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Millennials get a bad rap on many things these days, but we can learn a lot from Millennials. For example, when it comes to applying equal partnership practices in marriage, Millennials aren’t as tied to specific roles when dividing responsibilities and do well in sharing the responsibilities of home and family life.

Why is this important? Couples who apply equal partnership practices in their marriages tend to have greater emotional connection, increased respect and care for each other’s needs, greater trust, and greater relationship stability, quality, and intimacy.

These are pretty remarkable benefits a married couple can share.

Most couples want to have an equal partnership marriage, but many husbands and wives may not understand how to build this type of marriage. In fact, some spouses think that equal partnership means that both the husband and wife need to contribute to all aspects of home and family life in an identical way—both work outside the home, both divide household responsibilities 50/50, and both take care of children equally. They soon find out that this is too exhausting and not realistic.

If you asked your millennial neighbors, they would say that you need to make sure the distribution of marital power feels fair to both the husband and wife, as this builds the foundation of trust in the marriage. This allows you to influence each other with your individual, couple, and family needs and goals. It’s about having attunement to each other’s opinions and needs so that you notice, understand, and engage with each other’s emotional state. In other words—it’s important that you really get each other.

How do you reach this level of attunement? It’s all about communicating well—both sharing and listening. Good communication allows you to become aware of the thoughts, feelings, and desires of your spouse and empowers you to meet each other’s needs. An article in Psychology Today spoke of this as a collaborative negotiation that is not dictated by gender roles or traits, but rather, by the talents, desires, and skills of each spouse.

Since good communication is vital to an equal partnership marriage, consider communicating with your spouse about these five important topics.

Finances

Even if one partner takes the lead with finances in your relationship, it’s important that you both openly communicate about and have an equal say in how you use your money. This is crucial as money is one of the leading causes of conflict in marriages today, and many couples struggle with complete openness and transparency surrounding money.

Encouraging research shows that couples can have more stability and higher relationship quality, as well as feel more empowered, when both spouses are involved in the financial process. This same study also found that when couples hold joint bank accounts, they feel more secure in their relationship. Power feels more equal in the relationship when both spouses have access to money and participate in money management, and not surprisingly, less conflict occurs.

Household Responsibilities

Because your millennials neighbors aren’t as tied to specific roles when dividing household responsibilities, they are able to communicate about what they prefer to do and what they feel they are good at. This makes the sharing of household responsibilities more enjoyable for each spouse.

Another aspect to consider when communicating about household responsibilities is the equal value of paid work and unpaid care work. Unpaid care work refers to the work that individuals do that support the family but doesn’t directly generate household income. This could include cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, the ill, and the elderly.

Whether your family has a single or dual income, understanding that all work is equally important takes the hierarchal stigma away from who is making more money and places it on how to support each other in all areas of family life—including the division of household responsibilities.

Children

Research shows the importance of both parents being involved in children’s lives, as each parent can influence their children in different but essential ways, which enables greater social and emotional skills.

Because of this, it is important for parents to have good and ongoing communication about which spouse takes the lead with school, doctors’ appointments, extra-curricular activities, and other aspects of your children’s lives. This will look different in every family, but as you support each other in the care of your children, you not only can increase the stability of your marriage, but you can also see an increase in your relationship satisfaction. Equal partnership marriages are a win for the couple and the children.

Hidden Work

As you strive to have an equal partnership marriage, it’s beneficial to communicate about the mental load that is tied to all family responsibility. The mental load involves the planning, organizing, remembering, and worrying about the many family responsibilities including paid work and the work of family caregiving.

Sometimes couples only communicate about who is responsible for carrying out a task, but it is also important to communicate about who is responsible for “thinking” about the task. Making this hidden work as much a part of your conversations as the visible work is a way to check in and make sure that your spouse is not feeling overly burdened with their share of the load.

Gatekeeping

As a couple, you may need to communicate about gatekeeping, as this is a common obstacle in attaining an equal partnership marriage. One researcher described gatekeeping as “a collection of beliefs and behaviors that ultimately inhibit a collaborative effort between men and women in family work.”

You can overcome gatekeeping by giving up control over specific household or childcare responsibilities. This opens the gate and allows your spouse to learn to do the task well and to do it in their own way. If asked, you can give instruction to your spouse, but you should then back off, extending respect and freedom for your spouse to handle the responsibility in the way they prefer.

Persistence and Practice To Attain an Equal Partnership Marriage

You can establish an equal partnership marriage through persistence and practice. It won’t be a seamless process, yet through commitment, patience, and forgiveness—and good communication—it is possible. One mental health professional said it this way, “Healthy relationships are not made up of two people who split everything evenly—they are made up of two people who have figured out how to split responsibilities in a way that makes sense for them and doesn’t feel like too much of a burden.”

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