A relationship dynamic that I often come across in my counseling work is one where a person finds themselves coping with another, who takes on board either less than their share of labor or those duties that feel more comfortable and don’t require as much effort; while the person who is at a disadvantage finds themselves a recipient of the more challenging/effort-full/unpleasant tasks.
Sometimes these individuals may even find themselves criticized by whoever is "enjoying" the lesser share of responsibilities, for coming across as overly frustrated/stressed, or having their contribution criticized in other ways:
"Those who do the least themselves are always the severest critics upon the noble achievements of others."
Elias Lyman Magoon
Whether they are mothers (who find themselves doing the bulk of the more demanding child rearing and domestic tasks); carers who take on the most challenging aspects of their caring roles; colleagues who cope with co-workers who opt to do less than their share of labor, or family members who experience a pressure to fulfill others' expectations...
...the emotions these individuals experience may include feeling taken advantage of, feeling objectified (that is their inner experience not being considered, as they relieve someone else of their effort), feeling frustrated, experiencing a build-up of resentment, or experiencing a lack of validation or a general feeling of not being cared for.
Below are a two guidelines for possible ways of coping:
1. Strive to communicate your inner experience…:
"One of the characteristics of love relationships that flower is a relatively high degree of mutual self-disclosure."
Relationships are dynamic processes, where (ideally) individuals are open to continually re-defining their expectations of one another, and embracing the continually-changing inner world of another person. The most fulfilling relationships are ones where individuals strive to create an environment of mutual care and consideration; as anything less, ultimately, leads to frustration or the build-up of resentment:
"Spouses in healthy relationships cherish each other's space and are champions of each other's causes."
Consider communicating the impact that someone’s behavior has on you inner experience, and what support you would like to receive that would make the biggest difference for you…; remembering that there is not much as powerful and motivating as positive reinforcement.
Taking a chance to discuss your inner experience, using words that are not blaming (i.e. ones that don’t begin with “You…make me…”) helps to create a relationship environment of mutual care:
E.g. I feel that I am carrying the larger load of responsibilities and I feel frustrated, the kind of support that I would greatly appreciate is… It would make me feel… (e.g. more relaxed and appreciative)...
2. Persist in requesting/working towards equal access to leisure time and developmental opportunities for each family member – it’s worth it:
"The greatest gift you can give someone is your personal development."
"Solitude is very different from a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other."
Historically, women in particular carried a legacy of having less access to leisure time, fewer privileges, and an expectation around dedicating themselves wholly to servitude; certainly they have been less encouraged to pursue self-development outside of their caring roles.
For example, consider this quote from Florence Nightingale, from 1852 ! :
"Women never have a half-hour in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house) that they can call their own, without fear of offending or of hurting someone. Why do people sit up so late, or, more rarely, get up so early? Not because the day is not long enough, but because they have no time in the day to themselves." 1852
Persisting in creating relationships where there is mutual consideration and striving for equality and fairness is of benefit to all family members…continuing with status quo may only reinforce unjust behavior and cement unrealistic expectations…
However, in its initial stages, the process of setting boundaries may feel uncomfortable... It can often be the case that those who enjoy the benefits of belonging to a group with more privileges may not be as motivated to redefine the status quo or make changes to their workload to something less desirable for themselves. They may experience a sense of loss, apprehension, resistance:
"When we begin to set boundaries with people we love, a really hard thing happens: they hurt. They may feel a hole where you used to plug up their aloneness, their disorganization, or their financial irresponsibility. Whatever it is, they will feel a loss. If you love them, this will be difficult for you to watch. But, when you are dealing with someone who is hurting, remember that your boundaries are both necessary for you and helpful for them. If you have been enabling them to be irresponsible, your limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility."
"One of the first signs that you’re beginning to develop boundaries is a sense of resentment, frustration, or anger at the subtle and not-so-subtle violations in your life. Just as radar signals the approach of a foreign missile, your anger can alert you to boundary violations in your life."
"It is true that you get what you tolerate."
"The opposite of bad is not good.The opposite of bad is love."
"I define love thus: The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
M. Scott Peck
*In a case where you are in a relationship where your partner is not interested in creating an environment of mutual consideration and care and is obviously invested in retaining the bulk of power and control in the relationship, it is so important for you to seek support and assistance, to explore ways of being physically and emotionally safe.