How to Have the Equal Partnership Conversation with Your Spouse
I felt that he would never understand if I said no.
So, as busy as I was rushing around the house that morning, knowing that I had an important meeting to attend at work, but also wanting my children to get to school without them absorbing any part of my stress level, it took every ounce of my patience and strength to call in sick for my husband.
Really? He wanted to stay home and take a sick day, but he was unwilling to make the phone call himself.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Women are excellent at being caretakers and multi-taskers but being very good in a role doesn’t mean we lack stress.
The emotional labor required to manage routine tasks, run a household, be a mother, be employed (or not), with little to no help from a spouse, is a burden that many women disproportionately carry, and it is detrimental to our mental and physical health.
Contemplating the conversation with our spouse about mutuality can feel like a huge stressor in itself. Just how do we go about having this talk?
What Are the Needs?
Before we address equal partnership, we first need to gain clarity on what we need.
What are the specifics of your needs?
Your spouse may hear the joy in your voice as you attend to your kids while juggling the cooking of dinner, for example.
Women are simply more emphatic than men. So, what he may not realize is that you want your kids to be happy and to not feel ignored, so you take charge and ensure that they get your attention.
He may not want to interrupt this time that you have with your kids, but he may also be unaware that you want his help.
Specifically, what needs to be done to create mutuality in your home? Do you need your spouse to complete specific chores? Do you need him to engage with the kids? Do you need time alone—time to take care of yourself? Think about this and make a list.
Forgiveness – Approach without Anger
Wiping out our frustration and anger when our energy is depleted, and when we are not feeling our best mentally, is more than difficult. Yes, it is. But it is a necessary part of having an amicable conversation with our spouse.
Have you ever been in an argument with someone, and they said, “I am not a mind reader!”? It can feel irritating to hear this, but we must give people the benefit of the doubt and understand that what we don’t know isn’t always our fault. Sometimes, it is a lack of communication.
Whether we understand why our spouse doesn’t recognize our needs without us telling them to begin with, “Isn’t it obvious that I need help?” it is essential to leave any tone or semblance of accusation out of our approach.
We want help. We don’t want a fight.
How to Have the Talk
Pay attention to your tone of voice and body language. Speak in a non-demanding tone. Use friendly expressions and loving gestures and touch.
What message are you trying to convey to your spouse?
Remember your list of needs. This is your time to talk about specific needs, not your spouse in general.
Give your spouse credit where credit is due. Tell them what they do well. Communicate what you see as their strengths. This isn’t about buttering up your partner, this is about communicating that you see good in your partner.
Talk about the times you feel most supported by your partner. Tell your partner what they specifically do or say at these times that make it a positive experience.
Then, tell your partner that you are concerned. “I am concerned about ______, when ______ is (or is not) happening.” You might be concerned about your children, your home, or even yourself.
Communicate what happens (describe exact circumstances) when you have felt alone, anxious, stressed, or frustrated. Without accusatory words, explain how it affects you both mentally and physically.
Be specific with your needs.
- I need you to take charge of the kids while I am cleaning or making dinner.
- I need you to take time away from the television and ask me what you can do.
- I need you to do the laundry on Saturday mornings.
- I need you to load the dishwasher after dinner so that I can get the kids started on their homework.
- I need you to ask me (regularly) if I need anything.
You may need your spouse to recognize when you are sad or stressed, and you may need more hugs at those times. While this is a recognized need, it is not specific. How will he recognize this? Talk about the “how” and explain that a hug can make an immense difference in your mental health.
Be clear about specific schedule needs, and who does what in the schedule (i.e., take the kids to school, attend school functions, household chores, etc.), and do not forget to include date nights or time-out for either spouse.
Stay on Top of It – Communicate
In any busy life, it is all too easy to fall back into prior habits.
There is no such thing as a smooth-running household without communication. Communicate often. Plan to have the mutuality and equal partnership talk more than once.
When you do have the talk, highlight the good—what worked, then talk about the areas that need improvement. This is partnership time, not a time to criticize or nag.
Take Care of Yourself – Self-Care
Life can steal the better part of us if we don’t engage in self-care. Remember, you are always worth it!
One great way to imbibe in self-care, relieve anxiety, and induce relaxation is through massage.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a massage lately, check out the different types of massages and their benefits.
We also offer Salt Therapy for stress-relief and relaxation.
We want you to feel your very best! This is our heart and mission!
Are you in the Austin, Texas area and needing a massage, or a stress-busting salt or sauna session?