How To Navigate A Healthy Partnership

Happy family grocery shopping


Nov. 8 2021, Published 2:48 a.m. ET

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One day I counted the number of times I asked my husband for help with something around the house. The total came to 9 times. There is no shortage of articles about how to get your partner to help, so I am hardly the only one asking. Through 20 years of marriage, it has occurred to me that the word ‘help’ is well not helpful. Despite having a good partnership, we still fall into the trap of me asking for help many times. This is not a healthy dynamic and here is why.

Sets Up A Power Struggle

One person in a relationship consistently asking for help inadvertently sets up a power struggle. The power struggle can go one of two ways.

  • It could be perceived as the requestor has most of the power to decide what happens in the home and will let the other share in when they want.
  • It could be perceived as the partner being asked to help gets to decide when they want to be involved and when they don’t, while the other partner does not get that choice.

Instead of creating a partnership, you are creating a hierarchy.

Places Each Other In Rigid Roles

Early on in your relationship, it is common to fall into roles. It can start as easily as one of you always doing the dishes, or paying the bills, or walking the dog. One person may start taking on more of the household, child, or financial responsibilities for many reasons. You settle into the requestor and helper roles. As your circumstances change you will need to shift, and if you are too entrenched in these roles, tension will arise. You might find yourself asking for help more and getting annoyed that you have to, while your partner is frustrated that all of the sudden, they don’t seem to be doing enough. Now, you’re stuck in a toxic pattern.

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Related Article: Navigating All Seasons Of Love And Relationships

Couple frustrated trying to make up

Demeans Each Other’s Value

According to Woman’s Day if you are feeling resentment over contributions to the household, it “generally builds up when there’s a lack of communication between partners about how they’re feeling in the relationship.” The power struggle and rigid roles eventually lead to reducing each other’s value. You are both capable of managing the family and household. If you are stuck in a power struggle and role-playing though you both subconsciously begin to devalue each other’s contributions. One of you is seen as the micromanager and the other as lacking initiative or responsibility.

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Couple in mild disagreement in front of their kid

Sets A Poor Example For Your Children

What your children observe in your relationship is typically repeated in their relationships. They will believe power struggles, entrenched roles, and demeaning of each other’s value is normal.

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So, What To Do?

It takes time and effort, and you can turn away from “help” toward partnership. Two pieces of advice from relationship counseling I have found invaluable are:

  • Challenge your roles. Talk to each other on a regular basis and ask what roles are we playing in running our household? Are they serving us? Do we need to adjust?
  • Identify and play to your strengths and preferences. Which of you is good with numbers, who loves organizing, who enjoys walking the dog? Use these strengths and preferences to divvy up tasks. Check-in regularly, as recommended by PsychCentral, to make adjustments.
Happy couple having breakfast

The Insider interviewed several long-term couples about their relationship success. Here are a few more gems to move from a help to a partnership mindset.

  • You are not always going to get your way. “Compromising is something people always say but you have to be able to put it into your daily routine.”
  • Give authentic appreciation for all the big and small things you both bring to the relationship.
  • You both will change and grow, why not get better together? As the article notes “…growing together and bettering each other is an important factor in keeping your relationship going.”

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By: Mindy Smoak

Mindy Redburn-Smoak is based in Portland, Oregon. She has worked as a Learning Consultant and Instructional Designer creating corporate training programs for 20 years. She is passionate about sustainable living, family, friends, being a role model for her daughter, travel, giving back to her community, and dogs. She is expanding her journey to include pursuing her dream of writing about things she is passionate about and that can make a difference in the world.

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