Who wears the trousers? How to achieve equality, harmony and happiness in your relationship.

I absolutely HATE the saying “Who wears the trousers in your house?” What utter sexist crap! Thing is, most people these days don’t even realise what they’re saying. It’s one of those phrases you grew up with which meant ‘who makes all the decisions round here’. Well, that could be anyone quite frankly, and has nothing to do with trousers! Plus, trousers aren’t really a gender specific item of clothing these days, are they?

Anyway, off my soapbox. Let’s get to the important stuff. One of the biggest problems my clients have is with the relationships that are “closer to home” so to speak, predominantly their significant other, partner, husband, call it what you will. It’s more tricky than the one with friends, acquaintances, work colleagues because there’s and emotional pull, it’s often an unconditional relationship and because of that we’re more easily triggered (triggered? That’s a ‘down with the kids’ phrase these days I believe!).

Relationships of any kind are bloody hard graft. They’re tough. And I for one have had a fair few relationship fails in my time. What’s good about that is that they’ve now equipped me in my forties to have learnt all the lessons and enjoy a slightly more idyllic existence with my ‘husband for life’ as I like to call him (much like having your forever home I think). We grow up though believing that relationships of this kind are like a bed of roses, skipping through meadows, full of romance, joy and ease. It couldn’t be further from the truth, flippin’ movies have a lot to answer for! But that’s what makes it all the more special and rewarding if you choose to see what the challenges can offer you in return.

It will be absolutely no surprise to you that the answer to achieving equality, harmony and happiness in your relationship lies in communication. In fact, I’m now certain it is the answer to EVERYTHING in life. But we’re still pretty crap at it on the whole. I used to laugh actually in an old corporate job of mine where we’d frequently comment on the irony of being a communication company and we couldn’t actually communicate!

But communication is just one word that doesn’t quite do justice to the magnitude of the skill. ‘Communication skills’ is just an umbrella terms for about 27,000 other skills. It drives me bonkers to hear people being told they need to ‘brush up on their communication skills’. That’s not very specific and it’s certainly not very helpful.

All of my Woman Up programme modules teach many of the skills to be able to communicate with clarity, succinctly and assertively so I’m not going to dive into lots of those in this blog, you can go and read the back catalogue! What I am going to focus on though are the fundamentals, the foundations upon which communication in a relationship can be the right kind of communication, not just done in the right way.

First off, one of the biggest challenges a lot of women face is that they’ve grown up without having ever been on their own (this was me) meaning that they don’t know how to ‘be’ on their own, to find happiness in themselves. They’re constantly looking for that happiness in someone or something else. The most important step in having a relationship based on equality, harmony and happiness is that you respect and love yourself first. It’s really hard to do that when you haven’t spent time with yourself.

A challenge that I’ve experienced first hand, and continue to, is being really hard on yourself, lacking self compassion. If you’re someone who has very high expectations of yourself and you beat yourself up when you fall short of those, then you’re going to have a problem with yourself in a relationship with someone else. It might show up as a wolf in sheep’s clothing though – you believing that the problem lies with your partner, not you – so make sure you check in with yourself here. My journey to self compassion has been an interesting one consisting of 6 months of lockdown therapy where I really got under the skin and dug deep into what was going on for me. I’m delighted to report that my relationship with myself and everyone else in my household has dramatically improved since doing this inner work. It wasn’t them, it was me.

Thirdly, when it comes to equality but without the big label or badge, I observe a lot of women who are riddled with resentment and they have no idea about that. The tell tale signs are those that complain, nag and belittle their partners, constantly moaning and scuttling under their breath. For these women, their problem is not their husband or partner, it’s their own ability to speak their own truth, to talk about the ugly stuff, to define, communicate and uphold some personal boundaries. They display quite passive aggressive behaviour, huffing and puffing, saying ‘I’m fine’ when they’re clearly not. They almost blame their partner for not having a crystal ball. They think they ‘should know’ what’s up with them. Yes, you might think I’m being harsh. But I’m saying this because I’ve been that woman. I settled down with my first husband who I’d been with since school. He treated me like dog crap on his shoe most of the time and I believed I could change him. I look back now and can’t believe how deluded I was!!! I used to blame him for the way he behaved when really it was down to me. I accepted him like this in the first place. I didn’t set any personal boundaries and uphold them. When I attempted to ‘communicate’ with him about it I’d moan and nag and I distinctly remember one day him sitting on the sofa opposite me, with our two daughters tucked under his arms on either side and said to them “Look at your miserable, moody, mother”. It broke me.

Anyhow, I took accountability for myself and changed all of that and here I am today in a relationship that is equal, harmonious and happy, albeit with life’s challenges thrown in. The difference? I know for sure, 100%, that we can get through anything together because we’re able to talk about it properly. We respect ourselves, respect each other, we have deep compassion for ourselves and each other, we both have boundaries that we uphold and we’re able and capable of talking about the ugly stuff.

So, if any of this has resonated with you, here’s my recommendations:

  1. Work on yourself first – specifically self respect, self compassion and able to find happiness in yourself rather than other people or things. Know who you are as an individual.
  2. Be accountable for yourself and look in the mirror before you blame your partner for how things are.
  3. Remember that trousers are a gender fluid item of clothing. Equality, harmony and happiness come from being able to talk, talk and talk some more.

If you’d like to do some of this work on yourself, then my 8 week programme, Woman Up, might be of interest to you. You can find out more info HERE.