| Family Reflections |


A lack of teamwork in a relationship is harmful



ouples may come together originally because of their alignment on the big things — their take on spirituality, life goals, values, and dreams —but they forge forward on the details, the mundane matters of daily living.

“My husband and I work really well together. He makes the cholent, and I do the side dishes. He does the shopping and I do the cooking. We’re a team,” says one woman.

There’s so much to do in running a home. The teamwork involved fosters mutual respect and affection. But what happens when a person feels that his or her spouse isn’t a team player?

“My parents had a traditional division of labor, and I expected that I’d do the same. But that isn’t how it’s worked out. It started out innocently. My wife told me that she thinks it’s important for today’s fathers to be more ‘hands-on’ with the kids. So I ended up doing bath and bedtime for all of our eight kids. My wife isn’t a morning person, so I also ended up doing all the morning carpools. She doesn’t like schlepping packages, so I usually pick up the groceries on the way home from work. Everything piled up gradually, but now, after all these years, I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of. What does she do all day? As far as I can see, she goes clothes shopping. At this point, I’m really resentful,” says an aggrieved husband.

The fellow in the above scenario thinks his wife isn’t doing her share. If he is carrying more than his weight, then resentment is the natural result, one of the boundary-setting “gifts” of the emotional system. If this man is working very hard on behalf of his family while his wife sleeps in late, and spends her days shopping leisurely and lunching with friends after working out for a few hours at the gym, then yes, resentment will ring an alarm that he needs to bring teamwork into his relationship. Neglecting to heed that signal can result in irreparable harm to his marriage.

Similarly, when a woman feels that all the exhausting work of home and family is on her shoulders while her husband puts in a few hours of “work” each day, before and after which he shmoozes with his “prospects” and associates, then yes, her resentment will eventually sound the alarm as well.

No one feels loved by or cared for by someone who is willing to take advantage of them.

Thinking Leads to Feeling

However, it might be that this husband’s feelings are the result of inaccurate thoughts. For example, he may have no idea how many hours it takes to economically outfit a family of ten and hence assumes his wife shops as a hobby. He doesn’t have any concept of the time and effort involved in making simchahs or preparing for Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Maybe he thinks his beautiful home, delicious food, well-behaved and well-dressed kids, large social circle, the camp and school applications, the positive extended family relationships, teacher and school communications, medical visits and interventions and so much more, all happen by themselves while he’s driving carpool. Has he noticed that the “Man with a Pan” who graces these pages on occasion has obviously put in extraordinary effort on just one occasion while his wife does this same thing weekly?

Unfounded resentment can result from a lack of information and faulty assumptions.

The cure for this is to heed the signal of resentment rather than to simply harbor that particular emotion. In our example, the man could approach his wife to suggest that he’s feeling overwhelmed by his schedule and would like to revisit the needs of the family with her to see if any reorganization of tasks might be possible. The two of them might make lists of all their contributions to family life. It may turn out that he learns something he didn’t know about his wife’s actual schedule.

However, if it turns out that one person has a very long list and the other a very short one, then requesting help from one’s partner will highlight the health of the relationship. “No, I’m having fun with my lifestyle, so sorry about yours,” won’t quite cut it.

Fortunately, most spouses do care enough about their partners to willingly make adjustments. “I see what you mean. I didn’t realize you’re doing so much more. Would it help if I did the morning carpools?”

“Yes, it would help a lot!”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 842)

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