This week I want to hone in on a common complaint that I hear almost daily.
With many couples both working due to increased financial demands of family life, the burden of keeping things going smoothly often falls on the woman.
Many of the complaints I hear sound like this: “I am overwhelmed and can’t get it all done. I feel like I am supposed to be super woman.” Frequently what gets put on the back burner is the primary relationship. Licensed marriage and family therapist Megan Bearce has some good thoughts on how to avoid that trap in the following guest blog.
Relationship Tip: How overwhelmed “super women” can have super relationships
Megan Bearce, LMFT
Sometimes it feels like “having it all” creates unrealistic expectations that we be “super women” and it can directly impact our relationships. Work, children, elderly parents, household chores…the list goes on and on and unfortunately what often comes dead last in terms of priorities is our primary relationship. Here are 5 ways to help you reconnect with your partner and yourself.
1. Delegate tasks.
Relationships tend to change just as much as we do over the years. What worked in the first few years of your relationship in regards to division of labor might not work now because of children or changing career goals. You may no longer be able to do everything perfectly all of the time. I recommend you take off your cape, sit down with your partner, and discuss what tasks are robbing you of meaningful time together and decide if they can be reduced, shared, or contracted out. Try a house cleaning service once a month or hire a lawn mowing company for example. For super commuters, or couples where one or both travel often for work, this can be a lifesaver as your time is worth the extra cash. Investing in your relationship is always a smart decision.
2. Speak up.
To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, what is repressed gets expressed. When you and your partner are under stress, resentment becomes like soot in a chimney. The thin wisps of smoke seem benign but if not cleared away, build up layer-by-layer until eventually the lines of communication are completely closed off. Is something annoying you? Are you not feeling appreciated? Does your partner know? If not, you need to speak up. If you’re very busy, it might be necessary to schedule time to talk on the weekend or better yet, plan a date or night away at a local hotel. With school activities, meetings, grocery shopping and other mundane duties, it’s easy to fall into routines that don’t create connection with your partner. Speaking up (in a nice way!) about what’s bothering you, and then remembering all the reasons you’re still together is a fantastic way to begin to make your way back to each other.
3. Identify how to best communicate.
Each of us has a preferred way of learning and communicating. Some people are visual, others are more tactile. You may be perfectly content with a few text messages during the day but your partner may welcome a hug when you walk in the door. Is your silence indicating you are mad or that you just need some quiet time to recharge? Learning how each of you prefers to re-enter the relationship after being apart as well as connect on a daily basis are two important topics to explore together.
4. Build your village.
Independence is often admired in our culture. Yet when responsibilities pile up you need to learn to ask for help, especially if you have children. Can you take turns with a neighbor hosting playdates? While your kids are away, you and your partner can spend a few focused hours tackling your “to do” list, freeing up quality time for later. Other sources of support might be via your place of worship or parents at your child’s after school activities. Knowing there is someone you can call in an emergency or if you just need a few hours of help can ease your mind and reduce overwhelming feelings.
5. Don’t “should” all over yourself.
The biggest pitfall for stressed-out super women is the word should. “I should volunteer at school.” “I should host Christmas.” “I should lose 10 pounds.” If you catch yourself using the word should, take a minute and ask yourself two things. First, who says you should? Our culture? Your boss? Other women? Is it your yardstick or someone else’s? Second, do you really want or need to do the particular thing? If yes, great! Figure out what you can remove from your schedule (see tip #1!) so that you’re not just adding to your current load. If no, then let yourself off the hook, and here’s the key, without feeling guilty. I often think that guilt is the super woman’s Kryptonite!
Megan Bearce is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When a Job Keeps You Apart (Equanimity Press, 2013). Ms. Bearce is a sought-after speaker and writer on topics including workplace trends and families, gifted girls, and women’s issues. Ms. Bearce lives in Minneapolis with her super commuter husband and their two children. www.supercommutercouples.com & www.meganbearce.com