I Cook, You Clean: Finding and Keeping Balance in Relationships
I cook, you clean.”
Oh, the golden rule of washing dishes.
Growing up, my family used this rule as a way to make everyone feel as though their work was valued and that they were contributing to a happy, clean, and healthy household. It helped us feel more balanced. There were periods of time where we attempted to change the rule and made everyoneclean together after meals, but it never quite worked out. We always, always fall back on our original mantra of fair workload distribution.
This carefully constructed rule of balance has guided my family not only through after dinner dish duty but also our hardships and struggles. As I’ve grown older, my mom and I have learned some tough lessons together. She has had to let me make my own mistakes and learn from them. Stubbornness, one of my most dominant personality traits, has often forced me to pave my own path to self-awareness.
Trust me, I have made plenty of my own mistakes. Dating before I was emotionally prepared to handle the aftermath of a relationship, desperately trying to fix damaged friendships that shouldn’t be salvaged, trying to drive in the snow as a new and inexperienced driver, the list goes on. I had to learn from my own experiences and she had to let me.
As time has passed and years have gone by, I have learned to lean on her rather than resist her insights and she has learned to trust me as I grow into a young adult and tackle new relationships on my own. Together, we have balance.
I’ve learned how to lean on my family and let them lean on me; we have created a pretty high-functioning system of equilibrium between the four of us. However, we are only human. We still get out of sync, we fight, we resist, and eventually, we forgive
Nonetheless, I have learned throughout the past few months about how this golden rule of balance applies to more than just family.
Creating and maintaining balance within a family is much different than doing so with a significant other.
LIVING BY THE ‘I COOK, YOU CLEAN’ MANTRA IS A WONDERFUL WAY TO START BUILDING AND MAINTAINING BALANCE IN YOUR ROMANTIC PARTNERSHIPS AS WELL AS YOUR FAMILIAL CONNECTIONS.
Resentment builds up in relationships when the scales of balance are skewed in one direction. Oftentimes, imbalance is what kills romance and affection, leading to painful conversations where hurt and trauma are the driving force of self-expression. Where there is balance, there is peace.
Last night, I sat on the floor and happily folded my boyfriend’s freshly washed laundry, happy to take some weight off his shoulders as he worked on his final papers. Usually, the whole process of sorting, washing, waiting, drying, and folding clothes makes me want to bury my face in my pillow and groan. I hate doing it for myself, but when it comes to him, it makes me feel content and cheerful knowing that he’ll notice and kiss my cheek, understanding that it’s not just folding laundry — it’s my own expression of love and appreciation.
He lets me lean on him, too. Exhausted from a long day of mental exertion and aching with painful homesickness, I can confide in him and cry until I feel like can breathe again. When things get tough, we have each other’s backs. However, those bigger moments of support are equally as meaningful as the smaller moments we share together. Surprising me with early-morning visits (complete with almond milk hot chocolate) and spending late nights laughing so hard that we fall off of our chairs are just a few of the many ways he shows me that he has my back just as much as I have his.
I lean on him, he leans on me. I cook, you clean.
At the end of the day, this golden rule is about reinforcing the idea that you and your partner are a team. Relationships are all about building up teamwork so that you can tackle problems and celebrate successes, together. The spontaneous expressions of love and support are crucial to building a healthy foundation of togetherness that will allow you to persevere through the hardships and struggles of daily life.
Don’t be afraid to lean on your partner when you need them and have faith that they will do the same for you.
It can be a very easy (and often less painful) process to simply disengage from the relationship or remove yourself from uncomfortable conversations when you feel scared, hurt, or vulnerable with your partner. I am still learning how to consciously choose to keep my feet planted in vulnerability — to voice my hurt thoughtfully and, most importantly, truthfully. The right partner will not be intimidated or offended by your truth; the right partner will embrace your hurt and meet your authentic self with understanding and empathy.
“How can I best support you right now?” is a wonderful question to start with when trying to re-establish balance between yourself and a partner. It conveys thoughtfulness, care, and empathy, all of which are desperately needed during vulnerable moments. Through this simple question, you let them know that you are able and willing to walk together through the rocky terrain ahead.