In honor of the intense romantic battles that arise when Venus opposes Pluto, here’s a look at the two most common relationship warzones — household chores and jealousy — and how couples can survive them.
In the scheme of an entire relationship, who does the laundry may seem pretty insignificant. But conflict over household chores is often sited as one of the top reasons people leave unhappy relationships or divorce their spouses.
Of course, we’re talking about more than just washing clothes — we’re talking about all homemaking duties that come with partnership, from cleaning house to hosting parties to raising children.
And even in less-than-traditional relationships, those duties tend to fall more heavily on one partner. When that happens, the “house spouse” — usually the woman — begins to feel frustrated.
To make matters worse, the other partner usually doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about. To him, it’s just a sock on the floor, and if she doesn’t want to pick it up, she doesn’t have to.
But to her, that sock on the floor represents a whole slew of relationship woes. Does he just not notice? Or is it that he doesn’t care? Maybe he secretly thinks it’s her duty to clean up after him?
At first it may seem like a fact of domestic life together; everyone knows men are lazy around the house and women nag them about it, right? But over time resentment over seemingly small issue can turn these battles into a full-blown war.
So what’s a couple to do? As with most romantic power struggles, the key is to find what’s really going on beneath the surface. In the case of the division of labor, many men don’t understand how important it is in their relationship.
Instead of just rolling their eyes and tuning out when the topic of housework comes up, men should make an effort to really hear what their partners are saying; they may be surprised to learn its more about appreciation or collaboration than Windex or Tide.
By the same token, women should work to more clearly communicate how housework affects their lives as individuals and as half of a couple, instead of just focusing on the sock he left on the floor on Tuesday.
By communicating at this level, the couple can begin to see the issue less as a fact of life and more as the destructive power struggle it really is.
Jealousy is more than a tug-of-war — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious cycle of control and rebellion.
The jealous partner doesn’t feel safe in a situation unless he feels in control of it.
But rather than reining his partner in, he may be pushing her away.
Resisting authority is a very human reaction. And when the “authority” is supposed to be a peer in an equal relationship, the urge to rebel is even stronger. So a woman who wouldn’t dream of flirting with another man finds herself doing just that — if only to grasp at the power her partner seems intent on taking.
And that, of course, just makes her partner even more afraid, and in the end, even more controlling.
So how do you stop the cycle? The most important step is recognizing that this isn’t just a case of the green-eyed monster — it’s a power struggle that could ultimately destroy the relationship.
Whether they seek out professional therapy or simply do some research on the internet, the couple needs to explore the roots of the problem. What fears are driving the jealous partner? Does the other partner act out because she secretly craves the jealous attention?
While the couple sorts out the situation, both partners should pledge to do their part to stop the cycle. He should so his best to keep his jealousy in check and she should do her best not to antagonize it. Even if he’s in therapy and working on his issues, Mr. Jealous may still act jealous from time to time — but she can’t use that as an excuse to start hitting on the mailman.
The key is to address the behavior in a supportive and loving manner — and then let it go and continue their work on improving the relationship.
Whether your problem is jealousy, chores or another control issue, the only way you’ll truly resolve it is to commit to tackling the problem as a couple. Otherwise, you’re just taking turns pulling on two sides of a tug-of-war.
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