When Your Partner Isn’t Doing Their Fair Share

WebMD Blog:

When Your Partner Isn’t Doing Their Fair Share

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

When Your Partner Isn't Doing Their Fair Share
If you are tired of doing it all (or more than your fair share) in your relationship, you are not alone. When it comes to this dynamic, many people harbor annoyance that often grows to frustration and sometimes to resentment. It can be enough to end relationships, or kill the heart of them even when couples stay together. But this imbalance can often be managed, if not totally fixed.

The dream scenario is to sit down with your partner, explain your observations and frustrations, and then watch them change their ways. If that works for you, no need to read further. But it’s usually not this easy. The imbalance is often based in personality styles – you are generally a more responsible or proactive person. And if you’re a woman, some of the issue may lie, at least to some degree, in our society’s deeply rooted traditional expectation that you do more on the home front.

Still, you can address the problem with your partner and develop a plan to change the imbalance together:

Identify the problem: Begin by thinking about how this dynamic evolved into such a problem. Ask yourself what your part might be in it. For instance, if you tend to like things done the way you like to do them, your criticisms might have taught your partner to let you take care of things. Or, if your relationship was always this unbalanced, you need to ask yourself why you accepted it for so long; and what has changed that you no longer do.

Next, find a time to talk about this when there is no tension and you can share your observations dispassionately. Yes, it’s tempting to avoid rocking the boat when all is well, but the conversation is much more likely to go well during those times.

Be sure to give your partner a chance to respond. If they agree that you are unfairly burdened, you can work together to change it. If not, then it’s important to keep discussing the issue until you come to some agreement.

Develop a plan: Have some ideas about how you’d like the responsibilities to be divided, but be open to your partner’s input.

Express appreciation: When your partner shows more initiative, let them know how much you appreciate it. I’ve found that many people are hesitant to do this. They think, “Why thank someone for something they should be doing?” But by recognizing their effort, it can reinforce their cooperation and encourage them.

Revisit the topic, as needed: Change rarely happens smoothly. So, when you notice that old patterns are re-emerging, bring it up with your partner during a calm moment. Share how much you appreciated the positive changes that had taken place and that you’re concerned that old patterns are creeping back in. You may want to ask if there is anything you can do, other than bringing their awareness to it, to help get things back on track.

This process takes persistence on both of your parts. The key is to make it a joint effort. When you work as a team, your stress from being over-burdened will ease and you will feel better about your relationship.


The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD Second Opinion are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider Second Opinion as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.