-tending except taking out the trash.

Now, in their own family, Jane is struggling with resentment as she feels overly burdened with working, childcare, doing the lions share of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, organizing activities, and the general mental energy that many women exert on behalf of their families that men often do not feel.

The couple is fighting. Jane is feeling resentful and exhausted. John tries to help out around the house, but she seems annoyed with him when he does because he’s making the bed wrong, or bringing home the wrong brand of mayonnaise, or not doing things fast enough to please her. So he stops trying.

He does what he thinks he should be doing: Going to work every day, bringing home a paycheck, shoveling the snow, and getting the oil changed at regular intervals. John is frustrated because he experiences Jane as not affectionate or fun, nor interested in sex, and kind of naggy, and he doesn’t know what else to do.

Through couples counseling, the couple learns how to work as a team. First they start by talking about how each of their early experiences in their own family of origin shaped their expectations for themselves and each other in their own family. Then, they negotiate a plan where each of them agrees to take on specific responsibilities around the house in a distribution that feels equitable to both of them.

In implementing that plan, Jane needs to restrain herself from stepping in to do things that are John’s job (or to correct John, or nag John). In doing so, she is creating pressure in the system for John to not just step up, but to develop the homemaking skills that he may be new to him.

For his part, John needs to learn a very different way of thinking that women are often groomed for (and most men are not) which is considering both what currently needs to be done, and what will need to be done, and taking the initiative to do those things. (No magic elves to the rescue).

Changing both subconscious expectations and family systems are challenging, however, the rewards are immense and meaningful. Trust me: As a woman who is married to a man who now — without being asked! — does the dishes when he sees they are dirty, sweeps the floor when it needs to be swept, and goes to the grocery store to buy food of his own volition… it feels so much better.

Similarly, I see the same shifts occur in the couples we work with for marriage counseling and couples therapy: They reorganize their responsibilities in a way that feels fair and balanced to both. Squabbling stops, things get done, and most importantly — they start enjoying each other again. 

You deserve the same, and I hope this relationship advice helps you create it!

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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