Relationship Demand: “50% of my To-Do List is yours or I’m done”

Posted by Delaine - September 4, 2011 - Making It Work, Relationships, Understanding Men/Women - 6 Comments
Hmm – I bet the issue in this letter resonates with many of you. 

Hi Delaine,

I’ve been divorced a couple of times.  A recent acquaintance told me if we were to get serious, she expected me to complete her “To-Do List” every evening after work.  I am tired after work and just want to relax.  Also, I’m 60 years old and don’t have as much energy as I did before.  What should I do?

Here was my response:

Ah yes…the woman’s never-ending To-Do List.  If it’s any consolation, it happens to be one the most common sources of contention between men and women regardless of age.   I’m strongly suspecting that it was such an issue in your lady’s past relationship that she’s making it a dealmaker/breaker for her next one.

Is friction around this issue avoidable between men and women?  Yes.  But it requires that both genders understand, appreciate, and respect how each is neurologically wired and how they cope differently with stress.

Let me explain the above a bit more (this is tip of the iceberg stuff):

One thing about men that most women don’t know – or understand – is men’s need for ‘cave time’ after they’ve been at work all day.  By the time a man gets home, his testosterone levels are very low.  To replenish this hormone – which is his ‘feel-good’ chemical – he is neurologically programed to shut down the left side of his brain (the problem-solving side).  A man’s ‘cave time’, which equates to him watching TV, playing video games, reading a book, sometimes even just for half an hour,  is his body’s way of replenishing testosterone.

In your letter you indicated that you’re lacking energy these days – and it may well be that at age 60, you need a bit more cave time.  This makes sense because as men get older, testosterone levels decline.  In fact, younger men’s testosterone levels are lower now than they’ve ever been – studies have shown that a 40-year-old man in Western culture has the same testosterone levels as a 70-year-old man in a primitive aboriginal culture.

Anyway, back to the after-work scene at home: You’ve decided to sit down, relax, and watch TV.  And in through the door walks your lady.  She’s been working all day too.  Her feel-good hormone – oxytocin – is as depleted as your testosterone.  But unlike you, she doesn’t have the luxury of a brain that is programmed to shut down and ‘have a rest’ when she’s tired and stressed; for a woman’s brain actually has BILLIONS more neuro-connectors between the left and right hemispheres.  When she’s stressed and fatigued, blood flow actually INCREASES in her brain – she’s thinking, remembering, analyzing, planning, feeling, preparing to speak, and listening all at once and to the n’th degree!!!  Today’s women are actually two times more stressed WHEN THEY COME HOME. It’s a huge health concern to women and causes severe friction in relationships.  Cause while she’s prepping dinner and doing chores and checking off items on her to-do list  – which is actually getting longer as her brain continues to super fire -  and she glances over at you who is sitting there relaxing, doing nothing, idle on the couch, she gets angrier and angrier and thinks “Why the hell doesn’t he get up off his lazy ass?”

Meanwhile, he has assumed she’s doing all that ‘stuff’ cause she wants to, otherwise why would she do it?  Her to-do ‘stuff’ is simply non-important, non-emergency, and he knows he needs to ‘rest’; so he does.  Women, on the other hand, have severe difficulty listening to and answering their own needs first; their super fired brains don’t give them permission to simply relax and take care of ‘stuff’ later.

So how do you deal with a woman’s to-do list then, especially since it’s never-never-never-ending?  It starts with both genders getting educated around  their differences.  Without such knowledge, men are at risk of being judged by women as lazy and child-like and women come across as demanding and impossible to please.  My sense is that this is what happened in your lady’s former relationship and she, like so many other women today, has decided she’s not going to have ‘another child (man) to look after’.   To protect herself she’s drawing strong lines in the dirt like “You must do 50% of my to-do list every night’, which in theory would work if both sexes ‘measured’ the checklist by the same yardstick – BUT THEY DON’T.

On that note I will recommend you and your lady read the book Why Mars and Venus Collide, by Dr. John Gray.  Not only does he explain how differently men and women are wired, he provides strategies on how to effectively take action, resolve miscommunication (like the infamous  to-do list) and meet the needs of your partner.

When it comes right down to it, men and women ARE perfectly designed to build and sustain happy and healthy relationships at work and in the home.  But add stress, lack of knowledge and emotional baggage from past marriages to the mix and the result is deal making/breaking demands like “You HAVE to do/be this or I’m done.”

I hope the information I’ve provided points you down a path a fulfillment and happiness in this blossoming relationship.