Whether you are already married and you’re in a relationship. I just want to ask you one simple question? Are you truly happy with your relationship? You may be, but I bet you’re NOT 100 percent sure YES! I am happy. It’s because you’re not aware of your roles and responsibilities in your marriage.
In this article, I’d like to share with you a portion of a technique described by Susan Page in her 1997 book, How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together and help you to build a strong marriage.
Susan presents an exercise that walks you through several stages of married life to a point where you can identify your roles and responsibilities in your marriage and improve your communication with your partner.
I think it’s a great love and trust building exercise that will help you discover the role you currently play, and help you decide if you want to play a different role.
Susan Page describes it as “going for the gold medal”. I’m going to describe a slightly simplified version and suggest you use it as an Immediate Impact Action.
Please remember that all we are doing here is isolating your role. We are not trying to assign blame or fix a problem.
We are just trying to assess what is your roles and responsibilities in your marriage.
Think about your interactions with your partner. Try to focus on interactions that are repetitive, rather than a “one off” situation.
You will probably use interactions that you find negative, unhappy or unpleasant.
Once again, the idea is to find out about yourself and your role in your relationship, that will help you to strengthen your marriage and not to discover cause and effect or to assign blame to anyone.
Once you’ve thought of a few situations, write them down in the following format: When my partner.
Let me share with you example of some married couples to convey my point.
Mike and Sally.
Mike uses sarcasm in a demeaning way when Sally suggests spending money on holidays and things he considers “frivolous”.
If Sally were doing this exercise, she would write, “When Mike speaks to me dismissively or sarcastically, I withdraw from him because I feel stupid.”
Let’s consider one more example - Charlie and Jane.
Charlie has this bad habit of randomly throwing his socks when he comes home from office and In other words leaving the socks left on the floor,
Charlie might write, “When Jane nags me to pick up my socks, I push back by leaving them on the floor”.
One more example - Ingrid and Hans, who are playing a game of push – pull with respect to closeness versus independence in their relationship?
Well, Hans might write, “When Ingrid wants to kiss and cuddle all the time, I feel smothered”.
Ingrid, on the other hand, would probably write, “When Hans refuses to cuddle with me, I feel rejected”.
Do you get the idea? Okay, try it now with a few examples of your own. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for step two.
This step is easy to do. Just reverse the two parts of your sentence! Leave the “when” at the beginning. For example:
Sally: “When I withdraw from him because I feel stupid, Mike speaks to me dismissively or sarcastically.”
Charlie: “When I push back by leaving them on the floor, Jane nags me to pick up my socks”.
Hans: “When I feel smothered, Ingrid wants to kiss and cuddle all the time”.
Ingrid: “When I feel rejected, Hans refuses to cuddle with me”.
Do you see what reversing the sentence does? It isolates your role by making the sentence into something that makes little sense.
You do what you do and your spouse does what she does. No one is to blame, it’s simply the role you play. And the key to a successful marriage is understanding your roles and responsibilities.
Usually when something is missing in a relationship it’s the result of unmet needs or unfulfilled expectations.
This leads to disappointment, sadness, anger and resentment and so on. In this step we are going to focus initially on your expectations.
Using the examples you have been using up until now, use the following sentence to simply describe your expectations.
I (expect / want) _____________________.
Continuing with our examples, here’s what they might say:
Sally: “I want Mike to speak to me respectfully and to consider my ideas.”
Charlie: “I want Jane to talk to me without nagging”.
Jane: “I expect Charlie to pick up his own socks”.
Hans: “I want Ingrid to give me some space and independence”.
Ingrid: “I expect Hans to be more affectionate and cuddly”.
Now you have a good list of your expectations that aren’t being met.
Next, go back to each of those statements and add how you feel about what’s happening now – the emotion you’re feeling as a result of your spouse not meeting your needs / expectations.
Simply add “… and I feel _____ about it” to the end of what you’ve written.
Sally: “I want Mike to speak to me respectfully and to consider my ideas and I feel sad about it.”
Charlie: “I want Jane to talk to me without nagging and I feel angry about it”.
Jane: “I want Charlie to pick up his own socks and I feel frustrated about it”.
Hans: “I want Ingrid to give me some space and independence and I feel unhappy about it”.
Ingrid: “I expect Hans to be more affectionate and cuddly and I feel disappointed about it”.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, you’ll have identified a good list of what you want from your partner and how you feel about not getting it. Stay with me, you have just one more step to go.
The final step is to adjust what you have just written. At the beginning of each sentence remove “I” and add the words “My role in our relationship is to”.
In the second half of the sentence, remove “I” and replace it with “to.”
The example sentences will now read:
Sally: “My role in our relationship is to want Mike to speak to me respectfully and to consider my ideas and to feel sad about it.”
Charlie: “My role in our relationship is to want Jane to talk to me without nagging and to feel angry about it”.
Jane: “My role in our relationship is to want Charlie to pick up his own socks and to feel frustrated about it”.
Hans: “My role in our relationship is to want Ingrid to give me some space and independence and to feel unhappy about it”.
Ingrid: “My role in our relationship is to expect Hans to be more affectionate and cuddly and to feel disappointed about it”.
Whoa! That small change really worked, didn’t it? You’re probably surprised by what you’ve ended up writing, and likely feeling anxious and even defensive about it.
Take your time digesting it and coming to terms with it – it’s all part of the process.
If you don’t like the way you’ve described your role in the relationship, you can choose to change it by changing your reactions and behavior.
We all have the ability to choose how we will react. As the quote above indicates, there is that split second between stimulus and response where we make a decision about how we will react.
When we are in a marriage, we tend to develop habitual responses to certain stimuli which ultimately become our “role”.
We stop recognizing and using that split second to make a choice because our ingrained habits take over.
Think of Jane and the socks. When she and Charlie were first married she found it fun and “wifely” to pick up Charlie’s socks.
But over time the dirty socks lost their charm and Jane became increasingly annoyed by the socks on the floor.
She started to nag Charlie. In this situation, Jane made two choices. She chose to allow herself to be annoyed by the socks and she chose to nag.
Now both are habitual reactions.
Jane could have, and still can, choose to change her reaction and her role.
She can make a conscious effort to change her reaction to the socks – she can decide they’re charming again. Or funny. Or invisible.
She can decide not to care about the socks and just live with them. She can also change her role as a nag.
And we all know she should, because all the nagging in the world is not going to change Charlie’s behavior, right?
How about trying this, Jane: “My role in our relationship is to want Charlie to pick up his own socks and to watch the socks pile up on the floor”.
Have another look at the roles you play that have been revealed by completing this Immediate Impact Action.
Are you happy with them?
Should you change them?
How do you want to change them?
What do you think will happen when you change your role / response? Pick one and try playing a new role.
Give it some time for your partner to notice, adjust and react to it. If, after a couple of weeks, you don’t see any results, or you don’t see the results you want, try a new approach.
Continue doing this (making sure you give it enough time to actually make a difference – at least a month) until one of the approaches you try has the effect you want.
I will stop here. I hope you enjoyed reading this article on your roles and responsibilities in your marriage.
Now, before I stop. I would love to share a beautiful program with you that has the POWER to influence your married life in a positive way.
This program is something that will bring back the lost spark and happiness again in your relationship.
If your relationship is important for you watch This Video Below and take action.