Nothing in a relationship is “fair” or equal if you look at it from a time perspective. The problem with looking at your relationship from a time perspective is that it doesn’t take into account the value of what’s being done, irrespective of time. I’m going to teach you the secret to focusing on the real value of your partner today.
I call the whole equal time doesn’t mean equal value idea the lions and hyenas effect. You know how in a pride of lions the females do the majority of the work? The lionesses hunt and care for the young which takes up a majority of their waking hours. Meanwhile, the males are sleeping and lying around. Seems unfair, no?
Well, it’s really not. You see, those lions have a few very important jobs which are vital to the survival of the pride, but they just don’t take as much time as the jobs the lionesses have. The males are all about making babies and defending when those hyenas and jackals come around. This is a big job and it’s no less crucial than what the females do. The fact that they don’t have to do it as much as the females have to hunt is inconsequential to the survival of the pride.
Think of your own home. You and your partner both do things for the family, but it likely takes up very different amounts of time or energy. Regardless of the time you put in, both of your “jobs” are valuable.
Another point close to this is that equal time doesn’t mean equal bandwidth. For example, I worked with a couple we’ll call Marjorie and Don. Marjorie was upset because she worked more hours than Don and had a slightly longer commute so she felt strongly that he should do the grocery shopping with his “extra” time.
Here’s the problem: Don sucks at the grocery shopping. He can’t remember what kind of milk they use (2%, skim?) or that he should buy unsalted butter (there are different kinds?). In the end, it took much more energy and time for him to do the grocery shopping than for Marjorie. It’s not a good use of the couple’s bandwidth (remember that shared battery) for Don to do this chore.
Remember, since you’re a shared resource (you and your mate) then you’re using up less resources in the relationship if you give that task to the one who does it better and easier. Or, get that task off your shared plate completely and use InstaCart and have your groceries delivered.
It’s not about the hour to hour: it’s about how your partner makes you feel. What else do you get from your partner that’s valuable besides their time? I always say that if you could hire someone to do the thing (like grocery shopping) than this isn’t what makes you feel special with your partner so don’t focus on it!
What are your partner’s contributions?
I can’t imagine that you got together and decided to call this person your husband, wife, girlfriend or whatever and it’s because they shopped well or cut the grass great.
What’s really important to you about your partner and how can you shine the light on them contributing that thing?
If you’re looking at your relationship to be “fair” you need a shift in your worldview. Relationships are not 50/50, they’re 100/100. The key is that you should only be focusing on putting in your 100%! Do not focus on what your partner is or isn’t doing, because that’s competing and keeping score. This comes from a fear mindset and you can’t have a love relationship based on fear.
I know what you’re thinking: “But what if he/she takes advantage of me?” What does that even mean? Are you seriously in a relationship where this is your big worry. Here’s what I know after over 30 years of doing this work. That’s not going to be an issue. Now, I’m not talking to anyone whose partner has a personality disorder such as narcissism. But that’s actually a VERY small percent of the population. I know we throw that word around quite a bit these days, but it’s still only truly applies to a very small percentage of the population.
I’m talking to the vast majority of you who are married to regular old (possibly self-absorbed) people. To all of you I can say, the more you give, the more you’re going to get. I see it all the time.
Don’t look for your relationship to be “fair” and definitely don’t look at quantitative stuff like time spent, money earned or the amount of things someone does. Instead, focus on the qualitative stuff: how does your partner make you feel? What value do they contribute to you and your household outside of things you can count? What’s actually most important to you?
To really cement in all this learning, I want you to find 15 minutes and complete the My Partner’s Real Value Quicksheet I’ve created. This will really help you put the focus where it needs to be to create lasting change in your relationship!