The 51% Rule – Boundaries are Your Friend
By Chandra Lynn
A friend reminded me today of my 51% rule. Have you ever felt like you are doing more to help your partner then they are to help themselves? Sometimes it just seems easier to take control and get things done on your own than ask your partner to do their part. And they may be completely happy with having you take care of business. But after all while, you may find that you lead in all ways in the relationship, and start feeling overwhelmed and tired of being the one to handle everything.
To prevent this from happening, I recommend each partner agree to carry A MINIMUM OF 51% of the work load on their end. When someone is doing AT LEAST 51% of the work for their own life, things will stay more balanced. Helping somebody with 49% of their work is still a lot when it comes to managing someone else’s stuff. I could even argue that is too high of a percentage. However, if someone needs you to help them with an area of their life, and you are feeling happy to do it, consider making sure they understand that you will only take on a maximum of 49% of the tasks that need to be accomplished.
I learned this the hard way. I saw a former partner struggling with his career, so I jumped into immediate action. Being a fledgling marketing consultant, I was actually excited to put my skills to work for him. Without him asking me, I built him all the marketing materials that he needed to present himself in a more professional way. At the end of it, he was grateful but didn’t really leverage it to the extent that I had hoped. I could see that the struggles in his career had more to do with his ambition then it had to do with his ability to present him self in a professional way. As a result, even with the new materials, he did not apply himself, and I felt like all the work I did to support him was for nothing. I distinctly remember going to a diner and telling him that I needed to see him doing at least 51% of the work to reach his goals for his life. And, I would be happy to do whatever I could to support him, but I needed to see him applying himself more than I was putting in to help him.
Jumping in to help a partner is a noble thing, but I can also enable bad behavior in your partner. There is nothing wrong with being supportive, but you have to be careful with behaviors that lead them to where you think is best for them before they have even asked for help.
The friend who reminded me of this was looking back at her life and realizing that she has always done the majority of the work in the relationship, and her partner was happy to have her do it. However, he started taking advantage of the fact that she provided so much with little appreciation or awareness of the effort involved.
If you feel overwhelmed with all that you have to do for yourself, your partner, your kids and other people in your life, ask yourself whether you feel your partner is stepping up to their full potential and supporting you in the way that you need them to. If they’re not and you’re enabling them to kick back, please consider that your standards are not high enough for yourself in terms of expecting a partner to do their share. Ask specifically for what you need from them, and make sure you get their agreement before creating new expectations that they will deliver.
Everyone needs to feel useful, needed, purposeful and that they bring value to a relationship. This post is to remind you that you can do this by supporting your partner and those around you, as long as you set healthy boundaries and set reasonable expectations with your partner to do a minimum of 51% of the work in their own life.