in Men

Rethinking Relationships

For this month’s Amada’s Guide to Men essay, I wanted to consider the way we think about relationships.

Prior to embarking upon my journey as an aspiring author, I have been working as an attorney in the areas of family and immigration law. Family law has given me insight in the ways in which relationships go astray. And, it has made me reconsider the standard relationship advice and beliefs.

Relationships are 50/50

There is a common notion that relationships are 50/50. First, this isn’t event true. Romantic relationships require each party to give 110% every moment of every day. Sure, you can give less but if you have too many days where it seems like you are giving less than your best, you will eventually see problems percolating in your relationship. Conversely, if your partner has too many days where they gives less than their best, eventually you feel resentment.

Second, the problem with this convention is that it requires each of you to constantly be assessing to determine whether you are getting a “Return On your Investment” (ROI) in the relationship. While it is important to ensure that you get as much out of your relationship as you put in, the reality is that you cannot keep tabs on it ALL the time. And, thinking of relationships as 50-50, in my opinion opens you up to constantly be looking at that ROI.

Finally, this convention creates the belief that each person is responsible for 50% of the obligations of the home and family. That’s also not true. You are each responsible 100% for everything in your life. Consider this. Almost any contract you sign jointly with another person contains a provision that requires each party to be “Jointly and Severally” liable. That means you are each 100% responsible irrespective of whether the other person pays their share. That perfectly sums up relationships. If your spouse is sick and he is the one that feeds and bathes the children, then you have to pick up the slack. If your spouse does not work in a capacity outside of the home (s)he is likely to be primarily responsible for overseeing all home responsibilities. And so on.

Your partner will complete you

I don’t mean to be insensitive here but… What’s wrong with you? What is missing from you that you require another person to feel complete?

This is one of the most concerning conventions that I hear. The problem with this one is that it puts all of the pressure on the other person. It requires them to do the work. Not only that, if there is something missing in your life and you expect the other person to fill that up, you may end up resenting them for trying to do just that.

Consider this scenario. You are a bit of a couch potato. You wish to be more athletic and adventurous. You find yourself an athletic adventurous partner. The first few months are fabulous. You have gone rock climbing, cycling, and kayaking. Things are great. A few months down the road your favorite series is coming out and you want to spend the whole weekend binge watching the previous seasons. No. Your more athletic half says. We should do some cycling this weekend. You feel frustrated. Why?

What at first felt like a rounding out of your personality, quickly becomes a competition for use of your time. Once the newness wears off you may be left feeling that you are only doing the things that the other person wants you to do.

You have an all or nothing mentality

One of the worst ways in which we approach relationships is with an all or nothing mentality. The person who doesn’t believe in divorce. The person who wants to cut their losses the first sign of problems. The person who refuses to make changes after their spouse has voiced concerns. These types of conventions cannot align with marriage because marriage is a bit of a paradox.

Marriage requires us to be strong within our own selves AND be willing to give in to group thinking. As an example, you cannot decide that you wish to buy a motorcycle with the money you and your partner have been saving for your first born’s tuition. It does not matter that the kid is only two years old and you just know you will be able to make up the money you take out.

But, it is important that you not lose yourself in the process. If you have been contemplating a motorcycle, talk to your partner. Discuss creating a special savings account devoted to the money you would need for such a purchase. In the meantime, take riding lessons from a friend or check online for local lessons.

Reframing the way you think about what it means to be in a relationship will increase your satisfaction in life. And, can prove a useful way to improve the quality of your current relationships, romantic or otherwise.

What are some relationship ideas that need to be reframed?

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