By: Dr. George James
We’ve all heard that it takes work to make relationships successful. At the same time, most of us do not know how much work (effort, commitment, communication and more) it takes. Just when you think you’ve learned how to juggle your needs and your partner’s needs, something or someone else gets added to the equation. For many, having children adds needs that are challenging to navigate. How do you meet your child(ren)’s needs, your partner’s needs and still have time to take care of your own?
Many couples find themselves overwhelmed at this prospect. I spoke to a new father the other day who, after two weeks of caring for his newborn son with his wife, had an epiphany. “This is a lot and there’s two of us working together to take care of him. I don’t know how single parents do it. I give them a lot of credit.” It was hard for he and his wife to imagine caring for their son and meeting each other’s needs without sacrificing their own.
So, how could they and many others find the balance necessary? The answer to this difficult question is to practice give and take. Give and take does not mean everything is always even. But it does mean that both partners support each other fully and unselfishly.
5 Signs Give and Take is Alive and Well in Your Marriage
- Pay Attention to Your Needs – It is easy to ignore yourself to care for others. But remember, you have needs too.
- Don’t Forget About Your Partner – We know they are there but we can be so focused on everything else including ourselves that we forget about our partner. Let she/he know you didn’t forget about them.
- Check Your Giving Meter – We can push to meet everyone’s needs that we stop checking our meter. The signs are there that we are almost on empty but we keep going. That’s when we have a huge fight with our partner or feel super overwhelmed. Pay attention to your meter and ask for help before you get to empty.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – Being able to have a give and take in a relationship takes practice. It’s not something we naturally learn. We tend to learn in extremes whether it’s all about the other person or all about yourself. Give and take is balancing everyone’s needs. But it takes practice. If you don’t get it right away, keep trying. Keep practicing.
- Communicate Often – The best way to have a give and take relationship is to communicate with each other as often as possible to express and hear each other’s wants and needs.
To illustrate the above, check out the second episode Funny Married Stuff where a couple uses a humorous approach to discuss how they balance responsibilities and everyone’s needs as partners and as parents.
Dr. George James, LMFT speaks, counsels, consults, coaches and teaches people how to overcome difficult relationships problems and build successful happy connections. James has been a reoccurring expert on many radio, TV and online programs. He is also a reoccurring relationship contributor to Ebony magazine. James is a staff therapist and an AAMFT-approved supervisor at Council For Relationships. Find out more about Dr. George James at GeorgeTalks.com.