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Is it Hard to Get Your Partner to Clean the Toilet?
Episode 510th November 2022 • Habits for Your Happily Ever After • Rebecca Mullen
00:00:00 00:19:57

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Overview

In this episode I introduce my relationship framework: Partner, Friend & Lover.

1.    We’ll talk about how you and your sweetheart can be strong teammates.

2.    And I’ll give you a date night discussion prompt that helps you notice how you and your partner help each other.

 

You want to feel like you have a teammate in your relationship.

You’ll hear a story about why building a garden bed can be a very different activity depending on whether you’re in partner-mode, friend-mode, or lover-mode. And how not being in the same role at the same time causes problems for your relationship.

We’ll talk about why being in the same role at the same time makes it easier to connect in your relationship. But that doesn’t always happen, right?

  • Partners want to achieve and they love the feeling of accomplishment.
  • Friends want to hang out and go with the flow.
  • Lovers want to explore and thrive on novelty.

 

I also tell a story about when my husband decided to go to graduate school when I was 6 months pregnant. I felt proud of what a great contribution I made to his career pivot.

I tell the story of how my “help” turned into “control.” Because I got tired.

  

The Habit for Your Happily Ever After

This week’s Habit for Your Happily Ever After is to ponder the partner element in your relationship. 

Do you connect well as partners? Or is that relationship a struggle for you like it was for my husband and me?

Don’t worry about taking any action to change how you relate as partners. We’ll get to that. For now, let it be enough to notice how you relate naturally. And remember, it’s most kind to notice without judging. I know that’s hard to do, but it’s also key to growing intimacy.

Date Night Discussion

This segment of my show is where I offer you a date night discussion prompt. My definition of a date is a moment of connection. And I believe in setting the bar for that connection ridiculously low.

This week, find a moment to ask your sweetheart one or more of the following:

  • What do you think we do best as partners or teammates?
  • When do you feel like I help you?
  • When do you enjoy helping me?

Text me and let me know when your partner ENJOYS helping you. 970-210-4480. I'd love to know if it surprised you.

·     What do you think is our strongest suit when it comes to accomplishing a project together?

Transcripts

You have three modes inside your relationship: Partner, Friend, & Lover.

Partners want to achieve together. Friends want to relax together. Lovers want to explore together.

When we’re both playing the same role—partner, lover, or friend—it’s easy to connect with our sweetheart. But we’re not always approaching things in the same role, right?

For example, my husband and I spent a day building a garden bed together…well. “building” is an over-statement. Because, while I was in partner mode: the role that is goal oriented and gets stuff done, my husband was in the friend-zone.

He wanted to us to lay down our shovels, lay down ourselves in the warm summer sunshine and gaze at the gorgeous clouds overhead. He was very sweet, but I was trying to get this project over the finish line and I certainly didn’t appreciate his casual pace.

Ugh! I’m frustrated. I’m on a timeline. I shout at my husband: you never help me! He’s probably thinking I’m a killjoy because instead of soaking up sun and gazing at clouds, I’ve grabbed a shovel, I’m sweating, and I’m shouting.

You can imagine the rest of the scene. It wasn’t pretty.

But this is how it goes when we’re not mentally in the same zone as our sweetheart. And this is when it gets tricky in a relationship.

So, what can you expect from your partner?

Well, first of all, it will help to know that you’re communicating with your partner instead of you friend or lover, right?

I was in partner-mode, eager to accomplish a finished garden bed. I was looking for a teammate who would help me.

My husband was in friend-mode. He had no agenda regarding finishing anything. He was looking for a companion to hang out with.

If either of us had been in lover-mode, we’d ditch the project altogether and go looking for an exciting hike. Because lovers want adventure and novelty.

David’s idea for our Saturday wasn’t any better or worse than mine. But we definitely weren’t on the same page. And that difference is what caused our conflict. We had different ideas of what the Saturday was for.

If we’d set clear expectations for the day, I would know he was interested in hanging out. He could learn I had a goal.

Maybe we could have shared coffee outside, enjoying the sunshine and clouds, then gotten to work building the garden bed.

But it takes clarity to be in the same zone. It doesn’t happen accidently all that often, and it makes a big difference.

The advantage of being in the same zone is that the relationship feels easy.

One day of misunderstanding isn’t going to threaten your HEA, but if you stay stuck in mismatched roles, it really takes a toll, because it feels like you’re not connecting far more than you ARE connecting.

A partner wants someone to help them, because they love the feel of achieving together. A friend wants to hang out with no agenda because then they feel that easy companionship . And a lover wants adventure, excitement, novelty.

I told you the garden story, so I could tell you about when I was 6 months pregnant with our second child and my carpenter husband came and told me he’d really like to go to medical school.

I was surprised. And a tiny bit overwhelmed, but I was also excited because partner mode is where I feel most connected with people.

My husband and I were great friends, but the truth is we struggled when it came to partnership, and him going to school felt like a project that could bond us together.

I love the feeling of making a contribution. I knew I could support him in school.

I started out strong:

Because my husband needed to study… a LOT!...our family time was precious. That partner inside me built predictable rituals so my husband could step into family life easily and we’d make memories.

Each Tuesday was ten-cent-taco day and for less than a dollar we fed the family and took our tacos to the park for obstacle course races. Sunday was Family Movie Night where we watched Singing in the Rain so many times our kids had all the songs memorized. Our kids grew. And grew.

The more they grew and the more he studied, the more tired I got.

Then my mother died. And then my brother died.

I was empty.

