When your work ethics are incompatible

The issue of compatibility gets a lot of attention when people are seeking others to date with the goal of commitment and eventual marriage. It's understood that compatibility matters when it comes to long term relationships. When people are seeking similar others they focus on things like physical appearance, personality traits, level of education and/or career status, and shared interests. While these are all important to compatibility, there is one that is often overlooked but that has real potential to become a deal breaker down the road of life. Having a compatible work ethic means you not only place the same importance and focus on your career/work, it also means you hold yourselves equally accountable for all the small and large tasks and responsibilities that support and enhance your shared life.

The following scenarios demonstrate work ethic incompatibility in a relationship. If any of these mirror what you and your partner are presently dealing with, it is important to quickly identify and address them before they lead to the kind of damage that can be hard to come back from.

Even though you both work outside the home, one partner handles 90% of the housework

This is an all too common complaint that therapists hear from couples and that women (especially) bring up when talking with their friends. In other words, it is something that many couples have to deal with, and those that do share this responsibility have a much happier relationship.

While there is no such thing as a perfect 50-50 split, there needs to be a balance in which both partners are sharing the responsibilities and backing each other up. Without this, resentment grows and often leads to a "yours" and "mine" mentality--which is a destroyer of intimacy.

One partner earns most of the money and handles the lion's share at home
When one partner is the main bread winner and is also tasked with handling the bulk of household and parenting tasks--the imbalance is a complete turn-off. A loss of respect for their partner is common, derogatory comments are often made, and the low contributing partner no longer feels like or is treated as an equal. This leads to a lot of resentment and anger on the part of both people--and acting out in a variety of ways is a common by-product. This is an ideal climate for an emotional/physical affair to occur.

One partner doesn't concern themselves with family finances

There are always jobs we enjoy less than others, but we do them because they are important. This is especially true when we are one-half of an intimate partnership--and our present and future well-being depends on good teamwork. The handling of joint finances is a great example of this. When one partner refuses to take responsibility for bill paying, budgeting, and/or saving--the other is left with the weight and worry that go along with each of these.

This responsibility can be divided in many different ways from one handling the bills and the other overseeing investments or monitoring the budget. Or partners can divide bill paying, agree to save a certain percentage of their earnings, and establish limits on expenditures, especially of large ticket items. In other words, there is not a one-formula answer to this problem, instead the key is that both people share in the handling of their money along with the enjoyment and security it brings to them.

One partner's time at home is down time while the other is always working

As you run through the evening trying to get everything done, is your partner hanging out, enjoying a favorite TV show or spending time recreating with their personal device? Do you hint around about needing help with the dinner, dishes, kids, or just ask outright and hear something like; "I will get to it later?" Then if later is too late or doesn't come, you just decide you will need to do it yourself in order to make sure it gets handled. After a while, you find that every job is your job and then the resentment grows.

If you and your partner have fallen into a pattern like this, it is only a matter of time before your relationship turns into that of distant roommates. There is also the risk that you will be asking yourself "what do I need him/her for anyway?" The other serious consequence is to the mental and physical well-being of the always working partner. No one can handle a load like that forever and over time it will take its toll. If this is your relationship, you need to address this now, preferably with the help of a good counselor.

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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