Keywords: Fairness, Unfairness, Marriage Counseling, Marriage Conflict
“That’s JUST NOT FAIR!”, said a wife expressing her frustration to her husband. She continued, “I cook. I do laundry. I wash dishes. I clean the toilet. I bath the kids. I help the kids with their homework. And, I work fulltime. Plus, I take care your ailing parent! And what you do is just playing games on your smart phone. It is JUST NOT FAIR!”
In couple counseling, we hear a variety of version of client’s struggle with frustration and resentment due to the feeling of unfairness they experience in their relationship. Both feel that they carry more of the load of responsibility than the spouse does. Couples get irritated and resentful when they see their spouse simply idling around and not taking initiative in helping around the house.
Couples tend to miss each other in their understanding of their roles and responsibilities in marriage. Many husbands think of their primary responsibility is to work outside the home. Thus, after all day of hard work, they feel that they deserve for a break when they return home. On the other hand, many wives also struggle with the reality that their work seems endless with no end in sight – not day. Not night. Not weekend. Not even on Holidays. Husband and wife both struggle to find a private moment where they can just “take a break” “play” or “lazy around” without fear of being nagged nor feel guilty.
Many couples come to marriage counseling asking, “What’s fairness?” Although obviously there’s no perfect definition of what fairness would mean to a couple, it is logical to think that fairness does not always translate to a 50-50 proportion. Family life is complex. It is more of a fluid than static. In couple relationship, there’s a time when a spouse is required to do more than the other to meet their familial needs and lifestyle at a given time.
Here is a few questions to ask yourselves when the feeling of unfairness start lurking within your heart:
1) What Can I (We) Do to Somewhat Reduce Our Stress Level?
More often than not, issue of fairness emerges when one of the couples feel drained and overwhelmed. Your stress could be the result of your own high expectation or expectation of others. Your stress could also be caused by taking too much than what you could manage at the given time. Your reluctance to delegate some of your duties due to the doubt that others might not meet your standard could also add to your stress. There could be all kind of things that contribute to your stress level. Thus, identifying the factors and working on reducing (not eliminating) your stress can be the first step in alleviating your problem.
2) What is My Unmet Needs? What Can My Spouse Do to Make Me Feel More Supported and Appreciated of What I Do?
Feeling unfairness arises when we feel that our efforts and contribution is not or less acknowledged or appreciated. A husband or wife tends to believe that their spouses know that he/she is appreciative for what they have done. Thus, they assume it is unnecessary to verbally expressing it. In other instances, couples also often fail to share what and how they like to be treated in order to feel values, supported and appreciated. When they express themselves, they do in a form of a complaint and anger instead of a wish and request. Share your unmet needs. Help your spouse to know clearly what he/she can do to make you feel appreciated and loved.
3) Do I (We) Affirm Ourselves as “a team”?
Are you and your spouse “a team”? Your answer to this question would make a different in how your relational management. When couples feel strongly that they ARE a team, they would have a stronger level of positive attitude, willingness and commitment in supporting each other. They know deeply that their mutual efforts will benefit them and all involved. They know that they need each other to succeed. Couples who see themselves as a team won’t get stuck on calculating the scores. Because they recognize that as a team they have mutual purpose and meaning. As result, they are more likely to be adaptive in complementing and supporting each other. There’s an internal motivation and determination to contribute, even to the point of making sacrifices. Re-affirm yourselves as couple that you and your spouse is the “A-Team”
Every couple relationship has its unique dynamics and circumstances. Thus, issue of fairness sometimes is best dealt with consideration of those unique factors. Life Design Counseling can assist you in understanding and managing your needs and expectations. Feel free to contact us. We look forward to assisting you.