The problem is that left to our own devices, it’s far too easy for us to take other people for granted.
It’s so common, it’s its own genre of dank relationship meme at this point: “I do everything in this relationship.”
And here’s the thing: There are in fact lopsided situations that spring up in relationships. In some relationships, a single party absolutely does more than their fair share relative to the other people in the household.
But that’s not always the case. In many other situations, someone feels like they’re doing the hog’s share of the housework — or even all of it. And they’re not… not even close.
That’s because there are some pretty hefty biases at work when we’re considering our own effort compared to other people’s. They’ve done studies and found that we tend to overestimate our own contributions and underestimate those of our partners. Yes, really.
The situation isn’t helped either by a facet that all humans share: It’s called “habituation to a stimulus,” essentially when something — anything — is around in a relatively unchanging way, whatever it is doesn’t stick out as much to you. And after a while, you can literally start to look past it. To stop really seeing it. So if your partner always does the dishwasher, it will become easy for you to not notice this or credit them for it. And conversely, if they happen to forget one time, it’ll also become easier for you to notice and prioritize that emotionally — since it’ll be a break from habituation.
Well, that’s all bleak, isn’t it? Guess we’re all doomed.
Nah. Not really. Interestingly, they’ve also found an easy way to combat it: Thanking our partners when they do something helpful. It brings our attention to it by employing an active mode of engaging with it (verbalizing). And it also makes the other person aware that we notice and appreciate the effort.
So it might feel silly sometimes to thank people for little things or, as my one friend saucily puts it, “stuff grown adults should be doing anyway,” but doing so can help battle some pretty negative relationship forces that will tear down a strong bond if you let them.