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Do you and your partner take on certain roles in your relationship?

Roles can be good for your relationship, but if you don’t discuss your role, you end up in trouble.

Today my guest is Chantel Landeros, founding partner and psychotherapist at Thrive Marriage & Family Counseling in Grand Junction, Colorado. In this episode, Chantel talks about how remaining curious will keep you from feeling stuck in a relationship role.

You’ll hear:

  • Why establishing roles in your relationship helps to uncover hidden expectations and how that helps prevent conflict
  • You’ll get some fabulous conversation prompts to help you get curious about the hidden assumptions lurking in your relationship
  • And we’ll give you a 90-second habit that will change the way you experience conflict and increase the trust you feel for your partner



Relationship roles can have hidden expectations

In the 1950’s and before, the role of the man in a marriage was to be the provider, and the role of the woman was to be the nurturer.

Our society isn’t like this anymore – Hooray! Now that women aren’t confined by those roles, we can be anything we want to be. Even including happiness in a relationship that doesn’t involve a man.

But because women can be anything, we are often expected to be everything simultaneously. We’re encouraged to chase our dreams and build a career, while also taking care of a home and a family.

This is where masculine versus feminine energy comes in. Regardless of gender, your relationship contains both masculine and feminine energies. If these energies are out of balance, or if you haven’t discussed these energies and roles, one or both of you can feel confined by the expectations.

If the roles in your relationship and the hidden expectations that come with them are unspoken, the miscommunication will lead to conflict in your relationship.


So how do we reveal those hidden expectations?

In your relationship, it doesn’t matter so much who is carrying the masculine versus the feminine energy. What matters is that you talk about it.

One parent may be happy to stay home with the kids and put their career on pause, but it is just as likely that they feel stuck in that role and need to try something different.

When these roles are talked about, it reveals the hidden expectations that are likely the reason one partner is feeling trapped. Negotiation also allows you to replace unfair expectations with articulated agreements.  This keeps resentment from building and arguments from ensuing.

Date Night Discussion

This week, ask your partner questions that will help start the negotiation of your roles.

Chantel and I used the example of a stay at home parent, but this can apply to any aspect of your life with your partner where things are changing.

The first question to ask is, “If you could do anything with your time, what would you be doing?”

Even more important is the follow up question, “How can I support you in doing that?”

Offering support is what allows roles to improve your relationship instead of turning it into a trap. Use these questions when you are negotiating or re-negotiating your roles to figure out how you can best support your partner.

Do relationship roles provide freedom or a prison?

When a milestone happens in your relationship, like buying a house or having your first child, there are often assumptions that come with it.

You may assume certain things that your partner will be doing, or vice versa, because of the way you grew up and how you saw others handle certain situations. You assume your partner will earn money. Your partner assumes you’ll care for the home.

Assumed roles come with hidden expectations that can make you or your partner feel boxed in. You are your role only  with no way to break free.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.


Curiosity is key when you negotiate relationship roles

When you start the conversation about roles with your partner, you need to let go of your assumptions and get curious. What are our assumptions? How can we go our own way, letting go of those assumptions? 

This curiosity can be as simple as checking in.

“How are you handling this?”

“What are your thoughts about this?”

Ask questions to help you and your partner get clear about what you value and what you need. Then, when you agree to take on a role, you’re empowered with choice. This strengthens your relationship.


How “Assuming positive intent” changes the flavor of that curiosity

You did it. You clearly communicated what you want the roles in your relationship to look like and came to an agreement with your partner.

But then it comes time to put it into action, and your partner doesn’t follow through with support they offered.

Your first instinct is to think that your partner doesn’t want to support you.

However, the reality is your partner desperately wants to support you. But they don’t know how. 

When your partner says they want to give you something, try to believe them. Assume positive intent, and try to see things from your partner’s perspective.

Then get curious.

“You say you want to help take some of the pressure off of me being a stay-at-home parent, but I noticed that aren’t doing the things I asked you to. I’m curious if there is something that happened?”

Try this: 

This week’s habit for your happily ever after is to try the 90 second rule.

When your partner says or does something that hurts your feelings, take 90 seconds before you respond. This allows you to separate the emotional and logical parts of your brain.

Your emotional brain tells you that your partner hurt your feelings on purpose! You want to retaliate.

This is where 90 seconds helps.

90 seconds is a long time. As you look at your partner, is it true that they want to hurt you? 90 seconds allows your emotionally charge feelings a moment to calm down.

You wise mind awakens. You can see, logically, that your partner doesn’t want to hurt you.

Now you can use your wise mind and see that your partner has positive intentions, and lacks the ability, the knowledge or the practice to follow through.

“Can we start again?” you’re able to ask. This allows you to articulate more granularly what you need when you ask for support.

It is crucial to re-negotiate your relationship roles

The conversation about roles in your relationship is not a one-and-done.

You need to talk about your roles in every aspect of your relationship, whether it be with raising your kids, earning money, managing finances, taking care of the house, or any number of other things that come up.

And once you get curious and have that initial conversation, you need to stay curious.

Re-negotiate your roles as often as you need to. If it helps, set a date for when you will re-negotiate something.

This may seem like a lot of negotiation. It may seem daunting, or you may feel exhausted just thinking about it. But the alternative is miscommunication in your relationship, which leads to someone feeling stuck or resentful.

Getting curious and then staying curious will foster intimacy in your relationship and ensure both you and your partner are happy.


Connect with my guest

Chantel Landeros is a founding partner and psychotherapist at Thrive Marriage and Family Counseling in Grand Junction, Colorado. You can find out more about Chantel and the marriage intensive her practice offers on her website.

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