And here’s The thing you need to know about Partner-energy: It’s all business. All momentum. Partner energy is a great engine to your life, but it can get exhausting too.

It that it needs to be refueled with time to be friendship, so you feel understood.

Your partner-persona needs to be taken on a date by your lover so you feel the weight of responsibility lift with the power of a diverting adventure.

But both David and I were tired. Neither of us had much time, so we didn’t have that hang-out-no-agenda time as friends.

We were both drained so we weren’t imaginatively planning adventures to share.

I just kept buckling down in partner-mode: Here’s the list. We gotta get this done. And this. And this. Life was a checklist.

I was spinning out of control.

Control is the worst thing for a partner to lose. A partner wants to fix things.

I began trying to fix things that were none of my business. “David, have you studied enough for that exam on Monday?” I knew that, in order for him to study well, he needed time at the gym, so I’d pester him about that too, “Have you gotten to the gym?”

I was panicked. And I was desperate for control.

When Dave needed to talk through his day, I went rapidly into fix-it mode rather than just sitting to listen and understand what he was going through. I was a lousy friend. I wasn’t a companion and I didn’t just “hang out.” I was always uptight.

There are things I wished I’d known then: I wish I’d known about these three distinct roles live inside your primary relationship. The partner takes on tasks and is ready to help you achieve. And all that achievement is great. But you also need the diversion of a lover and the quiet understanding of a friend to keep your relationship balanced.

To help you recognize the partner-role in your relationship, here’s a couple clues to look for:

A partner enjoys having a clear job. Partners love the feel of hard work.

You might get a little frustrated by your partner because a partner often wants a PLAN. Partners want predictability and sometimes that can feel a little oppressive.

But you’ll feel grateful you have a partner in your marriage when you’re overwhelmed by your to-do list. A partner loves a to-do list.

You might be embarrassed by your partner when:

· They accuse you of not doing your share. Work is play to a partner, and consequently they aren’t always great at relaxing. If you’re in friend-mode and you’re great at relaxing, Instead of learning from your ability to rest, a partner might accuse you of being a slacker.

You’ll feel loved by the partner in your marriage when:

· You want to get the house clean. A partner is great at to-do’s and wants to help and make a contribution..

Think about the life cycle of your marriage. You meet and you fall in love. What roles are wide awake while you’re falling in love? The friend: whose seeking to understand this new person in your life. That friend-part of you is wide awake revealing things about yourself that help your future sweetheart feel connected and bonded to you.

The lover is also wide awake in the beginning of a relationship. All that chemistry? First of all, you can’t keep your hands off each other, and your dates are ALL adventures. Your relation is fed constant excitement and there’s very little responsibility to manage.

Falling in love is a wonderful feeling and I think part of that bliss is that you have no need for a partner.

There’s a stereotype about how all the romance leaves when you settle into “real life” and that threatens your happily ever after.

But I think what happens is that, when you decide to live together and approach life with a single front door and sharing a toilet it just introduces a new element to your relationship: partnership.

Now, instead of just planning adventure-filled dates, you’re trying to keep a roof over your head and you’re figuring out how the toilet’s gonna get cleaned. This is the work of life, and the partner role in your marriage is the ENGINE that keeps track of all of this responsibility. The partner is the workhorse. It’s what keeps you surviving or helps you surge forward.

The partner may not be sexy or cozy, but the partner takes care of all those basic things like bill-paying and grocery shopping.

The partner isn’t relaxed like the friend, and isn’t very good at just hanging out. The partner gets scared when the lover wants to take risks and the partner can feel like a killjoy in those moments.

But I have noticed, after listening to tons of people in long term relationships, that the role of partner creates some of the deepest bonds. Because the partner is front and center in the part of your life that helps you just make it through each day.

One widow I spoke with told me the thing she misses most is waking up to the smell of toast her husband made each morning. She had lost almost 20 pounds since her husband died. “I don’t smell the toast anymore,” she told me and I could see that, without that partner around to feed her, she’d stopped feeling hungry.

I spoke with a man after his wife died. “She’d touch me every morning. I was making coffee, and she’d come in and put her hand on my back. Do you think I’ll ever make a cup of coffee without crying?” he asked me.

The partner—because they handle the nitty gritty of life—creates deep bonds between you and your sweetheart.

To be sure.

This week’s Habit for Your Happily Ever After is to ponder. Taking time to think and reflect about your relationship is foundational to building strong habits.

This week, think about times in your relationship when you’ve been in partner mode.

Think about times your spouse has been in partner mode.

Do you connect well as partners? Or is that relationship a struggle for you like it was for my husband and me?

Don’t worry about taking any action to change how you relate as partners. We’ll get to that. For now, let it be enough to notice how you relate naturally. And remember, it’s most kind to notice without judging. I know that hard to do, but it’s also key to growing intimacy.

This segment of my show is where I offer you a date night discussion prompt. My definition of a date is a moment of connection. And I believe in setting the bar for that connection ridiculously low.

I believe that if you can give yourself a few minutes to truly connect about an idea, that will juice up your marriage. And keeping it low pressure is so helpful.

I’m a coach, which means I’m very practical. I hope my story gave you a tiny new way to look at your relationship and to name how you and your sweetheart are learning how to be partners in life. but you don’t need to have some big dedicated time.

Let it be low key. While you’re doing something mundane like unloading the groceries from the car, simply ask your sweetheart one or more of the following:

• What do you think we do best as partners or teammates?

• When do you feel like I help you?

• When do you enjoy helping me?

• What do you think is our strongest suit when it comes to accomplishing a project together?

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