You can do it, put your back into it. I can do it, put your ass into it.
~Ice Cube (“You Can Do It”)
I’m a product of my generation. Like so many of us, I think in song lyrics — whether I want to or not. I was thinking about effort in relationships and how we really need more whole-ass effort, and all I could hear in my head was this song. If you know it or followed the link, it’s probably in your head now, too.
I’m not sure if I should say “I’m sorry” or “You’re welcome”.
Now that we’re all busy low-key singing this song, I can continue with my brain train. We can’t put half-effort into our relationships and expect them to equal whole partnership. It doesn’t really work that way. From what I’ve seen from dating and relationships in my life, it seems like we have too many people failing to put their whole ass into it.
I don’t mean this to be judgmental. I’m sure I’ve done this myself. But I do think it helps to occasionally examine the level of effort we’re putting into our relationships. Consider it a relationship well check — unless you’re currently in a relationship crisis. In that case, consider this urgent care.
Whether or not our relationships are going well or floundering, it helps to be able to look at the effort we put into our relationships.
Far too often, when we do a health check of our relationships, we get out the handy dandy checklist of what our partners are or aren’t doing. We apply a microscope to their behavior and look at their contributions with a magnifying glass.
I’m not talking about that kind of checkup. I am, instead, advocating that we examine our own behavior in relationships. What kind of effort are we putting in? We might think we’re doing a great job, but if we examine each area of our relationship, the evidence might tell a different tale.
It’s not enough to just look at the relationship overall. It’s helpful to look at each aspect of our relationships to determine where we could stand to put in more effort. Here are a few of the areas we might examine:
- Intimacy — Do we feel a sense of closeness? Is there physical and emotional intimacy in the relationship? Do we feel like we can be open and vulnerable, trusting our partners to be our safe space to be real?
- Conflict Resolution— How do we deal with conflict? Are we avoiding, denying, or exploding? Do we use passive aggressive or withholding behaviors? Can we stay respectful, empathetic, and open-minded when dealing with conversation? Do we see our partners as the problem — or our problems as the problem?
- Communication— Do we have conversations with our partner? Is it day-to-day updates or quality dialogue? Do we laugh with our partners? Is our conversation kind?
- Sex — Are we having any? Is it regular? Is foreplay happening? Is anyone faking orgasms … or headaches … or making excuses for why it’s not happening? Is it fun and/or intense or boring and routine?
- Equitable distribution of work (inside and outside the home) — Do we have an even split in household, childcare, and financial responsibilities? Does each partner feel like they’re pulling their own weight? What areas are we taking for granted that we may not even notice are being done?
- Shared and individual goals — Are we supporting each partner’s personal goals? Are we working together toward shared ones? Do we talk about the future and what we want? Does each partner feel their goals matter?
- Individual self-care — Are we taking the time to care for ourselves daily and giving our partners the opportunity to do the same?
- Finances — Are we open and honest about our finances? Do we encourage each other toward individual and shared goals? Do we have a plan for savings? For debt? For emergencies? For short and long-term goals? Do our values with spending and saving align?
- Quality Time/Romance — Do we give our partners any undivided attention? Do we make an effort to add romance? Do we compliment our partners?
- Appreciation — Do we feel taken for granted or appreciated? Do we regularly show appreciation for our partners — in words and in actions?
Being healthy in relationships is a skillset. It’s one many of us don’t learn until we’re adults. And it’s not something we just pick up as we go either. If we want better relationships, we’re going to have to make an effort to figure out how to get them — whether that’s doing a little research, reading a book, watching a video, or even taking a class.
While the relationship might feel generally satisfying, chances are we could improve in one or more areas. Having a holistic view of our relationships helps us keep them healthy and can be preventative when it comes to conflict. For instance, if we never examine the distribution of work for equity, one partner could become resentful that they’re putting in more effort.
By being proactive and making an effort toward even distribution, we choose collaboration over the conflict that comes when one person feels like their effort is unappreciated and unequal.
No one enjoys being all-in for a relationship where our partner is putting in half-effort. It doesn’t feel good, nor is it an indicator of a lasting relationship. While none of us can be everything all the time, it’s important that we invest in the relationships we’ve chosen.
Of course, throw out everything I’ve said if one or both partners expect the relationship to meet all their needs. Relationships can’t provide us with self-worth, self-esteem, happiness, or security. We have to provide that to ourselves. This is a red-flag for codependency. It’s a tough truth, but until we learn it, we’ll lean too much on our partners and not enough on our own worthiness, courage, and resilience.
We have to stop putting all our expectations on our partners and start examining our own behavior in relationships. If both partners do this, it’s a relationship game-changer — and we don’t actually have to wait until the relationship is breaking down to level up either.
We can start today with words of appreciation and with the intention of investing time and effort. A quick relationship well check can tell us where we are and how we’re doing, and if we don’t like what we see, this is an opportunity to improve. No relationship or love grows stronger from neglect. If we want it to grow, we need to cultivate it. Nurturing, consistency and effort are required.
Putting in half-ass effort will never amount to a full, strong, loving partnership. If we want our relationships to even have a chance of standing the test of time, we have to be willing to put in whole-ass effort.
Previously Published on medium