Do your memories of the past include images of slow, simple, and predictable lives? Even if that was never really the case, people did often live in the same town, work for the same company, attend the same church, visit the same restaurants and have the same neighbors for much of their lives. Everyone knew their roles (for better or worse!) and their identities were clear and consistent. Over the past few decades, life has become more complex and sometimes confusing as society has changed dramatically interpersonally, relationally, and technologically. Couples sometimes struggle to define and adapt to their new roles and identities. Women can do what men used to do as well or sometimes better, which can create confusion, tension, and insecurity on mens' part. The family responsibilities are shared but not always communicated directly. In some cases, expectations do not always translate into behavior. Conflict can quickly arise when anxiety, fear, and frustrations build over who is responsible for which household or parenting chores since dual income households are the new norm. There may also be certain expectations regarding managing the finances, coordinating the social calendar, and initiating physical and emotional connections. How do we decide which responsibility each of us assumes?
For starters, we need to communicate directly and honestly about our expectations and needs rather than assume our partner knows what we need. Sometimes we even need to write it down so that there is less chance for confusion or misunderstanding. We may want to consider our individual strengths and use that as a determining factor in deciding who takes responsibility for what task. Or maybe the decision is based on time and logistics. Because today we have information at our fingertips, we are easily and almost always connected to our work. Technology has freed us from our desks, but chained us to our jobs. We can easily be consumed by social media, gaming, or become a news junkie and neglect responsibilities or deeper forms of connection with people we love. We need to make a choice to limit our screen time and regulate our tendencies to binge on our devices. We should also decide to limit evening and weekend work-related emails whenever possible.
Let's face it, many of us are overextended, stressed, under appreciated, and not living balanced lives. Most of us take on too much, can't say no, and focus more on achievement than connection. We can instead communicate assertively, respectfully, and directly with others while limiting our chores and tasks. Shifting our focus and mindset from things to people can result in positive changes. Be intentional about creating down time, prioritize your activities, and take better care of yourself and your family. How often do you spend an uninterrupted weekend with family or friends without working, checking emails, or social media sites? If technology truly increases connections then why is loneliness on the rise? Because many of those connections are superficial and don't involve deep and intimate connections. We need to do a better job in setting boundaries with ourselves and others since time is our most valuable asset. Decide today to set aside time for rest, relaxation, and relationships. Change happens when we acknowledge what needs changing and have the courage to do things differently.