When it comes to cultivating a happy, healthy marriage, having one head of the household is a bit of an outdated setup. More and more, today’s couples are co-leading their households and, as a result, finding more satisfaction in their relationship and each other.
So what does that really mean? Co-leading is about establishing an equal collaboration on decision making, bringing in income, and deciding the future path of a relationship. It’s about two equal partners coming together to share responsibility for different aspects of the marriage, and not dividing up responsibilities based on traditional gender roles or assumptions.
Why co-leading is the way of the future…
More options mean more lifestyle choices.
Nowadays, couples have a plethora of options when it comes to business, careers, and places to live. Part of this is because there are more available options that make it easier for couples to balance their lives. For instance, there are babysitters, caregivers, and services that can help take care of children, while both parents are at work or spend time alone. There are affordable grocery delivery or pickup services, that make it easier to manage busy schedules.
As a result, many couples are deciding to live lifestyles that were deemed unconventional in the past, because it better fits their dreams. For example, there are couples who sell their homes and drive an RV around the U.S. for a year. There are couples who retire their corporate jobs to start businesses together. There are even couples who travel the world together and homeschool their kids online. If both partners are invested in making it work, almost any lifestyle is possible.
Let’s face it, gender roles have evolved.
Women are no longer expected to simply be wives and mothers. Nowadays, it’s the norm for women to go to college and establish a variety of careers, some of which were previously designated for men, such as executive positions. In fact, labor statistics show that, since 2001, women’s salaries have increased by 6%, in comparison to men. In other words, many women nowadays are bridging the wage gap and, at times, exceeding it.
Likewise, men are moving beyond their traditional gender roles as well, by welcoming the increased income and shared household responsibilities. Co-leading the household nourishes marriages, because it allows each partner to blend their individual talents, abilities, and leadership skills into the service of a larger entity: their relationship.
You may already be co-leading in your marriage in many ways, but by consciously focusing on the different ways to co-lead and how to cultivate a habit of co-leading in your marriage you can take your partnership to the next level.
To help you out, here are six ways that you can start integrating elements of co-leading into your relationship:
1. Raise your emotional intelligence.
In the past, men were expected to be strong and logical. Expressing emotions was perceived as a feminine trait and, in a man, was seen as a sign of weakness. As a result, women were expected to express their emotions and carry the burden of initiating emotional connections within a relationship. Co-leading requires both partners to learn how to express and communicate logically and emotionally. This produces a balanced, integrated, and strong relationship where both partners are equally responsible for emotional connections and logical decision-making.
2. Shift roles to fun titles.
Try to make certain tasks, such as washing the dishes, handling the finances, and cooking dinner, seem like fun activities. This could be done by creating fun titles for those who complete those tasks. For example, within our marriage, Aaron’s title is Chief Vision Caster, because he logistically handles our finances and household items, and he always keeps the couple’s vision alive. Moreover, Jocelyn’s title is Chief Momentum Officer, because she keeps track of our calendar, travel plans, and new ideas for fun activities together. Life is about so much more than getting the to-do’s checked off, so try to make every task and moment together enjoyable.
3. Have a family meeting each week.
Fulfillment within relationships, as in life, comes from consistently setting, achieving, and celebrating goals together. This process should not exclude or sacrifice any area of a relationship in order for another to thrive. There are 8 fundamental aspects of a relationship to focus on: mental, physical, spiritual, familial, financial, social, sexual, and professional. The first step to fulfill every fundamental aspect of a relationship is to understand what level of satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 10, each partner has in each of these areas, and then set the desired intentions and goals to reach the greatest level of fulfillment for you as a couple. Meeting together each week gives you a time and place, to discuss these needs and how you can work on them.
Don’t waste your time doing it all, and don’t feel pressure to fill certain roles because they’re traditionally assigned to your gender. A wife, for instance, could be expected to be a mother, lover, counselor, professional, cook, maid, accountant, and party planner to her husband and children. On the same note, a husband could be expected to be a father, husband, accountant, handyman, landscaper, and chauffeur to his wife and children. But you don’t have to conform to these societal gender roles. As a couple, get together and discuss who should be responsible for each household role based on your strengths, weaknesses, schedules, and affinities.
5. Trust each other to make decisions.
In a co-leading marriage, a couple’s goal is to be equally empowered when it comes to making decisions; that’s why it’s good to agree on certain roles in advance. This empowers each person to make decisions that are best for the relationship, while building trust in his or her partner to also make decisions.
A few examples of agreements include sharing how much money you’re each okay with spending on luxuries (aka fun money) without checking with the other person, allocating a certain night of the week for quality time together, or even setting aside certain day or night of the week for each person to have alone time.
6. Remember that co-leading is co-growing.
In many ways, humans are like plants: if you’re not growing, you’re dying. The same applies to a relationship. The number one killer of relationships is the loss of passion and desire. This could be as simple as having an everyday routine that becomes mundane and stale. According to Tony Robbins, growth is one of the six human needs that must always be fulfilled in some way or another. So commit to growing together in the way that works best for you.
Gone are the days of traditional gender roles within a relationship, marriage, or household. Considering the infinite possibilities for how life can look for a couple today, it’s even more important for couples to take the time to sit down together and talk about what they want their unique marriage to look like. It will not, nor is it supposed to, look like anyone else’s.
The future of marriage is one that creates and anticipates life, not one that reacts to or defaults to the way things used to be in the past. Keep these seven tips in mind as you design what your marriage will look like, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.